Sports Editor's Note: Johnny Taylor led Farmington into its first Class 4A State tournament berth in a decade during his first season as head coach of the Cardinal boys basketball team. This game story detailing a 4A North Regional semifinal victory illustrates a successful combination of coaching strategy and player execution from an exciting season that saw the varsity go 22-6 overall and 10-1 in league play to win a conference championship and District 4A-1 championship, while finishing as 4A North Regional Runner-up and advancing to the elite 8 during the Class 4A State tournament.
Johnny Taylor sent a shout-out to four seniors, Logan Burch, Roman Carlson, James Payne and Omar Qedan, who graduated in the spring for all of their hard work and dedication, while expressing appreciation for their help in laying the foundation for all future success.
FARMINGTON -- An endless record like a one-track CD repeating played over and over again with the rich baritone of Elvis Presley echoing in the minds of the Dardanelle Sand Lizards.
"We're caught in a trap and we can't walk out ..." -- the reason being as Elvis so eloquently stated in his vocal performance -- the Farmington boys love basketball, baby!
The Cardinals willingly implemented the strategy prepared by Farmington coach Johnny Taylor, who laid out the right formula to deal with Dardanelle, employing a suffocating zone defense and making the Sand Lizards feel caught in a sand trap.
"We did a great job in our zone defense of tilting it to their good players, some shading out of the zone and limiting [them]. One of their best players had two points, and I think their second-best player had six, so we did a great job there," Johnny Taylor said.
Dardanelle managed only one double digit quarter against Farmington and was severely limited with very few second-chance shots as the Cardinal boys basketball team secured a berth in the 4A North Regional championship at Ozark on March 6 with a solid 54-32 win in Friday's early semifinal on March 5.
Farmington led 10-6 after one quarter despite getting no points from leading scorer Layne Taylor dogged by the Sand Lizards.
That changed quickly in the second quarter. Farmington used a 9-2 run beginning with Carson Simmons' steal and lead pass to Roman Carlson to score a quick transition basket. Coming back down, Dardanelle missed and Farmington controlled the rebound in a pattern that would remain consistent throughout the contest. Layne Taylor drove deep into the paint and made a short-range jumper, the first of 10 points he would score in the period.
The Cardinal advantage stood at 19-8. Dardanelle at last got a shot to fall, but never looked comfortable with Farmington controlling the tempo. Another 12-3 Farmington spurt saw the Cardinals capture a 31-14 halftime lead.
The teams traded runs in the third quarter, which concluded with Farmington holding the ball for nearly a minute then springing Layne Taylor for a drive to the basket. He was fouled and sank 2-of-2 free throws establishing a 42-25 lead going into the fourth.
Dardanelle missed its first four shots of the fourth and had only one offensive rebound in the last eight minutes.
"That is a good quarter. We had a lot of kids play in that game, play extremely well and that gave us a chance to play Saturday," Johnny Taylor said.
The Sand Lizards didn't get to the free throw line often enough to make an impact. Dardanelle went 3-of-4 at the foul line in the fourth, and missed 5-of-7 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
Farmington played the percentages, getting to the foul line 14 times in the fourth and refusing to settle for threes. The Cardinals rebounded by committee on the defensive boards with Caleb Blakely, Carlson, Layne Taylor, Decory Thomas, and James Payne all active on the glass. Simmons scored the only Cardinal field goal of the fourth, finishing a drive down the lane with his left hand and drawing a foul.
No Sand Lizard scored in double digits. Marteez Jackson, Robert Millard and Sam Williams finished with seven points apiece. Dardanelle connected on just 12 of 38 field goal attempts, shooting a paltry 32 percent compared to an 18 of 31 showing by Farmington for 58 percent.
Layne Taylor (17), Carlson (11) and Blakley (8) combined for 36 Farmington points.
Farmington 54, Dardanelle 32
Farmington (21-4): Layne Taylor 4 7-9 17, Roman Carlson 5 0-0 11, Caleb Blakely 3 2-3 8, Carson Simmons 3 0-0 6, Mateo Carbonel 3 0-0 6, Nathan Monroe 0 3-4 3, Logan Burch 0 2-2 2, Decory Thomas 0 1-2 1. Totals 18-31 14-18 54.
Dardanelle (22-6): Marteez Jackson 2 3-4 7, Sam Williams 3 0-0 7, Robert Millard 3 0-0 7, Kendall Bishop 2 0-0 6, Jorge Alvarez 1 0-0 2, Braden Tanner 1 0-0 2, Chase Jordan 0 1-2 1. Totals 12-38 4-6 32.
3-Point Goals -- Farmington 4 (Layne Taylor 2, Carlson), Dardanelle 4 (Bishop 2, Williams, Millard).