Coming into the state tournament on one heck of a roll, the Salem Lady Greyhounds had posted 13 consecutive wins by generally putting the clamps on each opponent's best player. This streak also moved the Lady Hounds to a number 10 ranking in Class AA.
By taking away the other side's top-scoring threat, Salem marched through the last half of the season with titles in the Izard County, district and regional tournaments.
Meeting up with the Parkers Chapel Lady Trojans, the number two ranked team in Class AA, in the first round of the Class AA State Tournament at Centerpoint High School in Rosboro March 3, the Lady Hounds found yet another explosive player waiting on them; Lady Trojan guard Kelly Ezell.
Ezell broke free for 20 points, as the Lady Trojans (31-7) knocked Salem (21-8) out of the playoffs with a 50-38 win and, in the process, snapped the Lady Hounds' lengthy winning streak.
The third period was the deciding factor in the contest, with Parkers Chapel opening up a close game by outscoring Salem 15-7 in the third to slide into the driver's seat.
Salem came out like gangbusters to start the game, very much reminiscent of the reason why they had suffered no losses in a 13-game stretch.
Heather Bales slid baseline for a hoop to get the Lady Hounds going, before Ashley Smith took over.
Smith canned a layup and then floated outside for back-to-back triples, giving Salem a quick 10-4 advantage.
Bales paced the Lady Greyhounds with a team-high 14, while Smith tallied nine for the game.
Parkers Chapel closed the first period on a 7-3 run, keyed by a traditional 3-point play by Ezell, to pull within a deuce, 13-11, after one.
The going was a bit slower in the second, with Salem posting one field goal and the Lady Trojans sinking two.
After Parkers Chapel had stole the lead, their first of the game, Stephanie Barker ended the Lady Trojan run with a 3-ball for her only points of the game, locking things at 16-all.
Moving back on top with an Ezell hoop, the Lady Trojans held a one-point margin, 18-17, at intermission.
The opening three minutes, and closing two, of the third period proved fatal for Salem.
Parkers Chapel went on a 7-zip spurt just inside the frame to move in front 25-19.
After a free throw by Hannah Bray and layup from Bales, the Ladies of Troy finished off the third with a 6-0 run, leaving Salem with just two field goals in the period and a 33-24 deficit after three.
Salem tried to erase this margin in the fourth by going to Bales in the paint, but the Lady Trojans got a couple of key offensive rebounds they turned into points, keeping the Lady Greyhounds trailing by at least 10 points for most of the frame.
Securing the win with five free throws, the Lady Trojans made Salem's stay in Rosboro a short one with a 50-38 victory.
Brittney Bales added four points for the Lady Greyhounds, while Tori Watkins, Stephanie McHenry and Bailey Wagner finished with two points each.