After two years of state tournament semi-final frustration, the Cave City Cavewomen reached their goal, earning a spot in the finals of this week's 3A State Championship title game with an emotionally-charged 53-45 victory over Parkers Chapel March 6 at Jessieville.
"This is such a welcome relief," said Cave City coach Russell Fowler. "The girls have worked so hard. This is the third straight year they have reached the state semifinals. For these seniors to get to go and play in the state championship game, I am just so proud of them. Parkers Chapel has an outstanding ball club, but our kids just hung in there and fought all night long."
Game time is 5:15 p.m. March 10 at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
Cave City won despite an incredible performance by Jordan Carr, who poured in a game-high 31 points to lead Parkers Chapel. Savannah Langston, the Lady Trojans' 6-2 center, pumped in 14 more, but the Cavewomen defense shut out the rest of the Lady Trojans from the scoring column.
Carr took control in the third quarter, scoring nine points as the Lady Trojans closed the gap to 35-32. The Cavewomen struggled offensively in the period, scoring just six points, all by Cheyenne Childers, who finished with a team-high 16 points.
Cave City pushed its lead to five to begin the fourth quarter, but Parkers Chapel battled back and cut the margin to one on a driving lay-up by Carr at the 5:25 mark. Lindsey Wooldridge answered with possibly the biggest shot of the tournament for Cave City, nailing a 3-pointer to push the Cavewomen lead back to 40-36.
A driving lay-up by Carr with 2:21 left narrowed the Cave City lead to 42-40, but Wooldridge struck again, sinking two free throws with 1:55 left to up the Cavewomen lead to 44-40.
Langston misfired on Parkers Chapel's next possession, with Childers pulling down the rebound. The senior center was immediately fouled. Childers hit the front end of the one and one, but missed the second attempt. Jessica Hall snared the rebound and was fouled. Hall sank both foul shots, increasing the Cave City lead to 47-40 with 57 seconds left.
Parkers Chapel never got closer than five points as the final seconds ticked off the clock, leading to a wild celebration from the Cave City team and fans.
Cave City also got double figures from Hall and Wooldridge, who scored 12 and 10 points respectively. Bell just missed double digits, scoring nine points, while Claire Caldwell and Brooklyn Brinkley added three points apiece.
"This is just great," said Fowler. "I am so proud of this bunch of girls. It is a big win for our school," said Fowler.
Childers (19 points, 13 boards) recorded a double-double while Cave City used a stifling defense to post a 53-38 victory over Rose Bud in the quarterfinals March 5.
Cave City held a slim 8-5 lead after the first quarter before Childers scored eight second period points to help the Cavewomen build a 23-16 halftime advantage.
Cave City seemed to have the game in control with a 33-21 lead, but the Lady Ramblers battled back, scoring the last nine points of the third period to slice to advantage to 33-30 entering the final frame.
The score remained close until Jessica Hall completed a traditional 3-point play with 3:25 left, giving the Cavewomen a 43-36 lead. Cave City salted the game away, hitting 10 of its last 12 free throw attempts.
Bell and Brinkley scored eight points apiece, while Hall contributed seven more.
Caldwell tallied five, Wooldridge pitched in with four while Megan Graddy added two.
Rose Bud's Victoria Willborg led all scorers with 21 points.
In opening-round action March 4, Cave City outlasted the Drew Central Lady Pirates 35-19, in a low-scoring contest.
Especially low-scoring for Drew Central.
The Cavewomen held the Lady Pirates (21-9) to just one point in the fourth period and just seven points in the second half of play.
Bell's 16 points and 14 rebounds paced Cave City and was just three points shy of the total that Drew Central produced.