MARVELL, Ark. — Over the last two years, the North Sunflower Academy Lady Rebels have been looking for that blue plated first place trophy in high school sports.
They had finished second place in state in softball this year and track and field last year. They also finish second place in district in girls basketball and second place in district and north in track and field last season.
When the Lady Rebels defeated the Marvell Academy Lady Eagles 58-42 here Friday night in the semifinals of the District 1-A Girls Basketball Tournament they advanced to the championship game Saturday evening against Desoto.
After bringing a home a slew of red plated trophies, the Lady Rebels finally nailed down that blue trophy as they throttled the Desoto School Lady Thunderbirds 45-19 to win the District 1-A Championship. The district championship was the school’s first in girls basketball in recent memory.
NSA, now 20-3, earned a bye into the semifinals of the North A State Tournament and will play the winner of the Marvell-Central game on Friday at 5:15 p.m. at Marvell Academy in Marvell, Ark.
Senior guard Brittney Burchfield couldn’t hide her feelings after the game.
“It feels great,” Burchfield said. “It’s amazing.”
Lady Rebels head coach Brenda Cummins said the game against Marvell was the key game of the tournament.
“Our biggest game was against Marvell,” Cummins said. “I told the girls this morning in the gym this (championship) game is not the pressure game. I told them to get out there and play like they’ve done all year long. They’re ready for the next level.”
This year’s win was particularly sweet considering the fact NSA lost a tough game in the District 1-A finals to Marvell 52-42 last year.
“We redeemed ourselves from last year, because we lost to Marvell,” an excited Smith said after the game.
For the tournament, Burchfield, Jimmie Whatley and Shelbi Smith earned All-Tournament team honors with Whatley being named the MVP.
“I wouldn’t have imagined me getting MVP especially with me being a junior,” Whatley said. “I have leaders on the team like Brittney and Shelbi that deserve it as much as I do. It was an honor to be able to get it.”
In Saturday’s championship game, NSA struggled scoring points with most of their team in foul trouble as Burchfield, Arin McIntyre and Jimmie Whatley racked up three fouls each. The fouls sent Desoto to the free throw line quite often in the first half. The Lady Thunderbirds, however, struggled at the foul line as they missed 12 of their 16 free throws in the first half.
NSA’s defense hung tough, as the Lady Rebels were able to take a 18-11 halftime lead.
In the second half, NSA’s defense continued to play well but the offense stepped up, as the Lady Rebels took the ball to hoop and made lay-ups. In fact, NSA cut down on its fouls and went on a 14-0 run to close out the third quarter. The Lady Rebels held the Lady Thunderbirds to just two points in the third as they led 37-13 heading into the final quarter. NSA kept the lead over 20 points the enter fourth quarter.
NSA also did a good job at the free throw line by hitting seven of its nine shots for the game.
“I just told them third quarter when we played last time that’s when they beat us,” Cummins said. “They had to make up their minds, and they came out fighting for it.”
Cummins said the style of offense the girls played proved beneficial in the second half.
“The calmness comes from the spread where they have a one on one option,” Cummins said. “They can’t put two defenders on a player.”
Amber Whatley scored 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Lady Rebels, followed by Burchfield with 10 points, Smith with eight points and seven rebounds, Arin McIntyre with eight points and Jimmie Whatley with seven points and 13 rebounds.