By Tony Burns
FORDYCE - An 8-0 spurt in the fourth quarter helped Fordyce pull away from Smackover 51-37 Thursday night in the 8-3A Girls Senior District Tournament. The Lady Bucks slipped to 17-10 on the season and will return to action in next week’s regional tournament in Prescott.
“We played well. We played better than we’d played them lately. It was good to get a good competitor going into regionals,” said Smackover coach Tripper Rowton. “I think a little bit of rest will help us out a lot and give us time to get some people healed. They played hard tonight.”
Fordyce seized control of the game as a 7-0 spurt pushed the Lady Bugs out to a 15-6 advantage with 5:54 to go in the second quarter. Coach Captain Smead said defensive pressure was the key as the Lady Bugs took the ball out of the hands of junior guard Sharnes McGhee.
“We knew we could put a little pressure on them,” said Smead. “It’s the third time playing, beating somebody three times in a year, no matter how good or how bad you are or they are, it’s tough. It’s tough at the end of the year to try to beat someone three times in one year. They’ve been competitive with us both times.”
The Lady Bucks cut the deficit to 17-14 on a bucket by Kiley Crecelius. But, the Lady Bugs’ Kaoori Archer hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a six-point cushion at the intermission.
Fordyce gradually extended its lead to 35-22 going into the fourth.
Mallory Brewer’s 3-pointer triggered a 9-4 spurt by Smackover. Makenzie Malone hit two free throws. Brewer’s offensive rebound and putback closed the gap to 39-29 and drew a technical foul on the Lady Bugs’ bench. Smackover inserted Gabbi Slater, who drained two technical free throws to pull the Lady Bucks to within 39-31 with 5:09 left in the game.
But, after a timeout, the Lady Bugs immediately got a steal and lay-up by Zade Edwards. Lamya Bulliner hit two free throws and drained a jumper before Archer’s bucket pushed the lead to 47-31 with 2:16 remaining.
“I never was really apprehensive because I knew we still had another gear,” said Smead. “We put a lot of pressure on them, yes, but we still had another gear. I think we turned that gear up. Matter of fact, I called a timeout and I encouraged them, tried to get them to step it up, turn the intensity up another notch and I think they did that. That’s when we went on a little run.”
McGhee led Smackover with eight points while Brewer added seven.
Fordyce (19-9) was led by Archer and Bulliner with 17 points apiece.
The Lady Bugs advanced to the championship game, where they won’t face regular-season champion Junction City.
The Lady Dragons were upset by McGehee on Wednesday.
The Fordyce coach was asked if he was excited or disappointed.
“I was surprised. I’ll put it that way. I was surprised,” said Smead. “We had known if we got that far, we were going to have to beat them eventually, whether it’s in district or regional. They’ve gotten us twice. They’re a very good basketball team.”