FARMINGTON -- Makenna Vanzant racked up 13 assists with a double-double performance in Farmington's 74-70 win over Gravette Friday to cap off Colors Day at Cardinal Arena.
Many of those assists were passes over the top of Gravette's defense to sophomore Tori Kersey on the low block. Kersey used her left-handed play and agility to score a season-high 28 points providing the answer for each Lady Lion run.
"We thought going in this year that the league was really balanced," said Farmington coach Brad Johnson. "I see that there's a lot of good teams and that was something that our coaching staff and our kids had talked about is 'you're coming into the 4A-1, it's one of the most historically-good girls basketball conferences in the state of Arkansas and I mean it's always been that way. These kids don't remember it, but we've been through those wars and so you come back in and Berryville's really, really good. They're an elite-level 4A team with a chance to win the whole thing. Pea Ridge is showing that they're in that same caliber, an elite-level 4A team, and Harrison's the same way, and so we ain't even got to the rest of the conference. We felt like it was going to be a dogfight. The fun thing, I think, for a fan of the game is that for the next two to three weeks some of this stuff is going to shake out. There's going to be a lot of big-time games coming up across the conference, and then, man, the district tournament's going to be a lot of fun, too."
Gravette (12-10, 5-5 4A-1) led 19-16 late in the first quarter on the strength of five 3-pointers in the period capped by sophomore Kaylan Chilton's trey. In the last 2:30 Farmington (18-5, 8-2) mounted a 6-2 mini run to take a 22-21 lead at the quarter break.
The Lady Cardinals stretched that to a 14-2 run 1:21 into the second quarter to open up a nine-point advantage, 30-21, beginning with a Vanzant to Kersey connection and Vanzant's assist to Alexis Roach on the break. Senior Madisyn Pense found Kersey for a layup to cap the surge, which provided Farmington a cushion.
Gravette fought back with a 13-6 run to pull within, 36-34 on Jessica Bookout's free throws and stayed within two points when Maggie Mackenzie hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the half down, 39-37.
Gravette tied the game on free throws but Farmington built a 7-point lead in the third of 46-39 on Vanzant's dish to Kersey.
Gravette refused to go away and the difference was only two points, 50-48, at the end of the third thanks to Shylee Morrison hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing for the Lady Lions.
Gravette again tied the contest on its first possession of the period as the Lady Lions had done in the third. Kasandra Tajchman sank a short jumper in the key, but again Farmington answered. Vanzant's bucket was followed by Trinity Johnson's trifecta.
Twice Farmington expanded the margin to eight, but Gravette never let the Lady Cardinals rest easy.
Bookout's old fashioned 3-point play cut the lead to 68-63 at the 1:36 mark, but Farmington beat the Lady Lions' press with Kersey scoring on the run off a Vanzant feed. Vanzant hit a pair of free throws to give Farmington a 74-67 lead with 29.6 seconds to go and that was enough to hold off Gravette.
Pense has been showing a pull-up jumper lately, which adds to her offensive skills.
"That's the thing. You know everybody chases Madisyn Pense off the (3-point) line so she's, over the course of her career, had to expand her game," Brad Johnson said. "That's part of the evolution for her is the pull-up jumper. She's shown the ability to take people off the bounce and so now everything is extended pressure, early help on her drive, so she kind of has to be able to hit that mid-range and she's done a good job of doing that."
Trinity Johnson added 13 points for Farmington while Pense had 11 and Vanzant, 10.
Bookout's 19-points led Gravette followed by Kaylan Chilton, 13; Abigail Beranek, 12; Morrison, 11; and Gabbi Scott, 10.
Gravette (12-10, 5-5): Jessica Bookout 19, Kaylan Chilton 13, Abigail Beranek 12, Shylee Morrison 11, Gabbi Scott 10, Maggie McKenzie 3, Kasandra Tajchman 2.
Farmington (18-5, 7-2): Tori Kersey 28, Trinity Johnson 13, Madisyn Pense 11, Makenna Vanzant 10, Alexis Roach 7, Audrey Culpepper 3, Joelle Tidwell 2.Sports on 02/06/2019
Print Headline: Lady Cardinals Hold Off Gravette