The Rural Special Lady Rebels will compete for the Class 1A State Basketball Championship this Thursday in Hot Springs following Monday morning’s 56-53 semifinal victory over Viola.
The entire game was nip-and-tuck until late in the fourth quarter when Rural Special built a 52-44 lead. Still, Viola was able to battle back and get within striking distance but was unable to capitalize on the opportunities.
The Lady Longhorns held a one-point lead at 11-10 after the first quarter.
Both teams missed opportunities early in the second quarter until Brinley Morgan stole the ball and scored. Viola then scored easily on a cut to the basket on the backside. Abbey Linville hit a three-pointer, but it was countered by one from Viola. Kylan Stevens scored inside to make it 17-16 for the Lady Rebels.
Viola committed a turnover to restore Rural Special possession and Morgan hit a 12-foot jumper following a timeout. Linville stole the ball but a turnover prevented a score. Viola made a good pass to the inside to get within one point, then Morgan attempted a trey that missed, but Bailey Perry put back the rebound for a 21-18 score.
Both teams missed shots and the Lady Longhorns connected from long-range to tie the score at 21. Morgan hit a 12-footer but Viola countered with a trey from deep beyond the arc. The opponents then stole the ball but later committed a turnover. Morgan drove to draw defenders then passed to Perry for the score and a 25-24 lead that held to halftime.
Viola took possession to start the second half, and Perry stole the ball. Linville hit a step-back three to establish a four-point lead. Viola hit two freethrows before Morgan scored in the lane. The Lady Longhorns added three freethrows over the next minutes, and Stevens hit a basket for the Lady Rebels to flip the lead back in her team’s favor. Viola held the ball for a final shot and connected, then stole the inbounds pass under the basket, scored and drew a foul. The three-point play gave Viola a four-point edge at 36-32 going into the fourth quarter.
Rural Special had first possession when play resumed, and a shot missed but Perry earned freethrows on the put-back, sinking both. Viola also scored a rebound, countered by one from Morgan. Linville then sank a trey to put her team back on top.
Lady Rebel defense caused a 10-second violation against the Lady Longhorns, but the resulting shot opportunity missed. Viola added two more freethrows, but they were more than offset by another trey from Linville, making it 42-40.
Viola missed the front end of a one-and-one and Stevens rebounded. Linville scored on a drive to extend the lead to four points. The opponents narrowed it with a pair of freethrows, then Perry hit one of two for a three-point lead with 4:00 left in the game.
The Lady Longhorns missed a trey attempt and Stevens rebounded, then Linville hit a pair of freethrows after she was fouled. Another Viola basket kept it close at 47-44. A good use of time-out preserved a shaky possession for Rural Special at the 2:33 mark, after which Linville swished two more freethrows for a five-point lead.
Morgan stole the ball to regain control for her team, and another time out was called at the 2:00 mark. A foul away from the ball on the inbounds play sent Stevens to the line in the double bonus, and she sank both shots for a 51-44 advantage. Stevens then drew a charging foul on the other end, racking up the fifth foul on Viola’s post player.
Morgan went the line to make one of two on the next play, then Viola hit another long three from beyond the top of the key. A timeout with 1:17 left to play froze the score at 52-47. Rural Special inbounded the ball and a defender was forced to foul Linville, who sank two more freethrows with a minute remaining.
Viola launched treys at the other end, and the second one found the net to narrow the lead to four points. Rural Special attempted a long pass downcourt and it went out of bounds to Viola, but at the :26 mark the Lady Longhorns also lost possession. Perry was sent to the line and her freethrows bounced off the rim, and the same happened to Stevens on the next possession after Viola missed a trey attempt.
Viola launched another trey that missed and the ball went out of bounds with :02 left. Following a timeout, Viola fouled on the inbounds play and sent Linville to the line where she sank two for a six-point lead. Another Viola trey from near half-court set the final score.
Unofficial point totals showed Linville with 24, Morgan with 15, Perry with 7, Stevens with 6 and Gabbie Welch with 3.