ARKADELPHIA - After winning the 7-4A district tournament, the Bauxite Lady Miners rolled into the South Region Regional tournament as the No. 2 seed with a chance to make history.
After a tough first half, the Lady Miners took control and blew past Dumas 51-41 in the opening round, advancing to the 4A state tournament for the first time since joining the conference in 2011. Bauxite made state in 2010 when it was a member of the 5-3A.
“It feels great,” Head Coach Josh Harrison said. “Our goal all year long was to make it back to state. We still have a lot of work to do to position ourselves to make a run in state. I am really proud of these girls.”
Despite the end result, Bauxite’s quest was far from easy, especially early on in the first half. Dumas opened the game with a long 3-pointer to take an early lead in the first quarter. Senior Lady Miner Mary Crow answered with a bucket of her own, just inside the arc to cut the game to 3-2 early.
Junior guard Amy Etheridge gave Bauxite its first lead of the game with a 3-pointer of her own to make it 5-3 Lady Miners. With things looking up early, Bauxite’s luck quickly shifted south. After Etheridge’s long ball, the Lady Miners missed 12 consecutive shot attempts to trail 12-9 after one. Crow and Allison Tackett each hit a pair of free throws for Bauxite’s only other points in the opening quarter.
Down just three to begin the second quarter, Bauxite finally began to sink shots but could not keep the Ladycats from matching them on the other end of the floor. Bauxite played Dumas to a one-point difference in the second quarter to trail 29-25 at the break.
“We just really weren’t in sync in the first half,” Harrison said. “Dumas just outplayed us on the boards. It was a battle. Dumas has been (to state) before and they beat us two years ago to go, so they know what it feels like. My girls don’t.”
Staring at a deficit and potentially the last half of the basketball season, Bauxite came out of the locker room on fire. With 3:46 left in the third quarter, Tackett drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 31-31. After four Lady Miner misses, senior forward Makayla Blanchett gave Bauxite its second lead of the game, this one a 33-31 advantage still in the third.
With scoring scarce, Bauxite escaped the third quarter with a 33-33 tie with just eight deciding minutes left in the game. Once again, Tackett hit a crucial bucket, this one a layup off of an assist from Crow to break the tie in Bauxite’s favor again. Tackett drained yet another 3-pointer moments later to put the Lady Miners up 36-33 with 5:47 left in the game, prompting a timeout by Dumas.
After Crow gave her team its biggest lead of the game, 40-35, with a short jumper, Tackett sank an and-1, converting the free throw to make it 43-38 Bauxite. Dumas cut the score to 43-41 with just over four minutes left in the game but could not get a stop on defense. With 4:03 left, junior guard Ashley Eisenhauer made it 45-41 Bauxite, giving the Lady Miners a little breathing room.
Luckily for Bauxite, Dumas was finished scoring for the game while the Lady Miners added six more points to advance on a 51-41 victory.
Crow led Bauxite with 20 points, followed by a stellar night from Tackett with 13, including two long balls. The two also combined for the team’s lone free throws with nine.
“They are always big and always clutch,” Harrison said. “Mary stepped up and hit big shots and Tackett’s (3-point shot) was huge for us tonight. Those are the girls I want shooting the ball in crunch time. They probably played too many minutes, but when you are down to win or go home, you have to do what it takes to move on. I can’t save legs for a game we aren’t going to play.”
Turnovers were a big key to the Lady Miners’ success as well, with Crow chipping in quite a bit there too.
“(Crow) had some big steals late and made some big plays for us in the game,” Harrison said. “She probably made some passes she shouldn’t have when she could have tried to score it low.”
Bauxite forced 20 turnovers on the Ladycats while giving Dumas the ball 14 times on offense.
The Lady Miners shot 40 percent from the field, hitting 19 of 48. Dumas shot 32 percent on the night.
With the win, Bauxite will take on Star City tonight in the semifinals on Ouachita Baptist University’s hardwood.
“If you look in front of us, this region is a killer,” Harrison said. “I really feel like Malvern, Central Arkansas Christian, Star City and us are the top teams in it. I feel like those three are probably three of the top four or five teams in all of 4A. We have beat two of them and I don’t think we are too far behind them all. If we come out and play, I think we can give Star City a run tomorrow night.”
Bauxite beat CAC and Malvern once earlier in the year.
The Lady Miners are set to tipoff at 7 tonight.