Things started out very well for the Booneville junior girls against Dardanelle at the district basketball tournament last Monday night. The Jr. LadyCats were out to a quick 8-2 lead and it looked like they would roll, especially after taking a 9-point lead early in the second quarter. But the Lady Lizards had tied it by halftime and controlled the second half, resulting in an unexpected early exit for the Booneville girls, 46-32.

The Jr. Bearcats were matched up against Ozark and a focused Hillbilly team scored the first 15 points of the game and never looked back.

Dardanelle 46 Booneville 32 (girls)

After the teams traded baskets to open the game a Hannah Gregory putback started a 6-0 run, which was also finished with a free throw by the freshman guard. Another putback, this time by Jadyn Hart, was followed by her free throw for an 11-6 lead after one. The Lady Lizards scored first in the second quarter but Gregory and Hart each went deep, and a Gregory miss was followed up by Jessica Parrish and the Jr. LadyCats led 19-10. Dardanelle came back with consecutive bonus shots of their own and outscored Booneville 12-3 over the last half of the second quarter, resulting in a 22-all tie at the break.

Following a Dardanelle basket to open the third quarter Gregory splashed her second three of the game, but BJH would otherwise get only two Hart free throws in the quarter. Dardanelle racked up nine in the period and so led 31-27 going to the final quarter. Baylee Moses and Gregory countered Lady Lizard scores to keep the difference at four, but Dardanelle then scored the next 11 points as Booneville made uncharacteristic turnovers in the last three minutes and could not stop Lady Lizard penetration inside.

Hart led Booneville with 12 points, but only two came after halftime. Gregory added 11. Booneville turned the ball over 23 times, seven above their average. Hart finished with a 73.9 free throw percent for the season, by far a junior high record, and in the top 10 free throw percents at any level of Booneville girls’ basketball.

Ozark 43 Booneville 11 (boys)

Nobody could get a shot to fall in the first quarter for the Jr. Cats, and Ozark built a 15-0 lead after one quarter. Jacob Herrera finally got Booneville off the mark with a driving six-footer early in the second quarter, and later on Josh Brackett fired in a three-pointer. But the Hillbillies still led 24-5 at the break.

It became 35-5 before Booneville’s next score, which came on a Zac Costa basket midway through the third quarter. Blake Jones added a free throw in the period, and the scoring in the fourth quarter was limited to a Gavin Kent basket and an Austin Weaver free throw.

Season summary

The girls finished 8-11 for the season, but were very competitive in most of the games they lost. The Jr. LadyCats played league regular-season champion Ozark a four-point game early in the year and had a heartbreaking loss to County Line at the Hackett tournament in which they rallied to lead within the final minute. The team played without starters Josie O’Bar and Shelby Posey for extended periods this season, including losing both for two games in the middle of the season and the last two games.

Jadyn Hart led the team in scoring, total rebounds, assists and charges taken; Hannah Gregory had the most steals and three-point baskets. Posey was the leader in rebounding average, while O’Bar had the best field-goal percent. Baylee Moses tied for second in total rebounds despite her height and built her confidence throughout. Posey and O’Bar missing games resulted in starting roles late in the season for Jessica Parrish and Brittnie Maness as well as increased playing time for Jaden Lowe and Sarah Grissom. Those four players gave the team valuable minutes down the stretch. Hart and the rest of this year’s eighth-graders will be joined by an outstanding seventh-grade group for next season, and it is anticipated that the Booneville girls’ program will continue their rise.

The Jr. Cats only won three games, but that could have doubled or more had breaks gone their way. Hackett hit a wild, off-balance 30-footer at the buzzer and there were other games that could have turned around.

Kaedon Trejo led in scoring, steals and three-point baskets and was the only ninth-grader left playing after Kaleb Rhodes suffered a broken elbow in the next-to-last regular season game. Jacob Herrera showed prowess as he hit for 52 percent from 3-point range for the season. Before his injury, Rhodes was fast improving in the post position. Zac Costa showed his worth on defense, leading the team in rebounding. Eighth-graders like Rusty Maloy, Jarrett Mitchell, and Gavin Kent had to take on a lot of minutes in a hurry, and Brennan Burtrom saw his playing time increase late in the season. With most of the team coming back, next season promises to be better.