HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – If you like to witness athletic miracles you needed to be at Hot Springs’ Trojan Arena Tuesday afternoon to see Lake Hamilton and Greenbrier play in the 5A Girls State Basketball Tournament.
Multiple miracles were witnessed as the Lady Wolves eliminated Greenbrier in overtime, 72-65.
Miracle No. 1: Lake Hamilton led 51-31 with 3:13 left in the third quarter. The Wolves took a 13-point cushion into the final eight minutes. Miracle No. 2: Greenbrier’s McKayla Betts scored and was fouled with 1.7 seconds left to tie the game at 61-61. Miracle No. 3: The Wolves’ prayers were answered when the free throw was missed and Lake Hamilton rebounded.
No miracles left for Lady Panthers
Greenbrier had no miracles left in the four-minute overtime as senior Aspen Thornton scored six of her game-high 37 points in overtime for Lake Hamilton. The Wolves’ Tia Mullenix contributed five of her 15 points in the extra period.
“I’m just proud of the girls for finding a way to win,” said Lake Hamilton coach Blake Condley. “A year ago we lost in the first round of the state tournament, and the girls have been talking about today ever since. I just feel the pressure kind of mounted because the girls wanted this so bad. We’ll try to learn from it in case we’re in this situation again. We must make better decisions down the stretch.
“It came as no surprise that we were nervous at the beginning of the game. We were missing a key player (Ginny Higginbotham). Ginny is probably looking at knee surgery, and she was the key to running our offense. We were short-handed at the end, and I was really proud of Naomi (Smith) and Natalie (Tedder). They came off the bench and did what we asked them to do.”
Mullenix, Thornton deliver in OT
Audri Winfrey won the tip for Lake Hamilton to start the overtime, and Mullenix was fouled 17 seconds later. She converted both shots, and Wolves would not trail again. Thornton added four free throws, the last one with 1:20 left to make it 67-63. Thornton made two more free throws with 39 seconds remaining. Mullenix scored the game’s final three points.
“I guess you could tell we wanted the ball in Aspen’s hands there at the end,” said Condley. “We knew Greenbrier would make a run. They’re a good team, that’s played a very strong schedule.”
Hayleigh Wyrick scored 15 points for the Wolves before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Annabelle Coppedge came off the bench and played well before leaving the floor with an injury.
Betts led the Panthers’ offense with 23 points, with Emma Rehm adding 18.
Lake Hamilton’s second round game will be Saturday at 4 p.m. against Sylvan Hills or West Memphis.
Wednesday’s schedule has Lakeside’s girls playing Russellville at 10 a.m. Host Hot Springs faces Greenwood at 4 p.m.
Centerpoint’s girls advanced in the 3A Tournament by eliminating Rose Bud, 49-25. Murfreesboro’s girls won their 2A opener over Cotter, 43-27.