Cardinals punch ticket to title game

CAVE CITY – The Dollarway Cardinals are one step away from capping a near-perfect season as they punched their ticket to the 4A state final after defeating Brookland 39-34 in the semifinals on Saturday.

Leading by as many as 12 points at one time, the Cardinals held off a late Bearcats push in the fourth quarter by knocking down a couple of key free throws late in the game.

Brookland scored 18 points in the fourth quarter and had cut Dollarway’s lead to just three points left with 25 seconds left in the game.

With nine seconds left, DeAaron Adway scored from right underneath the goal to secure the win for the Cardinals (28-2).

Dollarway and Brookland struggled in the first half, scoring just 10 points total in the first quarter. Dollarway head coach Ellis Berry said his team made some adjustments offensively in the second half.

“We were just standing around (in the first half),” Berry said. “We weren’t moving like we should have and we weren’t making shots, we normally make.”

Dollarway will now play either Pocahontas or Pottsville next weekend at Barton Coliseum in Little Rock for the state final.

Dollarway made it to the semifinals of the state tournament last year but was knocked out by Pulaski Academy. Before the game on Saturday, Berry tried to mentally prepare his team so they weren’t knocked out again.

“We executed real well and Brookland shoots the ball well from the outside,” Berry said.

Dollarway held Brookland to just three points in the third quarter.

“We were out-guarding them,” Berry said. “We know they are a good ball club. They shoot the ball well and we knew we couldn’t get into a shooting match with them.”

Brookland (27-7) trailed the whole game.

“They are as good as we are defensively,” Brookland head coach Bobby Gross said. “They are a little bit more athletic.”

For Brookland, Reece Gramling had 10 points including six three-pointers. Dillon Grove finished with 11 points including 7 of 11 from free-throw line.

“Whether (Dollarway) is in man-to-man or 2-3, it is extremely hard to score,” Gross said. “The shot opportunities you do have are gone in about a millisecond.”

Added Gross: “That lapse in the third quarter killed us.

“We went through about a two-and-a-half minute span where they had easy baskets and a couple of easy drives, and we didn’t step over to take a charge.”

Dollarway’s Kabion Ento led off the second half with a three-pointer with 6:40 left to play. Davonne Chapman followed with a basket to give Dollarway a 20-13 lead.

A running jumper from Joshua Liddell and another basket from Chapman gave Dollarway a 10-point lead.

Chapman and Ento finished with 11 points to lead the Cardinals.

“Ento is a real solid player and he plays hard every game,” Berry said.

By the end of the third quarter, Dollarway led Brookland 26-16. The Bearcats made 13 of 18 from the free throw line. Dollarway was 8 of 15.

“I thought we battled as hard as anybody can battle,” Gross said. “But we needed a couple of possessions to have some luck.

“Credit goes to Dollarway. They are a heck of a team.”

Adway chipped in with five points for the Cardinals while Nicolas Dickson contributed with six points.

C.J. Henry chipped in with six points for the Bearcats.