Lady Pirates dominate Smackover, even 8-3A mark

Over the last six games, Drew Central head girls’ basketball coach Michael Goad has to be frustrated with his Lady Pirates’ off-again, on-again play.
DC was on again Tuesday night, though, in a 68-53 victory over Smackover at Drew Central Gymnasium that evened the Lady Pirates Class 3A, District 8 record at 2-2. That is what’s most important now, as DC’s mark against the 8-3A schools in the Arkansas Activities Association’s “blended” 12-3A4A mega-league will determine seeding for the upcoming 8-3A district tournament, to be played at Drew Central beginning Feb. 12.
Goad’s squad wants to do well in that gathering, as well as the 3A Region 4 Tournament the following week, because the early rounds of the 3A State Championships will also be hosted by Drew Central. At least one win in the 8-3A district tourney will send the Lady Pirates to Fordyce for the regional, and one win there assures DC of returning home to play in the state tournament.
Tuesday’s win followed a disappointing 52-48 loss Friday night at Lake Village Lakeside. Goad would undoubtedly like to see his club hop off the lose one, win one train it has been on for the last few weeks and finish the season strong.
A trip to arch-rival McGehee on Friday could signal the start of that strong finish. Back-to-back games against Junction City next Tuesday and at Fordyce next Wednesday (to make up a game that was snowed out last week) will follow.
Sophomore Darbee Forte was the Lady Pirates’ leading scorer in both recent games. Forte poured in a career-best 23 points in the win over Smackover and was the lone DC player to reach double figures with 14 points in the loss at Lakeside.
The Achilles’ heel for the Lady Pirates all season—making free throws—helped Drew Central Tuesday night. As a team, DC netted only 23 of its 41 free-throw attempts against the Lady Bucs but Goad had to be please with the performances of both Forte and junior Charlayah Ridgell.
Those two Lady Pirates were extremely hot at the charity stripe, each going 5-for-6 in a fourth quarter where the hosts scored 26 points to put Smackover away. Forte was 8-for-11 and Ridgell 7-for-8 in the game from the line.
Drew Central raced out to a 10-point lead after eight minutes and took 33-21 advantage into the halftime locker room. Despite Smackover trimming five points off that lead in the third period, the big fourth quarter salted the game away for DC.
Ridgell and senior Breannah Linely, who canned four three-point shots, followed Forte on DC scoring charts with 13 points each.
“It was a big home conference win,” Goad said after the Smackover contest. “We needed it bad. We need to use it as momentum moving forward. The girls played extremely hard on defense and took good shots on offense, something we have been focusing on.
“Darbee Forte had a breakout game and played her best high school game of her career. We need her to continue to play well. She and Charlayah both ran the floor well and Breannah Linely hit some big shots throughout.”    
“Against Lakeside, we missed too many free throws—again. That was the difference. We win if we make free throws.”
Indeed, Drew Central shot a paltry 1-for-13 at the line at Lake Village, missing enough shots to have won a close game a comfortable margin. The story of the game was the first half.
The Lady Pirates jumped out to a 15-6 lead after eight minutes but surrendered all of momentum and more by being outscored 18-6 in the second quarter. The teams traded point-for-point in the third period and Lakeside was one better in the fourth, but the damage had been done before halftime.

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