SPORTS EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is part of an on-going series highlighting top sports stories for the 2010-2019 decade at Prairie Grove High School and its alumni.
PRAIRIE GROVE -- Prairie Grove brought Star City's 17-game winning streak to an abrupt end by knocking off the Lady Bulldogs, 59-56, in the 2010 Class 4A State girls basketball championship.
PRAIRIE GROVE 2009-2010 GIRLS ROSTER
Head coach: Kevin Froud
Assistant coach: Shelley Dougan
Prairie Grove achieved balanced scoring using a mix of all classes with three girls in double figures to keep Star City at bay in front of a crowd of 5,350 on March 11, 2010, at Summit Arena in Hot Springs.
Freshman Justyne Huber, a 6-0 forward whose ball-handling skills matched her rebounding propensity to go with deadly free-throw shooting led the Lady Tigers with 15 points. She made 11-of-12 free throws and put the game away down the stretch with Prairie Grove coach Kevin Froud capitalizing on match-up problems Huber created for defenses.
"We started a freshman and a junior on that team with some seniors. In that situation there could be some jealousy or animosity, but there was nothing like that," Froud said. "They all wanted to win."
Senior Julie Rutherford, who could play either guard or forward at 5-9, made 6-of-9 shots to chip in 14 points. Rutherford helped out on the boards by yanking down 4 rebounds.
Junior Kendra Coyle came into the finals leading the Lady Tigers in scoring (12.0) and steals (2.2). Despite playing with a possible concussion sustained in the semifinal win over Lonoke, she turned in another solid performance getting both averages (12 points and 2 steals) along with 7 rebounds. Coyle was named Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Class 4A State tournament.
Rules regarding concussions have become more restrictive, but on March 11, 2010, Coyle opted to play.
"If she was playing now, she probably wouldn't be allowed to play in that game because of the concussion protocol," Froud said. "At that time we didn't have concussion protocol. Of course, we monitored her and the next week she was ready to play."
Three senior Lady Tigers scored six points apiece: Morgan Abernathy, Elysia Clement, and Alex Myers while combining for 7 rebounds.
That productivity across the board helped Prairie Grove overcome a 21-13 first quarter deficit and get back in the contest by outscoring the Lady Bulldogs 16-7 in the second to capture a 29-28 halftime lead.
"In the finals Star City jumped out on us. Morgan hit a big 3-pointer for us to kind of stop their momentum," Froud said. "We stole the ball and put up a layup right at the buzzer to take the lead at halftime."
Nip And Tuck
The Lady Tigers expanded their lead with a 10-2 run midway through the third quarter, but couldn't shake Star City. The Lady Bulldogs trailed 46-42 going into the fourth and used an 8-4 run to tie the game at 50-50 when Jerrica Scott drew a foul while making a layup with three minutes left.
Her free-throw wouldn't go down, but Star City almost forced a back-court violation with intense pressure. Froud was able to get a referee's attention and called time-out to avoid the turnover. That marked a turning point with momentum shifting back to the Lady Tigers.
"There were numerous times where like they say it's better to be lucky than good. In the fourth quarter we threw a pass that barely skimmed over their heads and landed in Rutherford's hands. She was able to make a layup," Froud said.
Rutherford beat the defense for back-to-back layups triggering a 6-0 Prairie Grove run. Huber capped the spurt by hitting a pair of free throws, giving the Lady Tigers a 56-50 cushion at the 1:09 mark.
Star City rallied with Caryan Jones banking in a basket from close-range and Cassidy Nealy nailing the Lady Bulldogs' only 3-pointer of the contest, slicing Prairie Grove's lead to 58-55 with 43 seconds showing.
Star City had their chances, but Prairie Grove held on.
Juqencia Linsy was fouled but could only knock down 1-of-2 free throws. Prairie Grove threw the ball away and Star City in-bounded with 17 seconds to play, but couldn't score although they got two open looks.
Myer accounted for Prairie Grove's final point with a free throw with the clock down to one second. After she made the first, Froud instructed her to deliberately miss the second knowing Star City couldn't get off a decent shot.
"The clock was activated as soon as it touched her hands and all she could do was chunk it up," Froud said. "I was relieved when the horn went off. Star City beat us the year before in the quarterfinals. They were very athletic."
End Win Streak
Star City had three girls in double figures led by Scott with 17 points while Jones added 11 and Yasmine Pace 10. Star City coach Becky Brown played 11 different girls in the championship contest. Froud didn't go quite that deep, but got the most out of all eight Lady Tigers he sent into the game including junior Courtney Galloway and sophomore Michelle Lumsargis.
Prior to the championship loss, Star City's win-streak stretched back to Dec. 30, 2009, when Lonoke, whom the Lady Tigers got by 35-32 in the semifinals, edged Star City, 31-28.
Held In Check
The Lady Tigers held Scott in check. The 5-8 junior exploded for 36 points in Star City's 60-41 semifinal win over Stuttgart. She pounded the Lady Ricebirds underneath getting 9 rebounds and making 9-of-11 free throws to ring up 19 first half points as the Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 37-17 lead at intermission against Stuttgart.
Froud wanted none of that and although Star City finished with an 18-9 advantage in offensive rebounds the Lady Bulldogs were limited to 36.8 percent field goal shooting while Prairie Grove hit at a 47.5 percent clip. Despite a double digit rebounding effort, Scott only got to the foul line six times and made just three.
Prairie Grove performed better at the free-throw-line going 18-of-23 for 78.3 percent while Star City was 13-of-20 for 65 percent. Neither team was able to break the other down off the dribble and consistently get layups. Prairie Grove tallied 3 assists total and Star City had just 2. Huber played her part defensively pulling down 5 rebounds to go with 3 steals and a blocked-shot.
When the game was over Froud told his girls, "Nobody can ever take this away from you. You're going to remember this as long as you live."
He still sees occaisonal Facebook posts from players recalling the triumph.
"I was blessed to be a part of a good group. The parents were very supportive of us as coaches," Froud said. "What I remember most is that it was pretty much a team effort. I was very lucky to have that team. We had great senior leaders, who didn't care about notoriety. They didn't care who scored. They hated losing more than they loved winning."
CLASS 4A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
At Summit Arena, Hot Springs
March 11, 2010
Prairie Grove 59, Star City 56
Prairie Grove (32-1): Justyne Huber 2-6 11-12 15, Julie Rutherford 6-9 2-2 14, Kendra Coyle 5-9 2-2 12, Elysia Clement 3-5 0-0 6, Morgan Abernathy 2-4 1-3 6, Alex Myers 2-5 2-4 6, Michelle Lumsargis 0-2 0-0 0, Courtney Galloway 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 20-42 18-23 59.
Star City (28-5): Jerrica Scott 7-14 3-6 17, Caryan Jones 4-10 3-4 11, Yasmine Pace 4-9 2-3 10, Juqencia Linsy 2-7 3-5 7, Queona Walker 3-7 0-0 6, Cassidy Nealy 1-3 0-0 3, Jasmine Whitfield 0-2 2-2 2, Octavia Reedy 0-1 0-0 0, Kara House 0-3 0-0 0, Emily Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Olydia Thornton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-57 13-20 56.
3-Point Goals -- Star City 1-6 (Nealy 1-3, Q.Walker 0-1, Pace 0-1, Linsy 0-1). Prairie Grove 1-6 (Abernathy 1-2, Rutherford 0-1, Coyle 0-1, Lumsargis 0-1, Galloway 0-1).
Rebounds -- Prairie Grove 28 (Coyle 7), Star City 35. Assists -- Prairie Grove 3 (Abernathy, Coyle, Lumsargis), Star City 2 (Nealy, Whitfield). Steals -- Prairie Grove 8 (Huber 3), Star City 9 (Scott 4). Blocks -- Prairie Grove 1 (Huber), Star City 2 (Pace 2). Turnovers -- Star City 15, Prairie Grove 20.
Officials -- Tate, Smith, Allred
Attendance -- 5,350Sports on 06/03/2020
Print Headline: Prairie Grove Girls Reach Pinnacle