By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor
Fulton County history was made Saturday night as the Lady Greyhounds sank the last basket to win the 3A State championship in Hot Springs. The 56 to 34 win over Lamar marked the second state champion-ship for two Fulton County teams competing in separate divisions within 24 hours. The Mammoth Spring Lady Bears sealed the deal on Friday night, bringing home the Bears 1A State Championship Title after defeating last year’s state champions, the Norfork Lady Panthers in a 45 to 36 nail biter. It was ultimately an intentional foul and a three pointer from the corner by Brynn Washam, that landed the trophy for Mammoth Spring. The amount of joy, tears and pride on the court during the two day spread was likely unmatched as these two teams wrote their page in sports history for the count. The Lady Bears started off leaving the massive sea of blue a little concerned as Norfork took off to a quick lead in the first quarter. The Bears had several missed threes and layups. Before the quarter ended, the Lady Bears began so show some grit with Adrianna Corbett scoring four and Sara Crowe sinking a layup. The inning ended with Laney Young sinking a three pointer with less than two minutes in the quarter with the Lady Bears down 13-9.As the second quarter approached the tension didn’t ease as the Lady Bears just didn’t seem to get in their groove, missing shots and layups within the first minute. Young was the first to drop a two in the second, bringing Mammoth Spring closer to the lead at 13-11. The audience went wild as the girls continued to seem to not be in sync, missing layups. The tide began to change in the second half as the girls suddenly found their groove with less than three minutes in the half. Taylyn Davis sank a jump shot, brining the score to 13-19. Crowe then hit a free throw, advancing the Lady Bears to 14-19 as they slowly closed in on the Lady Panthers. Young ended the half with a three pointer, closing out the quarter with a five point deficit 22-17. But after halftime, the ladies seemed to come more alive than ever, as did the large crowd supporting them. Within the first minute of third quarter play, the passion this team had displayed all year finally shined. With-in the first two minutes, the Lady Bears scored twice, with layups by Young and Crowe. A free-throw shot by Crowe edged Mammoth Spring closer to a tie game with a 24-22. It was a layup by Corbett and then Brynn Washam that finally tied the game at 26-26 with three minutes and five seconds left in the third. After the tie, the tension rose as the two teams were neck in neck matching one another with each shot until Washam hit a layup followed by a good free throw shot by Washam put the Lady Bears on top, ending the quarter with a edge of your seat one point lead at 31-30.The Lady Panthers jumped out ahead in the fourth, but only once, with a layup by Norfork’s Kiley Alman. After that Mammoth Spring was on fire. Mammoth jumped ahead early with two good free throws by Corbett. With less than two minutes to play, Washam sank a three-pointer and swung the pendulum toward Mammoth Spring very quickly. But, it may have been an intentional foul the closed the deal for Norfork earning aback to back title. With just under 23seconds left, Davis rebounded a missed shot from Norfork’s Kiley Alman and was grabbed from back by Lady Panther Keely Blanchard. The crossing of the officials arms indicated the intentional foul for which the penalty is two shots, plus possession of the ball. Davis made both free throws, bumping the score to a 43-36Lady Bear lead. Nor-fork’s Rasmussen fouled Corbett with less than 20 seconds in the gams and Corbett made both free throws to make it 45-36 victory. The tears flowed freely as the crowd was on their feet screaming with joy for the little hometown team that had come so close last year, to the same team, having defeated them in Region-al Play. The taste of success was some-thing the girls had longed for and finally reached. Washam was named Most Valuable Player of the State Finals .“They did a great job on me all night and at halftime, I knew I had to take my shots,” said Washam, who did not score during the first half. “I had to get rebounds and when I made the three, I knew that was my shot because I’ve made that over and over again and knew I could make it.” Washam scored eight points on3-of-5 shooting and had seven rebounds during the championship game. The Lady Bears lost 48-43 to Nor-fork in the 2022state championship game, something Coach Scott Small reminded the girls of often throughout the year. He said he was so glad his team could bring home the championship trophy this year.
“I’m proud of our kids for their effort every day,” said Small. “I tell them that I am just their Uber driver. I felt like last year, we showed a lot of desperation and reacted too much.”
“I made them watch the fourth quarter of last year’s game over and over again and I put the runner-up trophy on the scorer’s table at practice this week to make sure we knew how bad that felt.” Small said a 44-40victory over Nor-fork in the region-al final on Feb. 25helped give his team the confidence they needed. The Lady Bears finished the 2023 season with an overall38-4 record and an8-0 Conference record. They are not only the 1A State Champions, but also brought home lots of bling as the three time Battle of the Border Champions from 2019, 2021 and2022; Thayer Winter Classic Champions; Pea Ridge Lady Blackhawk Tournment Champions; Kell Classic Tournament Champions; have won the 1A-3Conference Championship in 2020, 2021,2022, and 2023; 1A-3District Champions in 2019, 2020, 2021,2022 and 2023; Region 2 Champions in2022 and 2023 and State 1A Runners up in 2022.Saturday night was the second night of Fulton County action as Greyhound fans showed up to join a total crowd of nearly 3500 to cheer on their girls. Several of the Mammoth Spring Lady Bears remained in Hot Springs to support their fellow Fulton County team. Salem took a quick lead in the first seconds with a layup by Chelsea Hamilton. The back and forth action between Salem and the Lamar Lady Warriors continued through the first quarter ending with a 18-14 lead. Marleigh Sellars led the points for the quarter with five followed by Keens five. Salem was on fire from the beginning, and the passion and skill exhibited by this team was something the audience was on their feet about all night, starting in the second quarter. The Greyhounds maintained their lead scoring 12 more points. Keen dominated the quarter, bringing in6 more points with two threes, ending the half with a seven point lead, 30-23.
Salem came into the second half strong with Keen hitting a three to make it 33-23. Chelsea Hamilton, led the Greyhounds in scoring with 20 points with five rebounds and four assists. Hamilton sunk her two free throws with just over five minutes to play, making the score 35-23. Olivia Dockins then scored, followed by Hamilton shooting one off the glass to make it39-23. Marleigh Sellars added two free throws after a timeout, putting the Lady Greyhounds at 41-24. Hamilton and Sellars then both made three-point plays. With just over two minutes of playin the quarter Salem was up 47-25. Hamilton closed out the third making two free throws… further elevating the Lady Greyhound’s to a 49-31 lead. As the state title was well within sight, the ladies entered the final quarter of play with a free throw shot by Kelsey Humphries, followed by a layup by Keen and two more free throws with just over two minutes to play by Hamilton. In the final seconds, Hamilton shot two more free throws, ending the season with a Lady Greyhound Championship .Hamilton scored 20total points 12 out of 13 free through attempts and five re-bounds. For the game, Salem held Lamar to16-of-44 shooting, including 5-of-18 on three-pointers. Salem out rebounded Lamar 33-31, out-scored Lamar 20-12in the lane, had 23points off 15 turn-overs and 12 second-chance points. The gold and black dominated, including an exceptional cheer team who led the charge with a powerful student section to encourage the ladies to take the victory. Sellars was named MVP with 13 points and seven rebounds and accounted for 8points in the opening quarter.
“From the second quarter on, we played great defense,” Salem Head Coach Josh Bateman said. “The first quarter, we had a feeling out process and after that we played great. ”Keen scored 16with 4-of-6 coming on three-pointers, Bateman said with the way Salem was playing defense, the offense was a lot easier tonight with those two and Sellars finishing in double figures. With Hamilton leading the way with 20 points with 12-of-13 coming at the foul line and Keen scoring16 with 4-of-6 coming on three-pointers, Bateman said, “It’s a huge night when you can get three players with double figures. That helps us a lot and all three are a big part of what we do. ”Keen said, “It felt great tonight. It seemed like every-thing was falling into place for us.” After losing in the finals two years ago to Melbourne and in the semifinals last year to Bigelow, Bateman was proud to see his team get through the valley and emerge on top.
“I was looking back on it, and we’ve been to the Final Four three times, the Finals once and now, we have a championship,” said Bateman. “Good coaches have great players, and they make me feel like I know what I’m doing. “We had a sense of calm and the experience of being here before helps. I told them that we’re playing in a basketball game, but in a bigger arena and it’s still only 32 minutes. Sometimes, you fail before you can succeed. We all like to win, but sometimes we fail and you have to figure out why you fail,” Bateman explained. Sellars spoke about how much time she and her team mates put in at the gym. “We are around our coaches more than we are our own parents, especially this week. I have been around my coach more. The life lessons they teach you and the way Coach Bateman treats his wife it has more impact than just basketball but about life in general. We have very, very good coaches.”