Saddled with a huge deficit and their season hanging in the balance, the Mammoth Spring Lady Bears were faced with two options; pack it in and go home, or fight to the bitter end.
The Lady Bears chose option number two and displayed the resolve that had led them to an undefeated conference mark, district tournament title and number eight ranking in Class A hoops.
However, the Delaplaine Lady Indians had no intention of giving up so easily either, as they weathered a furious comeback bid by Mammoth Spring to knock off the Lady bears 54-51 in the semifinals of the Region 3 Tournament at Swifton High School Feb. 25. The loss leaves the Lady Bears one step short of a berth in the state tournament in their first year in Class A, after moving down from the AA ranks last season.
With a shade under four minutes left in the contest, Mammoth Spring trailed by 14 points.
Much as it has all season long, the Lady Bears' aggressive, full court scrambling defense paid dividends, as Mammoth Spring cashed in Delaplaine turnovers for easy buckets, fueling a rally.
Bursting out on a 14-2 run, Mammoth Spring had pulled within a point, 52-51, of the Lady Indians with 31 ticks left on the clock.
A missed one-and-one on Delaplaine's part gave the Lady Bears a chance to take the lead, but Mammoth Spring returned the favor with a turnover that handed the ball back to Delaplaine.
With 19 seconds left in the game, the Lady Indians got another opportunity from the charity stripe and came through this time with two shots that bolstered Delaplaine's margin to three, 54-51.
Racing downcourt with one final possession, the Lady Bears had a couple of game-tying treys rattle out, with the last coming as the buzzer sounded, leaving Mammoth Spring's gritty comeback three points short of the mark.
Ann Whiteside paced Mammoth Spring with 19 points, while Madison Busch logged 17.
In quarterfinal action, the Lady Bears shrugged off a sluggish second period with a white-hot effort after the half to send the Crowley's Ridge Academy Lady Falcons packing with a 51-40 loss.
Mammoth Spring's full-court trapping defense gave CRA a ton of problems in the first half of play, as the Lady Falcons struggled to get the ball across half court.
This defensive pressure led to a pair of buckets off steals for Busch (16 points) that pushed the Lady Bears in front 11-2 at the 1:44 mark of the first.
Closing the period with a nice 6-0 push, CRA cut into Mammoth Spring's margin, but the Lady Bears still held serve 11-8 after one.
The second period was when the Lady Falcons found their wings.
Holding Mammoth Spring to one hoop and four free throws in the frame, CRA stormed in front at the half by outscoring the Lady Bears 12-6 in the second.
Down 20-17 at intermission, it was Mammoth Spring's turn to come alive in the third.
Getting a period-opening trey from Courtney Risner (six points), the Lady Bears busted off an 8-zip run that switched the lead back to their side, all before CRA could even get a shot at the basket early in the third.
Midway into the frame, the Lady Falcons hit back-to-back hoops that helped keep them around, as they trailed 27-24 at the 3:21 mark.
Jodie Walsh stopped this CRA run with a layup, and Mammoth Spring had its biggest lead of the night, 38-28, heading into the fourth.
Whiteside made sure the Lady Falcons had no further chances at a rally by tossing in 10 of her game-high 19 points in the final period as Mammoth Spring fought off a pesky CRA bunch for an 11-point win.
Amanda Nix added four for Mammoth Spring, while Alyssa Blankenship and Jonnie Bellows followed with two points each.
The Bears saw their season end short of the state tourney with a 48-41 quarterfinal loss to Armorel Feb. 24.
Mammoth Spring held a four-point lead, 34-30, heading into the final frame, but the Tigers outscored the Bears 18-7 in the fourth to emerge with the win.
Cameron Kent paced the Bears with 14, while Logan Lawrence finished with 10.