By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Branson Lady Pirates and Melbourne (Ark.) Lady Bearkatz (10-1) drew the quarterfinals nightcap Friday at the White Division quarterfinals of the Pink and White Lady Classic at Drury.
While it may be the conclusion of the first month of the basketball season, the matchup was reminiscent of a prize fight, as both teams laid it all out on the line.
In the end, the Bearkatz left the O’Reilly Family Event Center with the 42-38 win.
Melbourne pushes their record to 10-1 on the season.
Sophomore Kenley McCarn led all scoring with 21 points and said the ambience was reminiscent of a state championship game
“It was really intense with all the fans,” McCarn said. “It was just so hyped and we were really excited. We were really excited and wanted to win.”
While Branson served as the local team, the Melbourne cheering section is also being credited with the win.
“[They] kept up the energy,” McCarn said. “Keeping the energy up is a big part of our wins.”
The tilt had just about everything from a halftime scoring discrepancy to an early Branson technical for six players on the court to Melbourne’s McCarn holding the ball at the wing for nearly four minutes as the clocked ticked down.
Turns out, the gamesmanship paid dividends.
“That was just an adjustment. They didn’t come out on us and we were ahead. We talked about it at halftime, that if we did get ahead, we might stall them a little bit,” McCarn said. “They weren’t going to come out, so coach just told me to keep holding it until he told me to go.”
The Bearkatz had one primary objective: keep the ball out of Priscilla Williams’ hands.
Williams — a 6’3” guard — has signed to play at Syracuse University.
The game was a tale of two halves as Branson’s zone defense served as the table setters, as the teams were knotted up at 14 after one quarter of play.
After the two accounted for six turnovers in the second quarter, the lead kept switching hands, as Williams, Josie Roark, and McCarn put their teams on their backs, as the Pirates led at halftime, 24-21: a credit to Branson head coach Kip Bough’s stingy defensive attack.
While the Pirates’ zone contained the Bearkatz for the first 16 minutes of play, all of that changed in a New York minute.
Melbourne became more methodical, exhibiting patience and exposing the alleys en route to the win.
Of course, containing Williams never hurts either.
“Just having that big No. 2 in there (Williams), we do a lot of drive offense,” McCarn said. “Having a big girl like that in there, she’s blocking our shots and makes it harder to hit the outside shots.”
Melbourne — a Class 2A school in rural Arkansas — preaches one facet more than anything else.
“We are all about defense. We like to play defense and get a fast break going,” McCarn said. “Our offense, we are just moving, finding gaps like we did in the second half.”
Branson led for all but two possessions in the third quarter, as Melbourne took the 36-34 lead to the fourth — where they outscored the Pirates 15-10 to retake the lead — this time for good.
This marks Melbourne’s initial appearance in the Pink and White Lady Classic, and head coach Eric Teague said it was just as exhausting on the sideline as it was on press row and in the stands.
Said Teague: “I mean, you get in these close games right here, and it is just back and forth. You see your kids with so much emotion, and we have gone through so much together, so to see them become a team is what I think happened in the game.”
Melbourne now prepares for Oklahoma City’s Classen.
The two meet tomorrow in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m.
Melbourne: 14 7 15 6 — McCarn (21), Webb (6), Humphries (2), Roark (2), Lawrence (10)
Branson: 14 10 10 4 — Williams (led team with 19 points).