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story.lead_photo.caption Westside Eagle Observer File Photo/RANDY MOLL Gabbi Curtis, a Gravette sophomore, gets ready to shoot from the free-throw line earlier in the season at a Gravette home game.

BERRYVILLE -- Too big, too strong. That described Berryville's inside game Saturday night in the 4A-North Regional Tournament girls championship game. The Lady Bobcats dominated the paint and cruised to a 76-55 win against Gravette in front of a packed Bobcat Arena crowd.

Berryville's 6-foot junior post, Kelcee Hopper, scored a game-high 25 points, hitting 10 field goals from point-blank range as the Lady Bobcats (31-2) earned a measure of revenge after falling to Gravette in the finals of the 4A-1 Conference Tournament a week ago.

"We were talking last night and we said we wanted to play Gravette," Berryville coach Daniel Cornelison said. "We were talking about it after we beat Pottsville about which team we wanted to win (in the other semifinal) and we wanted Gravette. We felt like we didn't play very well. You have to give a lot of credit to Gravette last week, but we knew we could play better.

"We took care of business tonight."

Berryville struggled early as the Lady Lions (24-7) found success with its half-court trap, forcing five first-quarter turnovers. Gravette used that to take a 13-8 lead with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter when Cally Kildow knocked down a short jump shot.

The Lady Bobcats ended the quarter with Hopper's inside bucket, then ran off 10 straight points to open the second quarter to take a 20-13 lead on sophomore Lexy Anderson's layup. Anderson finished with 22 points, most coming on slashing drives to the basket.

"We went over that today in our walk-through and they just forgot what to do, to be honest with you," Cornelison said of his team's early struggle. "When you step on the floor in an environment like this and the way Gravette plays, we just lost our composure a little bit."

Gravette ended its scoring drought on a Kildow jumper to key a 6-0 to pull the Lady Lions within 21-19, but they were never able to get the lead back. Berryville took a 29-21 lead into halftime on Baylea Smith's 3-pointer.

The third and fourth quarters belonged to Hopper, who scored eight points in each quarter. And when Hopper wasn't scoring, 6-1 junior post Hannah Morrell was. Morrell, who sat out most of the first half after picking up two early fouls, scored 10 points and was a force on the defensive end with a number of blocked shots.

"We didn't do a very good job of pressuring their guards," Gravette coach Will Pittman said. "We knew they had a size advantage in the post and we had a little trouble pressuring their guards, which allowed them a lot easier looks into the post. That was the difference in the game. When they get it down there, that is a tough matchup."

Kyrstin Branscum led the Lady Lions with 18 points and Kildow finished with 10.

The regional championship was the second straight for Berryville and the third straight year it has played in the regional championship game. The Lady Bobcats have advanced to the state semifinals the past two seasons. Berryville will begin its quest for a state title on Thursday at Brookland. Berryville earned a first-round bye with its win Saturday night. Gravette will open state tournament play at 1 p.m. Wednesday against Ashdown, the No. 4 seed from the South Regional.

"Well, obviously you've got to have a little luck," Cornelison said. "You've got to be pretty good, and you've got to have a little luck, get a couple of breaks here and there. If we get a couple of breaks, I like our chances."

In the third-place game, Ozark defeated Pottsville 61-55.

Girls Championship

Berryville 76, Gravette 55

Gravette^13^8^17^17^--^55

Berryville^10^19^23^22^--^76

Gravette (24-7): Branscum 18, Kildow 10, Dixon 8, Bookout 6, Foster 6, Smith 3, Morrison 2, Curtis 2.

Berryville (31-2): Hopper 25, Anderson 22, B. Smith 10, Morrell 10, Estepp 4, A. Smith 2, Doss 2, Hussey 1.

Sports on 02/28/2018

Print Headline: Gravette girls come up short against Berryville

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