Viola boys & Rural Special girls win Thursday in Day 1 of State Basketball Finals
HOT SPRINGS — The Fort Smith Northside Lady Bears and the Fayetteville Lady Bulldogs always put on a show when they are playing in the State Finals.
Thursday was no different as they opened the 2021 State Finals with a double overtime thriller as the Lady Bears edged the Lady Bulldogs 52-51 to win the Class 6A Girls Basketball State Champinoship.
Haitiana Releford provided the winning basket for the Lady Bears, converting a layup with 9.6 seconds left in the second overtime. Fayetteville called a timeout to set up a final shot but the Lady Bulldogs failed to get one off.
Both teams struggled from the floor for most of the contest and especially in the second half. Northside particularly had a rough time in the third quarter by making just 1 of 11 from the field. Fayetteville led 35-29 after three then led by as many as eight points.
But then the Lady Bulldogs went cold from the floor and the Lady Bears not only managed to catch back up but take a 38-37 lead on a tip-in by Tracey Bershers with 4:47 left to play. It took over two minutes but Fayetteville went back up 40-38 on a 3-pointer by Wynter Beck but another bucket by Bershers with 1:17 tied the score 40-40 and the game eventually went to overtime.
Each team only made one basket in the first overtime. Bershers put Northside up 42-40 at the 3:10 mark and Beck answered with just 24 seconds left. Northside missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Khassidy Warr opended the second overtime with a 3-pointer and a 45-42 Northside lead. Northside was up 50-47 with 1:15 left when Fayettevile scored the next four points, going up 51-50 on two free throws by Caroline Lyles with 21 seconds left.
Releford led Northside (26-2) with 20 points and Bershers, who was named the MVP, finished with 16. Jersey Wolfenbarger, who signed to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks next year, finished with seven points and was just 1 for 19 from the floor.
North Little Rock 65, LR Central 55
The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats picked up their 15th state basketball championship Thursday when they rallied from a double-digit lead to defeat rival Little Rock Central Tigers.
The Tigers (22-5) had beaten the Charging Wildcats (21-2) the two previous times they played this season.
Central had a hot start to the contest, jumping out to a 12-2 lead just four minutes into the contest and led 18-8 late in the first quarter.
North Little Rock pulled within two, 18-16, early in the second quarter and pulled even at 26-26 before Central led 28-26 at intermission.
The Tigers kept a slim lead until the Charging Wildcats took their first lead of the game at 38-37 on a layup by DJ Smith with 3:38 left in the third. Central came back to take a 47-46 lead into the fourth.
The Charging Wildcats began the fourth with an 9-0 run for a 55-47 lead and Central did not get closer than six the rest of the way.
Smith led North Little Rock with 26 points and Kel’el Ware, named the MVP, added 19.
Corey Camper led Central with 16 points, Hudson Likens tallied 13 and Bryson Warren added 10. After shooting a blistering 68 percent from the floor in the first quarter, the Tigers finished just 37.8 percent for the game.
Rural Special 48, Norfork 40
The Rural Special Lady Rebels (32-4), who along with their male counterparts have amassed seven runner-up trophies since 1993, finally broke through Thursday night, winning the Class 1A State Championship for the first time ever when they defeated the Norfork Lady Panthers 48-40.
Senior point guard Abbey Linville was named the game’s MVP and only scored seven points for the Lady Rebels, but was more instrumental in handleing the ball late in the contest and she was 5 of 6 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Norfork (22-12) led 21-14 at the half and Rural Special started the second half with a 14-0 run to go u p 28-21. Then Norfork answered with a 16-3 run for a 37-31 advantage. But then the Lady Rebels finished the game on a 17-3 run.
Bailey Perry led Rural Special with 15 points and Brinley Morgan had 11.
Kiley Alman led Norfork with 14 points. Norfork was making its first every appearance in the state championship game.
Viola 62, West Side Greers Ferry 47
The Viola Longhorns won their first state championship trophy since 2002 when they ran past the West Side Greers Ferry Eagles Thursday for the Class 1 State Championship.
Viola (37-6) trailed by six points after the first quarter and by as many as eight early in the second but went on a 14-0 run to grab a 22-16 lead with 4:27 left in the first half. The Eagles (27-8) cut the gap to 26-25 by halftime.
A 3-pointer by Mason Luna kickstarted a 15-2 run by the Longhorns who went up 41-27 midway through the third.
The Eagles could not get closer that 12 the rest of the third then the Longhorns opened up a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Luna finished with 21 points and was named MVP. Bryson Luna had 16 and Gage Harris added 13.
Malachi Miller led WSGF with 18 points while Travis Gentry had 15.
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