Playing in their fourth straight Northeast Arkansas Invitational Tournament final, the Cave City Cavewomen captured their second straight 1A-2A-3A championship at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro with a 61-38 blasting of Bay Dec. 30.
The Cavewomen had topped Rivercrest in last year's NEA Tournament championship, after falling to East Poinsett County in the finals the two years previous to that.
And as usual, suffocating defense, topped with quality shot selection, paved the way for Cave City's victory in the 65th annual edition of one of the state's most competitive tournaments.
The Cavewomen (14-2) forced the second-seeded Lady Yellowjackets into 14 turnovers in the game, while on the offensive end, top-seeded Cave City shot 57 percent from the floor, while hitting five of 10 3-point attempts in the game. Brooklyn Brinkley was responsible for three of those treys. She led all scorers with a game-high 22 points on the night.
Both teams started a bit ragged while finding their footing in the first period. But Cave City did find solid ground, while Bay (18-3) did not.
Paced by a triple from Brinkley and back-to-back buckets by Cheyenne Childers (18 points), Cave City roared out to a 7-zip lead.
The Lady Yellowjackets' first points of the game didn't come until there was 1:50 showing on the first-period clock, as a 3-pointer from Trisha Jenkins broke the ice for Bay.
Back-to-back inside hoops from Trisha Dedman pulled Bay closer, but Haley Bell (nine points) closed the first with a jumper that gave Cave City an 11-7 lead.
The Lady Yellowjackets managed to re-group in the second and narrow Cave City's lead to one, 13-12.
But thanks to their swarming defense, the Cavewomen pushed this lead back to eight by virtue of a 12-2 spurt.
The Lady Yellowjackets responded with seven straight points inside the 1:20 mark, but when intermission rolled around, the Cavewomen were in front 27-21.
Cave City then closed the door on Bay early in the third.
Firing off a 10-4 run, the Cavewomen extended their advantage to 37-25.
And for good measure, the Cavewomen racked up the last eight points of the third to take a 45-30 lead into the final stanza.
The Lady Yellowjackets just had no answer for Cave City and by the time the Cavewomen went on a 10-2 run to open the fourth period, it was obvious Bay would not catch up with the bracket's top-seeded team.
Claire Caldwell finished with five points for Cave City, while Megan Graddy, Rachel Roebuck and Jessica Hall ended the evening with two points apiece. Lindsey Wooldridge had one point for the Cavewomen.
Hannah Willard's 12 points paced the Lady Yellowjackets.