Melbourne wins back-t0-back titles with win over Quitman
March 12, 2020
By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
HOT SPRINGS — Melbourne’s height advantage and a tenacious full-court press defense proved too much for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs to overcome at Bank OZK Arena Thursday.
Quitman (30-4) never recovered from the second quarter and lost to defending champion Melbourne 47-28 in the Class 2A state basketball championship game.
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“We had an outstanding season,” Quitman coach Tim Hooten said. “We played a team with outstanding height and speed. We still won 30 games and kept the streak of five consecutive conference and regional championships going.”
The Lady Bulldogs stayed close during the first quarter, but Melbourne pulled away by outscoring Quitman 26-9 in the second quarter. Lucy Holland scored all of Quitman’s points during the opening quarter and finished with 14 points.
Melbourne (34-2) outscored the Lady Bulldogs 16-14 during the second half.
“We did a good job defending them during the first quarter,” Hooten said. “We took away the things from them we wanted to take way. The full-court press hurt us in the second quarter. We never recovered from the second quarter.”
Melbourne coach Eric Teague said winning back-to-back state championships was not easy.
“We started the season with a different group of players and didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “They trusted the coaches and each other.”
Jenna Lawrence led Melbourne with 11 points and blocked seven shots.
“Both teams were nervous at the beginning of the game,” Teague said. “We needed to let game come to us in the first quarter. I told them between quarters they hadn’t played well and they need to pick up their play. Our full-court press and by making 3-pointers helped us to the lead in the second quarter. We did a better job of challenging Quitman.”
Holland became the first player to score as she drove, drew a foul and made the shot with 3:54 left in the first quarter. She sank the free throw to complete the three-point play.
Kenley McCarn and Dani Hardaway answered by making 3-pointers and Melbourne never trailed again. Holland hit 2-of-2 free throws as the Lady Bearkatz led 6-5 going into the second quarter.
McCaron started the second quarter by making a 3-pointer. Holland kept Quitman close by making 2-of-2 free throws, reducing Melbourne’s lead to 10-9. The Lady Bearkatz broke the game open on a 22-5 scoring run and built a 32-14 halftime lead.
Melbourne increased its lead to 44-21 by the end of the third quarter.
“We felt a target on our back this year after winning it last season,” Teague said. “Every team gave us everything they had. We kept getting better and I knew it would help us to get back to the state final. That was one of the big differences against Quitman.”
Melbourne lost back-to-back games to Bentonville and Classen SAS from Oklahoma City, the second-ranked team in that state, in late December. Teague said that was a turning point for his team.
“Those experiences taught them to listen and trust more,” Teague said. “We lost to two good teams and learned our weaknesses.”
HOT SPRINGS — Could the Melbourne Bearkatz senior girls basketball team win four state titles in a row?
That question was posed to Melbourne coach Eric Teague shortly after his team won its second consecutive 2A state title on Thursday with a 47-28 victory at Bank of OZK Arena.
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Normally that might seem like a far-fetched question, considering that Teague’s team hasn’t “three-peated” yet, but looking at the Bearkatz roster it is not hard to imagine that Melbourne might be able to accomplish that rare feat — the last senior girls team to do that was Fort Smith Northside from 1999-2002.
“It’s possible,” Teague said. “Anything’s possible. Maybe that will help us for next year.”
The Bearkatz coach said his team already has the experience having the “target on our backs.”
“I am sure these kids can tell you … every team we played they gave us everything they had,” Teague said. “I think that’s what put us over the top at the end of the year. We faced so much adversity with teams coming in during the first quarter, the first half giving everything they had. Our kids just kept getting better and they would absorb everything that those other teams brought at them; and I really think that was the difference tonight.”
Melbourne started one senior, two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman.
NICE MOVE: Melbourne’s last state tournament loss came on March 3, 2018 with a 63-40 setback in the 3A state tournament semifinals in Monticello. Since then the Arkansas Activities Association re-adjusted the conferences eliminating the 7A in all sports, except football, and moving some schools down for sports other than football — for example, Melbourne competes in class 3A for football and 2A in other sports.
Since that move the Bearkatz have gone 64-6 with two state titles.
MVP: Melbourne’s Kenley McCarn was named the game’s most valuable player. The sophomore, daughter of Melbourne football coach Kevin McCarn, finished with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“This year I think we all knew we were going to have to step up more often,” McCarn said in comparing the 2019 title with the won on Thursday. “We did everything as a team. Our points were even across the board and that really helps. “
Teauge played eight off his 15-player roster with seven of those scoring.
FRESHMAN: Ninth-grader Jenna Lawrence paced the Melbourne with 11 points. The 6-foot-2 post player also finished with seven blocked shots and tied for the team lead with two assists.
TOUGH DECEMBER: Melbourne only lost two games all season and both of those losses came one-week apart in December.
The first loss came to 6A Bentonville, the top-ranked team in the state, on December 21 with a 55-31 setback in the Malik Monk Nike Holiday Classic in Bentonville. One week later in the semifinals of the Pine and White Classic Tournament in Springfield, Missouri, the second-ranked team in Oklahoma, Classen SAS High School of Oklahoma City, defeated Melbourne, 62-40.
“I learned how tough they were,” Melbourne coach Eric Teague said. “That experience allowed them to open up, listen to me a little more and trust me, because we got wore out a couple of times, to really good teams.
“I did that on purpose. I wanted us to open our eyes and see ‘what are our weaknesses?’ ‘how good are we?’ I really think that helped us to start building the blocks to get here because we understood … we weren’t playing as a team.”
The Bearkatz closed the season by winning their final 24 games.
Quitman, Melbourne to tangle in Hot Springs for championship
March 12, 2020
By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
QUITMAN — Playing for the Class 2A state championship is becoming an almost every year event for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Bulldogs, who advanced for the third time in the last four seasons, will play defending state champion Melbourne at 6 p.m. Thursday in the state final at the Bank OZK Arena.
Quitman (30-3) defeated Hector in the 2017 final and lost to Earle in 2018. Melbourne (33-2) won last year’s championship with a win against Riverside.
“This will be different from last week as we must wait almost a week to play,” Lady Bulldog coach Tim Hooten said. “Sometimes, it’s anticlimactic, but we have to build back to last week’s level of play.”
Quitman lost to Melbourne 59-43 in November, but Hooten said that game will not affect Thursday’s matchup.
“We are aware of how good Melbourne’s posts are and they are two players deep at all five positions,” Hooten said. “We have quickness and speed, and hope to take advantage of it. We are a different team and not look back at the last time we played Melbourne. Records are meaningless now. It’s a one-game season.”
Sophomore Kenlee McCarn is one of the Melbourne players to watch, along with Jenna Lawrence. Kiley Webb runs the show at point guard. Josie Roark and Halle Weaver round out the starters.
“There is a lot of excitement,” Melbourne head coach Eric Teague said when asked about the atmosphere since Saturday’s semifinal win against Des Arc. “Winning the state tournament last year was exciting. It has been a tough year and we got every team’s best shot. We are excited about Thursday’s (today) game against Quitman.”
Melbourne has won 23 consecutive games with the last loss to Classen SAS from Oklahoma City in December. The Lady Bearkatz’ other loss came to Class 6A Bentonville, also in December. Melbourne averages 59 points a game and held opponents to 37 points.
“Defense is the strongest part of our team,” Hooten said. “We will use a full-court press and try and not let them get down the floor easily. We don’t have the size to battle inside. We will rely on our speed and quickness.”
Teague expects a tough game and hopes playing for the second straight year in the state final will benefit the Lady Bearkatz.
“We hope to be more settled than last year,” he said. “Quitman has a great team and is the hottest team right now in Class 2A.”
Quitman, which has won five regional tournament titles, will put a nine-game winning streak on the line. The Lady Bulldogs’ last loss came at home to Mount Vernon-Enola. Quitman lost to Melbourne and Mountain View in November.
Who wins the 2A Girls State Title
Melbourne (57%, 4 Votes)
Quitman (43%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 7
Senior guards Autumn Johnson and Halle Bennett start on the perimeter, with sophomore Taylor Hooten at point guard. Seniors Lucy Holland and Carson Rackley are the posts.
Holland said the team is confident and the earlier loss to Melbourne was forgotten a long time ago.
“You can’t go into a game scare about what happened last time,” she said. “Every game is new. “Our past state tournament experience will help because we know what it is like to win and also know what it is like to lose it. The nerves will still be there, but we don’t want to lose again.”
Rackley also agreed that the Lady Bulldogs will be ready for the matchup against Melbourne.
“I didn’t even score in that game and expect to play better,” she said. “Playing Melbourne once helped in preparation, but the disadvantage for them is we won’t play the same way as last time. We know what we must do to win.”
Quitman’s team average almost mirror Melbourne. The Lady Bulldogs average 60 points and held their opponents to 38 points.
Hooten said one of the keys for Quitman will be how effective it can make outside shots.
“We must have a good outside shooting game,” he said. “They are so big inside, but we are going have to score some on the inside. If we do that, it will help keep the game closer and puts us in position to win.”
Teague agreed that the game will be determined the outcome of Quitman’s speed against Melbourne’s size.
“We must protect the ball and not turn it over against Quitman’s fullcourt press,” he said. “We also must limited Quitman to one shot. We need to slow them down and not let them overwhelm us with their speed.”
Quitman won two championships in other sports last year, and Hooten hopes it carries over to the school’s second basketball title.
“These girls work to win in every sport,” he said. “We won the state cross country championship and the last two softball titles. Winning can become a habit. They know what it takes to win.”
CLASS 2A SENIOR GIRLS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP CAPSULE
QUITMAN (30-3) VS MELBOURNE (33-2)WHEN: 6 p.m. tonight
WHERE: at Bank OZK Arena in Hot SpringsTELEVISION: PBS (Statewide over the air, cable). Pregame 5:57 p.m. Tipoff 6:05 p.m.
RADIO: KABZ 103.7 "The Buzz: (Statewide). Listen Live LinkMELBOURNE BEARKATZ
STATE TITLES (2): 1973, 2019
COACH: Eric Teague
PROBABLE STARTERS: Guard Kenley McCarn (5-9, Sophomore), Guard Kiley Webb (5-3, Junior), Guard Josie Roark (5-6, Junior), Guard Halle Weaver (5-6, Junior) Forward Dani Hardaway (5-7, Senior) and/or Post Jenna Lawrence (6-2, Freshman)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Melbourne downed Fordyce (67-27), Bigelow (54-38) and Des Arc (68-54) at 2A state tournament in Quitman to advance to finals
BEARKATZ NOTES: Melbourne is the defending 2A state champion and on a 23-game winning streak ... Lost three key players off last season's championship team in seniors Halle Cooper and Shelby Morris, and 2019 state title game most valuable player Reagan Rapert, who transferred to Union, Missouri, for her junior season ... Melbourne defeated Quitman, 59-43, in the semifinals of the Clinton First Service Bank Tournament on November 21. The Bearkatz would defeat 6A Springdale Har-Ber for the title ... Melbourne's only losses this season were at Bentonville (55-31) on December 21 and to Oklahoma City Classen SAS (62-40) on December 28 on a neutral floor ... The Bearkatz are 90-13 over the past three season (87.4 percent) and 39-2 in conference play over that same period ... Melbourne competes in 3A for football and 2A for other sports ... Melbourne also won the state overall title in 1973 (until that tournament was discontinued in 1992) ... Melbourne won both the 2A-3 conference and district titles ... has only two seniors on roster.
QUITMAN BULLDOGSSTATE TITLES (1): 2017
COACH: Tim Hooten
PROBABLE STARTERS: Guard Halle Bennett (5-4, Senior), Guard Autumn Johnson (5-4, Senior), Guard Taylor Hooten (5-3, Sophomore), Post Lucy Holland (5-8, Senior) and Post Carson Rackley (5-8, Senior)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Quitman defeated Hector (84-45), Marmaduke (71-37) and Earle (40-28) to punch ticket to today's title game.
BULLDOG NOTES: Quitman is on a nine-game winning streak ... The Bulldogs only losses this season are at Mount Vernon-Enola (57-51) on February 11 to Mountain View (54-24) on November 22 and to Melbourne (59-43) on November 21 ... Quitman has eight seniors on the roster ... Quitman defeated Earle, 49-44, in the semifinals on its way to claiming the 2017 state title while the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the finals this season with a 40-28 win on Saturday, both of those wins came at Quitman ... Over the past five seasons, Quitman has won 88.8 percent of the games it has played. The Bulldogs have a record of 155-20 over that stretch, an average of 31 wins per season. They have also have a record of 61-2 in conference play over that same stretch, and won five district and five regional championships. On the biggest stage, the state tournament, Quitman is 12-3 in the state tournament with a state title in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2018 ... The track team has also won a state championship in 2017, the cross country team has state titles in three consecutive seasons while the softball team is coming off back-to-back state titles ... Quitman competes in the 2A-5 North conference ... The Bulldogs are 2A members of all sports.