PARAGOULD — It will be East vs. West for the Class 5A girls basketball state championship.
The Paragould Lady Rams stamped their ticket Saturday night they defeated the Monticello Lady Billies 58-44 in the semifinals at Greene County Tech High School. Four Lady Rams reached double figures as PHS clinched its first state finals appearance since 1994, when Paragould knocked off GCT for the state crown.
In the other semifinal Saturday, West champ Greenwood pulled away late to down Central Arkansas Christian 60-47.
After needing overtime to extend their season one night earlier against Vilonia, the Lady Rams jumped ahead early in Saturday’s game, turned back a brief Monticello rally in the third period and eventually won going away.
Carson Gill and Rachel Dicus scored 14 points each as PHS pushed its winning streak to 19 games. Monticello, the 5A-Southeast champ, enjoyed its second and last lead of the game at 5-3 on a jumper by Deanne Martin. PHS then outscored Monticello 13-4, including Layrock’s last-minute steal and fast-break layup, which provided the Lady Rams an 18-9 edge at the break. PHS increased its lead to 10 at halftime, 27-17.
The Lady Billies seemed ready climb back into the game in the third period, cutting the lead to 29-28 on an 18-foot jumper by Chelsey Rhodes, who led MHS with 17 points.
But the determined Rams responded with a 10-a run, which was capped by a Gill three-pointer that put PHS up 39-30 early in the fourth.
From there, the closest the Lady Billies could get was six points as Rachel Dicus and Layrock each swished a pair of free throws, pushing the lead into double digits.
In the closing seconds, the Lady Billies resorted to fouling and Paragould hit six straight from the line.
Erin Campbell also scored 12 points for Monticello.