Early run pushes Chapel into Final Four

Watson Chapel grabbed an early 10-0 run and it was much needed as it defeated Clarksville 45-41 in the quarterfinals of the 5A state tournament at the Pine Bluff Convention Center Friday afternoon.

“We had a much better shooting performance,” Watson Chapel head coach Leslie Henderson said. “I think the win was determined in the first quarter.”

Senior Leonicia Hart led off the game with a three-pointer and senior Jasmine Bell scored inside with 6:10 left thanks to an assist from Chapel Jones.

Senior Chelsea Payne hit a layup and Jones nailed a three-pointer with 3:45 left in the first to give the Lady Wildcats (22-6) a 10-0 lead over the Lady Panthers (16-11).

With 2:15 left in the first quarter, Clarksville scored its first basket of the game when junior Savannah Chenault grabbed an offensive rebound and putback.

“You are playing a team that is one of the best in the state,” Clarksville head coach Randy Talley said. “We came out a little flat and couldn’t match their physicality and size.

“You just can’t spot a good team like that. I thought that was the difference in the game.”

By the end of the first quarter, Chapel led Clarksville 15-7.

“I thought from there on, it was pretty much a game of runs,” Talley said. “We made some runs and they made runs; a lot of just swapping baskets.

“We played them pretty even after that.

“In the quarterfinals of the state tournament, you can’t spot the number-one seed 10 points. That was huge.”

After being held to just single digits in the first three quarters, Clarksville outscored Watson Chapel 18-8 in the fourth quarter.

“We kind of picked up the tempo,” Talley said. “And I think part of it was they started running some clock and they slowed up their game too.”

Chapel, which led by as many as 16 points, watched as its lead trimmed to as little as six points with about 30 seconds left in the game.

“We kept doing the same thing because it worked so well,” Henderson said. “We made some poor decisions and made it a little bit harder than we had to.”

Henderson mixed things up a bit on Friday when she started Bell over senior Kamera Bozeman. Bell finished with just six points in the game, but managed to grab some key rebounds in the game.

“She also does a really good job inside on defense,” Henderson said. “She is a big presence at 6-1 and she moves pretty well.”

Bozeman led the Lady Wildcats with 12 points including 2 of 5 from the free throw line. Payne contributed with eight points and Hart had seven points. Kierra Cox chipped in with six points.

Senior Ciara Graham led Clarksville with 16 points, including 5 of 7 from the free throw line. Freshman Lauren Krissman contributed with 10 points.

Watson Chapel will play Paragould, the No.1 seed from the 5A-East, in the semifinals today at noon at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.