The road to the 2006 Izard County Invitational Tournament's championship round was certainly not one of leisure for the Calico Rock Lady Pirates, nor for the Melbourne Lady Bearkatz.
The fourth-seeded Lady Pirates got past fifth-seeded Mount Pleasant in the first round before pulling the shocker of the tourney by upsetting the top-seeded Izard County Consolidated Lady Cougars 50-42 in the semi-final round.
Melbourne's, (number six seed) path to the finals was not paved with gimmees, either. The Lady Bearkatz opened tourney play with a win over third-seeded Salem, before dispatching the number two seed from Mammoth Spring in the semis.
As it turned out, a third straight win over a higher-seeded team was just not in the cards for the Lady Bearkatz, as they fell to Calico Rock 38-33 Jan. 28 in the championship game held at the Bluebirds' Nest in Mount Pleasant.
The Lady Pirates set the tone early by posting a 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back inside hoops from Whitney Herron (eight points) and Courtney Cook (five points), but Melbourne answered in kind with a 7-2 burst. Olivia Morris started the run-out for the Lady Katz with a jumper, and Autumn Henry (five points) chipped in with a 3-ball. Morris led all scorers with a game-high 17 points for Melbourne.
The Lady Bearkatz' late push gave Melbourne a slim 7-6 lead after the first period.
The second frame saw each side battling for control, with the contest tied four times in the period.
After Melbourne had moved in front 9-6 early in the second, Kimberly Sutterfield knotted matters at 9-all with a long trey. Sutterfield paced Calico Rock with 12 points.
The Lady Pirates did grab the lead, 17-16, on a low-post move from Herron with 1:42 left until the half, but a stickback from Abby Cooper (nine points) and two free throws by Morris gave Melbourne a 20-17 advantage at intermission.
After the two squads hit the floor to start the third, Ashton Lester (11 points) took over for Calico Rock.
She logged the Lady Pirates' first five points of the third, helping Calico Rock in front to stay.
With the Lady Pirates holding a 26-24 lead deep into the stanza, Sutterfield capped the frame in style for Calico Rock with a banked-in 3-pointer that barely beat the buzzer and pushed the Lady Pirates on top 29-24 after three.
Down by five to start the last period, Melbourne didn't give in; instead the Lady Bearkatz kept plugging away, and a triple from Morris at the 6:00 mark saw Melbourne still with a chance at victory, down 33-29.
Cooper then came up big with a swipe and length-of-court layup that edged the Lady Katz closer, down 33-31.
Melbourne would get no closer, however, with Sutterfield canning four free throws, and Cook one, to give Calico Rock the Izard County Tournament title with a five-point win.
Jessica Sanders finished with two points for the Lady Pirates.