The Izard County Lady Cougars and Mount Pleasant Lady Bluebirds looked like a couple of evenly-matched teams in the third-place game of the Class 1A Region 2 Tournament in Brockwell Feb. 25.
Two evenly-matched teams that struggled mightily at scoring the basketball in the first half of play.
Both squads missed open layups and could not get much to fall in from the outside.
But in the end, the Lady Cougars (13-19) were the ones that managed to shake off the slow start and punch their ticket to the Class 1A State Tournament in Harrison with a 43-31 victory over Mount Pleasant.
The loss by the Lady Bluebirds not only ended their season with a mark of 22-10, it was also the last loss in Mount Pleasant High School history.
Izard County jumped in front 4-0 on a pair of layups from All-Regional selection Leathyr Spangler (17 points), the first one coming after a two-minute scoreless stretch started off the contest.
Mount Pleasant's first bucket of the game did not come until midway into the first, when All-Regional team member Erica Biard (seven points) blasted a trey for the Lady Bluebirds.
Biard hit another hoop and Sara Adams (All-Regional team) turned in an old-fashioned 3-point play to end a low-scoring first period with Mount Pleasant on top 8-4. Adams finished with seven points in the game.
Izard County turned to All-Regional team member Traci Grinnell in the second period. Grinnell posted all eight of her points in the contest in the second period as the Lady Cougars moved in front to stay.
Grinnell started the frame with a traditional 3-point play and later knocked down three from down town to give Izard County a 12-11 lead with 4:23 left until the half.
Niki Edge (five points) and Melissa Martin (eight points) hit buckets for the Lady Bluebirds, but Izard County went to the break on a positive note.
Spangler hit a jumper, Grinnell hit a layup and with the clock winding down, Haley Crotts blocked a shot on Mount Pleasant's last possession of the half, giving the Lady Cougars one last shot before intermission.
And they took full advantage of that extra chance.
Trish Arnold banked in a long deuce from the top of the key at the buzzer to give Izard County an 18-14 lead at halftime.
Things didn't improve much for Mount Pleasant in the third. In fact, they got worse.
Biard picked up her fourth foul at the 4:27 mark of the third and was forced to spend the rest of the frame watching from the bench.
Keressa Campbell (12 points), an All-Regional selection, tossed in four points in the third, while Spangler canned a couple of big treys to push Izard County in front by double digits, 30-20.
Jessica Daigle (four points) dropped in a jumper right before the end of the third, but Mount Pleasant still trailed 30-22 after three.
Biard was back in to start the final frame for Mount Pleasant, but the Lady Cougars refused to give any ground and posted a 43-31 victory over the Lady Bluebirds.
Rachel Harmon tossed in four points for Izard County.
In opening-round action Feb. 22, it was a shootout at the Cougars' Den between Biard and Norfork's Olivia Grigg.
Luckily for the Lady Bluebirds, Biard was on their side.
She scorched the nets for a game-high 41 points to advance Mount Pleasant in the tourney with a 73-68 victory over Norfork.
Grigg did her part for the Lady Panthers by tossing in 35 points on the evening.
The Lady Panthers held an 18-15 lead after the first period, but Biard fired in 10 points in the second period to pull the Lady Bluebirds within six, 36-30, at the half.
Mount Pleasant was on top 55-39 when Norfork went on a 9-0 run to make it Lady Bluebirds 55, Lady Panthers 42, after three.
But Norfork wasn't done.
The Lady Panthers pulled within three, 60-57, in the fourth.
But there was just too much Biard. She righted the ship and Mount Pleasant wound up with a hard-earned 73-68 win over Norfork.
Adams logged 12 points for Mount Pleasant, with Martin adding nine, Daigle six, Sage Parish three and Arleigh Qualls two.
The Bluebirds were not so fortunate in their matchup with Norfork earlier in the evening Feb. 22.
The Panthers topped Mount Pleasant (20-10) 61-45.
Norfork held a 10-7 advantage after one, 23-17 at the half and 37-28 after three.
Conor Lawrence, an All-Regional selection, paced the Bluebirds with 18 points, with Dustin Heiskill adding 12, and Jordan Hutchins 10.
Abram Qualls finished with five points.