Herrera, Bearcats beat Paris to advance to regionals

Chuck Hayes
Booneville’s Jacob Herrera (2) looks to make a play while being guarded by Sam Muldrow of Paris during a 4-3A district tournament game at Booneville on Feb. 23. Herrera had 19 points, seven rebounds and eight assists as the Bearcats clinched a spot in this week’s regional tournament in Bergman with a 73-46 win.

The Arkansas Activities Association’s decision to push regional and state basketball tournaments back one week had an effect on both Booneville senior high basketball teams.

That decision, which took place Feb. 19, meant that the Bearcats would have to earn their way into regionals by beating Paris in the second round of the 4-3A district tournament, while the Ladycats, whose season had apparently ended, would get another chance if they could beat Charleston on the Lady Tigers’ home court.

The Bearcats defended their number four seed in style last Tuesday, as Jacob Herrera lit up the stat sheet with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. Jordan Sanchez added 16 points and 8 rebounds as the Cats (15-5) overwhelmed Paris, 73-46.

The win advanced Booneville to the semifinals of the tournament, where they played at Waldron in a game that took place last Thursday after deadline. It also qualified them for this week’s regional tournament at Bergman, with an opponent and time yet to be determined.

However, the Ladycats could not cash in on their second chance, as Charleston used a 13-point run at the start of the third quarter to take control of the game. The Lady Tigers moved on with a 50-32 win, ending Booneville’s season with a record of 13-9.

Bearcats 73, Paris 46

Jacob Herrera and Jordan Sanchez both started out on fire as the Bearcats celebrated Senior Night for the boys. Each scored two baskets in the initial flurry, but the Eagles managed to keep up until Sanchez scored his third basket of the quarter and C.J. Johnson followed that with a three-pointer for 15-8. Jacob Herrera scored the last three buckets of the first quarter, which ended with a 21-14 Bearcat lead. Sanchez and Jacob Herrera split the first eight Booneville points of the second quarter and after Paris got back within seven on a Sam Muldrow basket, the Cats turned three consecutive steals into layups with Jacob Herrera, Evan Escobedo and Austin Hill doing the honors. The Bearcats took a 35-24 lead into the locker room.

Sanchez scored the first basket of the third quarter and Hill followed with a three; those two baskets were the start of a 21-4 run which blew the game wide open. Johnson quickly followed with a two and a three; later, Blake Jones converted on a three point play, Hill added a free throw and Mason Goers finished it off with a bonus ball. Brooks Herrera and Jones would score before the end of the quarter, which ended with a 60-33 Bearcat lead. Paris would make a small dent in that lead, getting it down to 20, but Jones went all the way for a layup and Hill followed that with a three for 68-43. Later, Jones would cap the night with a deep three-pointer.

Herrera had an amazing night with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. “When Jacob is playing well, everything runs smoother,” said Coach Ronnie Denton. Sanchez added 16 points and eight rebounds, both career highs. Johnson and Jones each had 10 with Hill scoring nine; Johnson made five steals while Jones had six assists.

Charleston 50, Ladycats 32

After the Lady Tigers scored the first five points, Joleigh Tate cashed in a three-pointer. Booneville then made a six-point run as Leigh Swint and Heaven Sanchez scored baskets and Layla Byrum added two free throws. That put the Ladycats ahead 9-7, but Brooke Groen tied it up for Charleston at the end of the quarter. Sanchez would score to start the second period, but Charleston answered with 10 straight points as Maci Oldridge and Rylee Ross each hit a three to make it 19-11. Booneville got the last possession with the score 22-15; Swint missed a three-pointer but Karmen Kent followed it up with the putback as the buzzer sounded to decrease the Lady Tiger lead to five at halftime.

But the first three minutes of the third quarter proved fatal for the Ladycats. Oldridge scored the first eight, then Groen got inside and Ross finished the run with a three-ball. Swint had the only three points for Booneville in the quarter, which ended with Charleston up 36-20. The Ladycats managed to cut it to 13 midway through the final quarter as Swint and Brooke Turner successfully launched three-pointers, but a further seven-point run by the Lady Tigers ended all resistance. Swint scored the final basket of the season, taking a pass from Lizzy Gray and converting a layup.

Swint had 16 points and 9 rebounds, but did not get much help as no other Booneville player scored more than four points. The Ladycats managed only 32% shooting from the field while Charleston cashed in at a 46% clip.