This week the Highland Lady Rebels had the unusual task of playing the same team twice, all in consecutive games.
A 48-32 win over Izard County at the Kell Classic on Jan. 3 set up a showdown with the Valley View Lady Blazers in the quarterfinals on Jan. 9, but first they would have to play a conference game at Valley View on Jan. 6.
Highland used a 17-5 third quarter run to nab a conference victory, 54-44, over the Lady Blazers. The official scorer missed two points in the fourth quarter, so the official score is actually 52-44.
Corning's 12-0 run to finish the second quarter and take a six-point lead challenged Highland to make a comeback. The Lady Rebels defeated the Lady Bobcats 48-41 to advance to another Kell Classic final game.
The ice storm that hit the area the first week of the tourney forced the Kell officials to reschedule the games.
The final against Batesville Southside will be played Saturday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m.
Second-seed Corning beat Trumann 60-57 to advance to the semi-finals against Highland.
Three-pointers by Alison Price and Ginny Long along with a bucket plus one by Alex Isaacs got the Lady Rebels out to a 15-9 first quarter lead.
Issacs hit two short jumpers for Highland's only points of the second quarter.
On the other hand, Corning found their shot and went into halftime up 25-19.
"They did something different to us defensively than anybody else has done. They played a 1-3-1 with a soft trap and we didn't handle it very well in the first half," said Lady Rebel Head Coach Harlan Davis. "In the second half, we adjusted our offense. We were more patient not to turn the ball over and got some good shots."
It took the entire quarter, but Price's layup to close the third tied the score at 30-all. Five of six from the free throw line was all the Lady Bobcats could muster for points.
The Lady Reb defense rose up in the fourth period and created three steals to start the fourth.
Solid free throw shooting from Price, Isaacs and Kaitlin Scribner, seven-of-nine at the end of the game, secured the victory.
The comeback is something that may pay dividends in the future.
"We see we can come back when we're down. We were able to overcome that. You know there's going to be someone you're going to get down to," explained Davis.
Isaacs and Price led Highland scorers with 17 and 15 points, respectively.
In both the conference and the Kell matches, Valley View tried to use the press to disrupt the Lady Reb offense.
In both games, Highland was able to break it on most possessions. To some extent, this is a product of the NEA Tournament. Price missed the Westside and Nettleton games at the Jonesboro tournament which meant Scribner was expected to assume most of the ball handling duties.
"I think that is the most important thing about the NEA tournament is that it gave three or four kids an unbelievable amount of confidence," said Davis. "They know they can take care of the ball and handle it without her (Price) there. Then when you put her in the mix, it just makes it that much better."
At Valley View, Price had six points in the first, but Amy Philamlee put in nine for the Lady Blazers.
Long nailed a trey to end the quarter with Highland down 16-15.
Valley View didn't get a shot to fall until the later part of the second half and by the time the Lady Rebs had already secured a 22-16 advantage. The Lady Blazers finished with a 5-2 run, but still trailed.
With Isaacs working the inside and foul shots, Long and Price throwing in the long bomb and the defense holding the View to a trey and two free throws, Highland's 17-5 run would be too much for the Blazer's to overcome.
The Lady Reb's 11-of-18 shooting from the charity stripe was enough to keep Valley View from catching up in the fourth quarter.
Price scored 19 and Isaacs 15 to lead the Lady Rebel shooters. Philamlee's 22 points accounted for half of Valley View's score and was nearly three times as much as her nearest teammate.
Highland had seven turnovers in the first quarter, but still managed 12-11 lead at the end of one against Valley View in the Kell Classic.
Issacs had a putback off a missed Kristina Langston free throw. Langston made two free throws and Price hit a 3-pointer to account for all of Highland scoring in the second quarter.
Colby Hundley scored a total of three points for Valley View's entire tally, giving the Lady Rebs a 19-14 halftime lead.
For the rest of the game, it can be said Highland held on to the win.
Valley View couldn't find a score until after the five-minute mark in the third. Scribner would give the Lady Rebels eight and Isaacs added five.
Except for Isaacs fast break bucket, all of Highland's fourth quarter scoring came from the free throw line. Nine-of-15 was just enough to win the game.
Up three with seconds on the clock, the Lady Rebel defense let Erica Cain drive for the open layup as time expired.
Highland was led by Isaacs with 16, Price 10 and Scribner 9.
In the first-round game against Izard County, Isaacs scored 15 for the Lady Rebs followed by Ellis with eight and Price, Scribner and Langston with seven.
Rachel Harmon had 10 points for the Lady Cougars.