HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Brekayla Davis got free for a backdoor layup with two seconds left Friday as Mayflower rallied to beat Centerpoint, 29-27, for the 3A state championship at the Bank OZK Convention Center Arena.
The Lady Knights (23-6) never trailed until the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. Davis tied the score at 20-20 with one of two free throws. Thirteen seconds later Kierra Fulton converted a free throw to put the Lady Eagles on top, 21-20.
Centerpoint answered back on baskets by Marlee Bright and Emily Balliette for a 24-21 lead. Mayflower scored the next six points, and never trailed again. Two free throws by Balliette with 1:02 left tied the game one final time. The Eagles ran the clock down, and Davis scored the decisive points.
“You saw two good defensive teams, we just came up a little short,” said Centerpoint coach John Bright. “I think everybody saw we could be competitive. Some free throws here and there, and other little things could have changed the outcome.”
Mayflower dominated second half
It was a tale of two halves. The Knights dominted the first 16 minutes. Mayflower (26-5) scored eight points in the opening half. Centerpoint juniors Monika Flores and Bright combined for 11 points to give the Knights a 15-8 lead at intermission.
The Knights only got eight shots off in the second half, compared to 16 by Mayflower. Bright scored seven of her game-high 11 points in the final half, while her teammates managed five more. Flores and Balliette both finished with seven points. Bright also pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
The final score could have easily been different, or by a bigger margin in favor of the Eagles. Mayflower took 13 more shots than the Knights. Centerpoint did outscore the Eagles from the perimeter, and the free throw line.
“It was a good game to watch,” said Coach Bright. “It was very tough to score for them, and four us. We were able to get some points the first half, but not the second half when they scored. We did our best to slow games down the entire tournament. Today we were patient. We like having the ball in Marlee and Monika’s hands. They started pressing in the second half, and we were already having trouble scoring.”
Centerpoint led by nine in first half
Centerpoint’s biggest lead of the game came in the second quarter when Flores swished her second trey to make it, 15-6 with 48 seconds left.
A free throw by Balliette with 7:23 left in the third quarter put the Knights up, 16-8. Jenna McMillen hit the Eagles’ only 3-pointer of the game with 1:01 left to make it 18-15. Bright scored, with Mayflower adding three points in the final 21 seconds to make it 20-18 going into the fourth stanza.
“We have four seniors on this team, and three were starters (Balliette, Cheyenne Lambert and Sade Killip),” said the Knights’ veteran coach. “The team probably had more depth last year, but lost Monika to a knee injury in the first game at region. We lost the finals by one point, and was not the same team at state.
“Monika didn’t start this year until January. She’s been tremendous for us, and brought us up to another level.”
Davis led Mayflower’s attack with 10 points, six rebounds and three steals. McMillen had nine points, while six-foot Kamiah Turner scored five points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.
Flores, Balliette and Bright played every second of the game.