HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Lake Hamilton’s girls might have felt like they were shooting over trees Saturday in the quarterfinals of the 5A State Tournament at Hot Springs High School.
West Memphis’ starting lineup featured three six-footers, including 6-3 sophomore Clemeisha Packett. Ironically, it was the Lady Blue Devils’ shortest player, Jayah Tucker, who accounted for the most points in West Memphis’ 51-43 win. The Blue Devils play Vilonia in the semifinals Monday at 4 p.m. Marion faces Jonesboro in the other semifinal Monday at 10 a.m.
Lake Hamilton trailed by 16 in the third quarter. They rallied within four points behind junior standout Hayleigh Wyrick, who scored 11 of her team-high 16 during that stretch. The Devils’ Tucker delivered the decisive blow with back-to-back 3-pointers to start the fourth quarter.
It might as well been trees the Wolves were facing
“We threw everything we could at them defensively,” said Lake Hamilton coach Blake Condley. “They kept hitting shots, and finding ways to get to an open spot. Then we had trouble putting it in the hole. West Memphis is long, strong and a physical team. It’s difficult to look at their record (8-13). They’re much better that what their record indicates.
“I’m so proud of our girls. There was never a sniff of them giving up or quitting. We went right down to the wire, giving everything we had. I’m so proud of them for that. If some of our early shots had gone down, it might have been different.”
Both teams started off slow. Wyrick hit a short jumper with 5:13 left in the first quarter to give the Lady Wolves the lead. After eight minutes the Blue Devils were on top, 13-11. Lake Hamilton failed for the first time this season to make a 3-pointer in the first half, and trailed 31-18 at intermission.
Wyrick sparks second half rally by Lady Wolves
The Wolves (23-4) made its run in the third quarter behind Wyrick. There were few shots dropping for Lake Hamilton in the paint because of West Memphis’ decisive height advantage. The Blue Devils tripled Lake Hamilton on the glass.
Senior Aspen Thornton was smothered the entire game by West Memphis defenders, but still found a way to score 13 points. Her short jumper with 7:46 left pulled the Wolves within four points (37-33). Tucker’s two bombs followed, and the Blue Devils rebuilt a 10-point cushion (43-33). Lake Hamilton scored the next five points, only to see the Devils answer with five straight.
Wyrick made a steal and scored an uncontested layup with three seconds left for the game’s final points.
Tucker led the winners with 22 points, with six-footer Harmony Buckingham adding 12 and Packett 11.
“We lose four seniors from this group that’s won three consecutive conference championships,” said Condley. “You can’t put a price on what these seniors have done for our program. Coming into the state tournament we had to change up a lot because we lost Ginny (Higginbotham) to a knee injury. My girls did everything that they could to give us a chance today. We came up a little short.”