Back in the Final: Defending state champs return to regional final

ARKADELPHIA — Star City sophomore Nikitia Wainwright hit a three-pointer with less than 4 minutes left to give the Lady Dogs a 44-41 lead in the semifinals of the 4A South Region Tournament on Friday night.

Star City would close out the game with a 7-3 run to defeat the Bauxite Lady Miners 51-44 and advance to the championship game against Malvern, set for today at 6 p.m.

“We hit some threes right there late,” Star City head coach Becky Brown said. “That was really big.

“We had a lot of extra effort from kids on rebounds and loose balls. We had a lot of heart right there at the end.”

Following a three-pointer from Bauxite senior Mary Crow, Bauxite led 39-37 with about 4:45 left in the game.

After two missed free throws from senior Tyeshia Harris, Wainwright was able to grab the offensive rebound and tie the game with a basket inside.

Bauxite head coach Josh Harrison believes that was the bigger play.

“We had a two-point lead and she missed the free throws,” Harrison said. “But we did a horrible job blocking out and they were able to tie the game with a rebound.”

Harrison believes if Bauxite had been able to grab the board, the game “could have gone the other direction.”

“That rebound was bigger than the three-point shot, I thought,” Harrison said. “We didn’t get the block out and we didn’t get the rebound.”

One of the big differences in the game was the free throw shooting from both teams. Star City went the line 37 times compared to Bauxite’s 11.

“We pounded the ball inside on them,” Brown said. “We used our speed and that got us at the free throw line.”

Harrison said his team should have done a better job of adjusting to the situation, but he chalked up the fouls to his team being used to playing in a more physical conference.

“We’ve played the last few months in a physical conference,” Harrison said. “I felt like we were trying to be aggressive and we put them on the free throw line too much.”

At the start of the third quarter, Crow tied the game at 26 with a three-pointer with about 7 minutes left.

Star City went on a 6-0 run, including three points from Harris, to take a 32-26 lead with 1:54 left in the third. Star City made six of 12 from the free throw line in the third quarter. Harris’ basket was the only field goal in the third quarter.

Crow hit a three-pointer – from about the coaches’ box – as time expired to cut the deficit to 34-32. Crow finished the game with 23 points.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Harrison said. “She has ridiculous range. Nothing that she does surprises me anymore. She is one of the top five or six players in the state.”

After receiving about five or six offers, Crow signed with Arkansas Tech.

“She is going to have a lot of success,” Harrison said.

Bauxite will play in the consolation game today at noon at the Bill Vining Arena at Ouachita Baptist University.

For Star City, Harris had 11 points and senior Kindra Redix had 11 poitns. Sophomore Jaida Harden contributed with eight points.