By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
At this rate, they may have to rename Blue Eye girls basketball team to “Shooter’s Eye.”
Blue Eye continued its red-hot postseason 3-point shooting on Saturday afternoon, beating Dora 67-42 in the Class 2 quarterfinals at Republic High School.
Blue Eye delivered an early knockout blow with nine 3-pointers in the first half. The Lady Bulldogs made 11 3-pointers overall.
“We have kids who can shoot it. There are no secrets to why they shoot well,” said Blue Eye coach Ken Elfrink. “They put in the time over the years. There isn’t a shot they don’t think is going in.
“When you have that kind of confidence, that’s what you have to have to be a great shooter. We’re catching fire at the right time.”
Avery Arnold scored 15 and Gracyn Fairchild had 14 points for Blue Eye. Each made four 3-pointers.
Fellow senior Kyla Warren scored a team-high 22, most of her points coming on mid-range jumpers.
In their last three postseason games – the district finals against Crane, sectionals against Miller and Saturday’s matchup with Dora – the Lady Bulldogs have totaled 32 3-pointers.
“It’s awesome when you can move the ball around and someone puts up a 3 and you know it’s going in,” Arnold said. “We have great shooters all the way around.”
Blue Eye will play Wellington-Napoleon, 26-2 overall and the No. 1-ranked team in Class 2, on March 12 in the Class 2 state semifinals. Tip-off is set for noon at JQH Arena in Springfield.
Next weekend will mark Blue Eye’s third-ever trip to state, all coming in this recent run. The Lady Bulldogs finished third in 2020 and 2021.
“It’s pretty special,” Arnold said. “The first two years going to the final four, it wasn’t surprising, but it was new. It’s even more exciting this year. We’re going back again. I feel like everything’s coming together.”
Deep postseason runs have become the norm for girls’ sports at Blue Eye in the last few years.
Away from basketball, Blue Eye’s senior class has won state championships in track and field and cross country (team and individual), along with three district titles in volleyball.
“They’re just successful,” Elfrink said. “They’re four-sport athletes who all play different sports. They really gel well together on the basketball court. It’s all about winning for them.”
Blue Eye led 26-9 after the first quarter and 39-18 by halftime. The Lady Bulldogs closed the first half with eight unanswered points in the final minute after Dora had drawn within 31-18.
“One of the things we said was that we have to cover (the 3), and if (Blue Eye) hits shots with hands in their faces, you can’t do anything about it,” said Dora coach Cole Garnette. “Blue Eye shot really well in the first half.
“I was proud of our girls for fighting back. We could’ve laid down and let it become a 50- or 60-point game. We hung around a bit. But there’s a reason Blue Eye’s been to three straight final fours now.”
Cassidy Hambelton led Dora with 27 points in her final career game. She goes out as the greatest player in program history.
Hambelton finishes with 2,692 career points (unofficially) – the most of any player, boy or girl, in Dora’s basketball history. She had over 800 points in her senior season alone.
Hambelton and Dora’s 2022 senior class led the program to new heights. Dora won a pair of district championships and, this season, reached the 20-win mark for the first time in eight years.
Dora had previously won districts only other time (2010).
“That’s what this group’s legacy will be now,” Garnette said. “Their names will be in the history books.”
Blue Eye 67, Dora 42
Dora 9 9 11 13 — 42
Blue Eye 26 13 20 8 — 67
Dora (20-9 overall) – Cassidy Hambelton 27, Chesney Luna 5, Autumn Nold 4, McKenna Miller 3, Lauren Martin 3
Blue Eye (26-5 overall) – Kyla Warren 22, Avery Arnold 15, Gracyn Fairchild 14, Riley Arnold 6, Samantha George 6, Makayla Johnson 2, Hailey Hobbs 2