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El Dorado’s varsity girls saw their second half surge fall short Friday in a 46-45 league-opening loss to Hot Springs Lakeside at Wildcat Arena.

The Lady Wildcats, who trailed by 16 in the first half, took the lead twice in the final period. Carshaila Rozier hit a 3-pointer with 1:19 remaining to give El Dorado a 44-43 lead.

The Lady Rams responded with Bonnie Formsby’s 3-pointer with 39 seconds left for a 46-44 advantage.

El Dorado missed a 3-pointer, but Lakeside went 0-for-2 at the line. The Lady Wildcats’ Charalyn Rester was fouled with 9.1 on the clock. Rester hit 1-of-2 at the line to close the deficit to 46-45.

The Lady Rams beat El Dorado’s pressure, but Zaria Brown ran down the ball handler from behind for a steal with 1.3 seconds left. After a timeout, the Lady Wildcats’ long heave was well off the mark at the buzzer.

“Man, what a game. I don’t know what our shooting percentage was in the first half, but I’ll bet it was in the teens. We just didn’t shoot very well,” said El Dorado coach Jae Kell. “We got a lot of offensive rebounds, just couldn’t get a bucket to fall in the first half. We really made ourselves a hole because we couldn’t put the ball in the bucket.

“We came back after half, made some adjustments, held them to eight points in the third quarter. To me, that was our best third and fourth quarter that we’ve had all year. Our kids fought like maniacs out there. They were all over the court. They were giving their absolute all. What can you say? We were right there and just fell a little short.”

Lakeside led 14-6 after one quarter and was up 26-12 at the half after leading by 26-10.

The Lady Wildcats’ defensive pressure began taking a toll with the Lady Rams withering in the second half.

“That was our game plan from the very beginning, put a press on them and make them handle the press,” said Kell. “Unfortunately, to get into your press, you have to score the ball. That’s why it didn’t look like it was working in the first half. We couldn’t get in it.”

El Dorado closed the deficit to 34-27 going into the fourth quarter.

Lakeside led 40-35 before El Dorado’s Mae Mae Johnson scored in the lane. Lauren Nelson hit a bucket and Rozier followed with two free throws to give the Lady Wildcats a 41-40 lead with 2:09 remaining.

Lakeside’s Erika Bittinger drove to the basket and scored on a driving lay-up, drawing a foul in the process for a three-point play with 1:47 left to play.

“I still think we had a charge down there. That was a turning point,” said Kell.

“A call here or a call there but that goes anywhere when you’re that close. Our kids worked hard. They put their bodies on the line. They were diving on the floor. They were taking charges. That’s all I can ask.”

Rozier and Johnson led El Dorado with 18 and 17, respectively. Rester finished with seven points.

“We’ve been trying to get Mae Mae to be a scorer all year. We’ve known that she can do that. Now, we’ve got her there. She played a great game. She was being offensive minded. What was even better was she got steals on defense. She was all over the court from one end to the other. She was doing everything on both ends and that was really encouraging to see,” said Kell.

“Carshaila, the same thing. She had to play the top on our defense. We also had Charalyn Rester, who was getting face guarded the whole night. She battled through that and probably played one of our better defensive players.”

The Lady Wildcats used a noticeably much shorter rotation in the second half.

“I don’t think I subbed at all,” said Kell. “That’s what was working so we stuck with it.”

Formsby led Lakeside with 16 points.

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