The Calico Rock Lady Pirates used a gritty effort on the backboards to hang tough with the Cave City Cavewomen in the semifinals of the Class AA Region 3 Tournament at the Cougars' Den in Brockwell Feb. 24.
By keeping the Cavewomen boxed out of the lane on both ends of the court while taking advantage of a cold-shooting performance from beyond the 3-point arc on Cave City's part during the first two periods, the Lady Pirates were in great shape, down just one point at the half.
In the second two periods of play, Cave City corrected these deficiencies in time to pull away from Calico Rock en route to a 60-39 victory.
Calico Rock set the tone of the game early by working the ball inside to Ashton Lester in the first period.
Lester responded by making her presence felt with six of her team-high 14 points in the game's first eight minutes.
While Cave City (28-5) had a slower-than-normal start from deep range, going the entire first period without a trey, Calico Rock (21-14) did ring up a long-range bomb in the first.
A triple by Whitney Herron (five points) at the 2:16 point pushed the Lady Pirates out to a fast 13-6 lead.
However, blessed with the ability to score points in quick bursts, the Cavewomen came roaring back, thanks to Tournament MVP Leah Fugett.
Fugett blasted in seven unanswered points for Cave City in the last 1:43 of the first, pulling her team within two, 15-13, heading into the second frame. Fugett led all scorers with 28 points on the night.
Calico Rock was able to limit Cave City to one shot per possession in the second period with aggressive rebounding, but the Cavewomen finally took their first lead of the game, 23-22, with less than two minutes left until the half on a Fugett free throw.
Courtney Cook (four points) gave the Lady Pirates the lead back momentarily on a layup, but a bucket from Kayla Qualls (four points) just before the horn sent Cave City to the half with a 25-24 lead over a determined group of Lady Pirates.
The game began to slip out of the Lady Pirates' grasp in the second, as Cave City regrouped and came out charging in the third.
Fugett and Whitney Stauffer (six points) racked up a layup apiece to start the third, and then Jordan Witt (13 points) knocked in the first of her two treys in the third, as Cave City found the shooting stroke that had eluded it during the first half.
Calico Rock still managed to penetrate Cave City's defense enough to get the ball around the hoop, but the Lady Pirates just couldn't finish like they did in the first half.
Kimberly Sutterfield (11 points) stopped Cave City's 10-2 period-opening run with a layup, but Calico Rock had fallen behind 35-28 with 4:51 left in the third. Sutterfield earned All-Regional honors.
This stoppage to the Cave City express was brief, as the Cavewomen then went on an 11-4 run to end the period with Calico Rock trailing 46-32.
Fugett finished what she started by pouring in nine points in the fourth, three more than the Lady Pirates could post, sending Cave City to a 60-39 victory.
Jessica Sanders finished with two points for Calico Rock.
Joanna Anderson tallied seven points for Cave City, while Kendra Vickery and Rachael Lewis logged two points each for the Cavewomen.