The Booneville Bearcats rolled into the 3A state tournament in Osceola last Wednesday and found a familiar opponent across from them in the Waldron Bulldogs. The Cats had beaten the Dogs twice during the season and with four players getting into double figures, won a wild contest 84-72 as they shot 59 percent from the field and hit 10 three-pointers.
Included in that number was three by Logan Bradley, who forced the Bulldog defense to play him honestly and therefore opened lanes for the other Bearcats. Bradley finished with 27, with Blakley Cobb getting 24, Nate Riley 16 and Grant Goers 10 to offset a 50-point barrage by Waldron’s Payton Brown.
The Cats advanced to play Region 4 champion Drew Central the next night. Booneville came back from an eight-point deficit in the first quarter to take a six-point lead in the third period. The Pirates came back to take a six-point lead in the fourth but the Cats again rallied, eventually tying the game on a Bradley layup with 14 seconds left. The Pirates came down and missed a shot inside, and in the ensuing scramble the officials called a foul on Booneville with 0.6 seconds left. Trenton Eubanks made the first free throw and though the Cats got a time out after a second-shot miss, they couldn’t get a shot away and so ended the Cats’ dream season with a 45-44 loss.
While the call stirred up controversy, Bearcat coach Ronnie Denton would not blame the loss on that. “We didn’t do several little things right,” said the coach. The Bearcats also were relatively cold from the field, shooting 37 percent, and had an uncharacteristically high 14 turnovers.
Drew Central went on to a convincing win over Mayflower in the semifinals and will meet Ashdown in the state championship game.
Bearcats 84 Waldron 72
After two Drew Dozier baskets canceled out a Nate Riley putback, the Bearcats scored the next nine points, the last five from Logan Bradley on a three-pointer and a layup. The Bulldogs closed within five but Grant Goers hit a three-pointer at the end of the quarter for a 17-9 Booneville lead. The Cats then unleashed a barrage of threes in the second quarter. Bradley hit two with Goers and Riley hitting one each, but the Bulldogs’ star Payton Brown was also heating up and kept the Dogs in the game. His layup made it 33-22 but Bradley got two layups. Brown answered and BHS turned it over, but Zac Costa drew a charge on Brown to halt the Bulldogs’ last possession. Booneville thus enjoyed a 37-24 lead at the break.
A Brown three-ball opened the third quarter but Cobb also hit one and then was fouled trying another, hitting two of three. He would add another basket of each variety to cancel another Brown bonus ball. A 6-2 spurt put the Cats up by 16, but Waldron cut the lead to nine with two Brown baskets and one by Gada Wagner before Riley hit a three from the corner to make it 60-48 after three.
Cobb hit two free throws and Riley a layup to make it 64-49 but Brown scored the next five points. But a 6-3 Cats run ensued as a Cobb three-ball made it 70-56. It was 74-61 when things started to become frenetic. Riley was fouled going in and it was ruled intentional, but he missed both shots and Brown scored five of the next six, including a three with Bearcats right in his face to make it 75-66. The eams then traded baskets and then Goers was fouled on a runout. Again it was ruled intentional and Goers dropped both shots. On the ensuing play another intentional foul was called and this time it was Camryn Lawson who went to the line. He made one and on the inbounds pass, he found Bradley who converted a three-point play for 83-68 with 30 seconds left, and the Cats could finally breathe easier.
Bradley finished with a career-high 27 points and grabbed seven rebounds, with three assists and three blocks also included. Cobb added 24 points and seven rebounds, with Riley getting 16. Goers had 10 points and dealt out seven assists and Lawson also added eight assists, enabling him to break his own season record. Brown finished with 50 points but in the end did not get enough support. The Cats burned the nets at a 59 percent clip, including 62.5 percent from three-point range.
Drew Central 45 Bearcats 44
The Pirates opened with a 7-2 run as Nate Riley scored the only Bearcat basket, and Nicky Barnard’s three made it a five-point lead. Blakley Cobb converted a three-point play but Zeb Trantham hit back-to-back threes and DC led 13-5 after one. Grant Goers drove for a pair of layups to cut the lead down to four and then the teams swapped baskets twice before Goers converted a three-point play for 17-14. He then added two free throws after Jaden Golden’s basket and then the Pirates missed three free throws in a row, enabling Tyler Hall to get the Cats within 19-17 at halftime with a charity toss.
Markalen Jacobs put DC up by four before the Cats made a run. Goers started it with a layup and then Logan Bradley, held scoreless and in foul trouble in the first half, put in three layups in a row and the Cats were up 25-21. Travarus Shead hit a three but Goers put in two free throws and added a bonus ball for 30-24. Trantham hit a three, answered by a Bradley layup, and then the Pirates scored the last five of the period with another Shead three-ball making it 32-31 after three.
That was the beginning of a 13-2 Pirates run with Cobb getting the only Bearcat basket. Two Trenton Eubanks free throws gave DC a 40-34 lead and then they got another possession, but Camryn Lawson took a charge to halt that threat. Bradley followed with a layup and after another Pirate miss from the line, Bradley was fouled. He hit one of two and on the ensuing play, Barnard appeared to shove Goers out of the way while Shead was bringing the ball up. Instead Goers was called for a block, which was his fifth foul. Barnard could only hit one shot and Lawson drove in and converted a three-point play to make it 41-40.
Shead hit two from the line but Cobb did the same, and when Shead missed the second of another two-shot foul the Cats got it back. Lawson lobbed it to Bradley, who scored over the 6-8 Golden to tie it at 44. Out of time-outs, Drew Central brought it down. Shead missed a driving shot in the lane and the ball ended up loose on the floor. With the game about to go to overtime, the whistle blew with 0.6 seconds left and Riley was charged with a foul. Eubanks hit the first free throw; Noah Reyes rebounded the second shot miss and the Cats got time-out. Lawson fired a long pass, but it did not find the mark.
Goers had 16 points before fouling out, and Bradley scored 13 second-half points while also grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking five shots. Cobb scored nine and grabbed 11 rebounds, in the process breaking Bradley’s single-season rebound record. But Booneville was only 1 for 11 from three-point land and turned the ball over 14 times.