Heath Neal's Lady Blackhawks cut a three-day swath through a talented field of competitors to lay claim to the inaugural Pea Ridge Holiday Tournament Championship trophy.
The Hawks opened play Dec. 28 with a 68-41 victory over the Horatio Lions, followed up with taking a 44-40 thriller over the Star City Bulldogs in semifinal action. The Hawks then capped off their run through the competition with a tense 54-45 take down of the Mammoth Springs Bears. The meet was the first varsity girls' invitational tourney to be held in the new basketball facility and perhaps the first ever in the community. There are no available records referring to a girls' home invitational going all the way back to when Pea Ridge was a Class A school.
The recipe for the Lady Hawks success was a constant hustling pressure defense with a great deal of their offensive power coming from long distance shooting. The heroines were many in their three games in three days marathon.
"We were up and down a bit, but the girls never got discouraged" Neal said. "We got the tempo to our liking and they were all encouraged to shoot if they got the open look. They played hard and they are going home tired. This was a total team effort."
"This event was sponsored by Crawford Construction and we could not have put it on without them. We had so many great volunteers and helpers who made this tournament go smoothly," Neal concluded.
Pea Ridge 54, Mammoth Springs 45
The game with Mammoth Springs was greatly anticipated with the Bears' take down of favored Winnsboro in semi-final action. The small school from the Missouri/Arkansas border north of Hardy, had been putting up huge numbers offensively and did not back down from the bigger, larger roster of the Texas school.
Bella Cates' first behind-the-arc shot seconds into the game was true and got the Hawks up 3-0 to start the final. The Bears responded with a layup by Brynn Washam and a deep shot by Laney Young put the visitors up 5-3, and they would go on to lead the Hawks for the rest of the period. Cates made a free throw to cut the deficit to 1, but the Bears' Tay Davie ripped a trey and free throw to push the visitors ahead 9-4.
Lauren Wright converted a pair of free throws to cut the Bears' lead to 9-6, but Washam scored inside twice to build the lead to 7 at 13-6 for Mammoth Springs. After the Hawks had misfired on eight straight deep balls, Leah Telgemeier finally connected to draw the Hawks closer at 13-9 with 1:25 left in the first. Washam scored inside again for a 6-point Bear lead, before Sydney Spears scored off the block to shrink the deficit. With 26 seconds left, Telgemeier was fouled with the sophomore guard coolly draining both shots to send the Hawks into the second period trailing by just two at 15-13.
Cates fired in a trey to give the Hawk a first-quarter lead and she pulled it off again to start the scoring in the second quarter, getting the lead back to the Hawks at 16-15. Washam scored a layup to retake the lead for Mammoth Springs, but successive treys from Paige Brown then Telgemeier shot the Hawks back ahead, assuming a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game. A subsequent steal and layup by Telgemeier put the Hawks ahead 24-17, forcing the Bears coach to call a timeout. The guests responded with a trey by Joslyn Tucker and two free throws by Washam to get close, and a free throw by Cates in the final 00.1 second to play put the Hawks into intermission with a 25-22 advantage.
Telgemeier began the third quarter with a shot behind the arc, and after the Bears got a shot underneath by Lauren Skaggs and a pair of free tosses by Washam, Telgemeier hit another long ball to put the Hawks ahead by 5 at 31-26 with 5:10 left in the third period.
One of the shortest players on the floor, Cates pulled off a defensive gem by blocking a Bears' shot in the paint, with the senior guard following that up with a 3-point shot moments later to put Pea Ridge on top 34-26, their biggest lead. The teams traded turnovers for two minutes until Mia Dayberry put one in from underneath to give the Hawks a 36-26 lead. The Bears' Sara Crowe scored in the paint and added a free throw to shrink the led to 7, but Telgemeier pulled off a steal then driving layup to get the lead back to 9 at 38-29 with about a minute left in the third. Washam scored on two layups to bring the Bears back to within 5 at 38-33 by the buzzer.
Wright traded goals with the Bears' Crowe to start the fourth quarter before Telgemeier's big trey with 5:27 left in the game pushed the Hawks ahead by 8 at 43-35. Seconds later Telgemeir pulled off a steal then got the ball ahead to Cates who converted to put Pea Ridge ahead by 10 nearing the midpoint of the quarter. Davie hit twice from the charity stripe but she was matched by Cates with 3:29 to go, with the Hawks' 47-37 lead looking more and more insurmountable. Hawk fans then became anxious when offensive star Cates went down with an ankle injury with a little over two minutes left.
Mammoth Springs scored another layup to cut the lead to 8, but with only a minute left. The Bears only hope left to win was to foul the Hawks and hope they miss their opportunities. However, the Hawks made seven of eight shots, with Telgemeier sinking one, Brown canning two and Wright throwing down four for four. The Bears were able to convert three free throws but they were down by 12 with just 10 seconds left in the game. Tucker hit a long buzzer beater to set the final score at 54-45.
Telgemeier led all scorers with 22 points with Cates tossing in 15, Wright 8, Brown 5, Dayberry 2 and Spears 2.
Pea Ridge 44, Star City 40
Star City was fresh off a 50-point thrashing of Little Rock Robinson in the first round, utilizing some very quick, athletic players to overwhelm their prior opposition. Against the Hawks, the Bulldogs got behind 6-0 right off the bat due to treys by Lauren Wright and Bella Cates and the visitors trailed throughout all four quarters never getting a lead or even a tie, though they did make several runs at the Hawks.
The double long ball combined with a rugged Hawk defense forcing turnovers on the Bulldogs first two possessions set a tone that lasted throughout the contest. When the Hawks missed 2-point blank shots right under the basket, Star City used the opportunity to score twice inside to draw within 2 at 6-4 with a little over 3 minutes left in the first quarter. Sydney Spears then scored underneath for the Blackhawks and Cates 7-foot floater with a minute to go restored the Hawks' original 6-point margin, leading 10-4. A defensive lapse by the Hawks left the 'Dogs' Marshaw John all alone under the bucket for two easy buckets. However, the sharpshooting Cates ripped through two treys in the final 40 seconds to offset the defensive mistakes and put the Hawks ahead 16-8 headed into the second quarter.
Kaylee Pickens and Hope Thomas scored for Star City to start the second period to close to within 4. Paige Brown shot in a short jumper to get the 6-point lead back but then Jocelyn Robertson sank a shot behind the arc to get to within 3 at 18-15. The Bulldogs' momentum didn't last long when Cates jammed through her fourth trey in the game, and the Hawks were up by 6 again at 21-15.
The Bulldogs weren't backing down and they used a rebound shot by Thomas and a free throw by Anslee Ballew to get back to within 3 at 21-18. Wright then floated a little hook shot in traffic to get the lead back to 5, with Kyonna Jacks answering right back by slipping behind the defense for an easy score, cutting the lead again to 3. Cates then frustrated the guests again, as she nailed her fifth trey of the half, putting the Hawks up by 6 again, 26-20 with less than a minute left. Ballew got the chance to go to the free throw line for the 'Dogs and she made both shots with 10 seconds left to send the teams into intermission separated by only 4 at 26-22.
Star City's Gracie Muckl struck a blow for the guests by sinking a trey to get her team within 1 point to start the third. Telgemeier dropped in a layup to restore the 3-point lead, but Thomas again wove through the Hawk defense to score another layup, and cutting the deficit to just 28-27. After a time out, the Bulldogs decided to have their best and fastest player stick to Cates like glue to stop her scoring onslaught. Cates had scored 17 in the first half alone.
The strategy worked to keep Cates from getting any good looks, but it also freed up other Hawk athletes to score. While Telgemeier scored on a layup and a deep shot, Wright also contributed a steal which she converted to a layup. By the end of the quarter, the Hawks had shot out to an 8-point advantage at 35-27.
The Bulldogs were just not going to roll over, and they came out of the end of quarter timeout with Thomas on fire, eventually scoring 12 points in the period. Thomas scored the first two buckets of the period to cut the Hawks' lead in half, but Cates came right back with a pair of free throws with Telgemeier slicing through for a layup and the Hawks' 8-point lead was restored at 41-32 with 5 minutes to go in the game.
The 'Dogs John hit a free throw but a rebound and putback by Makayla Humphrey pushed the led to 9 at 41-32 with 3:30 left. Thomas then went on a tear for Star City, hitting a long jumper, scoring inside, converting a pair of free throws, and scoring a layup to score 8 unanswered points to get the Bulldogs back in the game, trailing by just one 41-40, with 0:46 left in the game.
On the throw in, following the Thomas score, Wright took off down the floor like a wide receiver, and the ball was delivered over the defense right to the senior guard who laid it off the glass for a 43-40 lead with 0:42 left. Both teams missed shots in the scrambling waning moments of the quarter with Wright eventually getting fouled in the final seconds. She hit the first shot, clinching the game with a 4-point lead and the guests could not score again as Pea Ridge prevailed in what turned into a barn burner, 44-40.
Cates was high point for the evening with 19 points, while Telgemeier had 9, Wright 8, and Spears, Humphrey and Brown with 2 each.
First round action
Pea Ridge 65, Horatio 44
The Hawks jumped out to an 8-0 lead to start the contest, with Leah Telgemeier and Bella Cates draining 3-shots and Lauren Wright dropping in a layup. Meanwhile, the Hawks' defense forced four turnovers on Horatio in the early going to keep the Lion offense in check.
The Lions' Emma Ray finally hit a trey with 4:58 left in the first to end the drought, but the Hawks answered with a driving layup in traffic by Telgemeier with Wright driving through the lane to execute a reverse layup and a 12-3 lead with 2:07 left in the first. Mallori Mashall scored for the Lions but Cates hit one behind the arc to extend the lead to 10 at 15-5. Ray then hit her second trey for the Lions, and with Wright sinking a free shot before the end of the quarter, the Hawks were ahead 16-8 headed into the second period.
Wright dropped in a layup to restore the 10-point lead, but the Lions made a mini-run with Kate Baker nailing a 3 to go with Ray's short jumper to cut the Hawks' lead in half at 18-13. Telgemeier then rained on the Lions' parade, by raining down two consecutive treys to erase the visitors' comeback and extend the lead to 11 at 24-13 with 5 minutes left in the half.
Teresa Chavez hit behind the arc for the Lions, but she was answered with a shot in the paint by Sydney Spears followed by a steal and layup by Wright for a 12-point spread at 28-16. Ray scored again for the guests, but Cates swished two of two from the line, with Jadyn Spivey scoring on a layup and 3-point shot as the Hawks threatened to turn the game into a rout, leading 35-18 with just over a minute left in the half. Baker and Ray added three free tosses for the Lions in the final minute before the break, by Spivey pulled off a steal of a Lion defensive rebound, then put the ball off the glass for the final score of the half, giving the Hawks an imposing 37-21 lead at intermission.
Telgemeier knifed through the defense to hit a layup to start the second half with Wright pulling off a steal to reverse the field and drop in a layup, pushing the Hawk lead to 20 at 41-21. Telgemeier then stroked a trey followed by a Reagan Bleything layup to threaten to mercy rule the visitors. During the first 5 minutes of third quarter action, the Hawks shut out their opponents while forcing six turnovers on them to break the game wide open.
Horatio managed to hit four throws to end the scoring drought with Cates making one free toss during the last part of the third quarter. Telgemeier closed out the quarter's scoring by maneuvering through a forest of arms to connect on a layup with Pea Ridge heading into the final quarter leading 49-25. Horatio scored no field goals during the period.
Makayla Humphrey started the scoring in the final period with a layup for a 51-25 lead, then the Lions used shots from Ray and Baker to shave the lead to 51-29 with only 6 minutes left in the game. The Hawks then rattled off 8 straight points to extinguish whatever faint hopes the Lions may have held on to. Wright hit a free throw, Cates ripped a trey, Telgemeier pulled off a steal and layup with Mia Dayberry capping it off with a layup. Dayberry's shot pushed the score to 59-29, igniting the mercy rule at which point the Hawk bench was cleared.
The Lions took advantage by scoring 15 points via three treys and three shots in the paint to close some of the gap. Bleything and Brown accounted for the last of the Hawks' offense as they advanced to semifinal action by a 65-41 count.
Telgemeier led the offense with 20 points followed by Wright and Cato, both with 12, Spivey 7, and Dayberry, Spears, Bleything, Humphrey and Brown each with 2.