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Bergman holds off Northside for third place in Taco Bell tournament of champions

It was the Lady Bears' second one-point loss in as many days

By George Mitchell  

FORT SMITH — Bergman sophomore Kiersten Lowry’s conventional three-point play late in Saturday’s game gave her team the lead, and the Panthers held on to defeat host Northside, 46-45, in the third-place game of the Taco Bell Tournament of Champions held at the high school.

Lowry was fouled after making a shot with 51.9 seconds left. She completed the three-point play to put Bergman up 46-44. Northside hurried the ball down the court, and senior Karys Washington was fouled and went to the line for two shots at the 31.3 mark.

Bergman's Kiersten Lowry hit a conventional three-point play down the stretch to seal the win.

Bergman's Kiersten Lowry hit a conventional three-point play down the stretch to seal the win.

She made the first free throw, but Bergman turned the ball over after two players went up to rebound the second one. A jump ball was called, and the possession returned to Northside with 18.5 seconds remaining. Two timeouts later, Northside turned the ball over, and the game was over.

“You have to give Bergman tons of credit, [the Panthers] shot the ball extremely well,” said Northside coach Ricky Smith. “They made big shot after big shot, and we missed 13 free throws. It was ugly to watch and even harder to coach.”

Northside finished the game with four turnovers and shot 11-of-24 from the free-throw line.

It was the second straight one-point loss for Northside, who battled Sapulpa in the 50-49 loss on Friday in the semifinals.

“I’ve coached in this tournament a lot of years, and it’s hard to come back from a really big game as we did on Friday when you lose at the buzzer,” Smith said. “We were physically tired and emotionally drained.

“It was a good learning experience for the team, and we will continue to improve.”

Bergman trailed by two after the first quarter, 11-9, but was limited to one point in the second quarter as the Lady Bears led 25-10 at the break.

“We got scared to death, to be honest,” said Bergman coach James Halitzka. “In the first half, we got away with what we do best on offense. We weren’t executing our screens as we should, and some players were scared to get the ball in their hands going up against a team like Northside.”

“The second quarter was rough,” said Bergman’s only returning player from last year’s state championship team, Maddi Holt. “We wanted to have our heads down. I knew we could beat them and have a chance if we came to play in the second half. We have players that can step up, but I had to be the leader.

“I knew they would step up once they saw me keep going. I would have to make the right passes, which helped us.”

Northside began the second half with a couple of free throws from Washington for its largest margin of the night, 27-10. Bergman answered with three consecutive three-pointers to cut the lead by eight, 27-19. Northside would maintain that lead, but Lowry capped an 8-1 run late in the third quarter, and the Panthers were within two, 32-30, to start the fourth quarter.

Bergman wasn’t finished and took the lead for the first time since the first quarter after a couple of Rudy Trammell free throws. The Panthers maintained its lead until Erianna Gooden hit a three to tie the game with 1:33 remaining to tie the game, 42-42. Senior Maddi Holt had one free throw, but another Gooden basket had the Lady Bears in the lead, 44-43, at the 1:07 mark.

“When we came out in the second half, we did the same thing we were doing before, but we were doing it to our full potential,” Halitzka said. “We were able to get open and committed ourselves to create scoring opportunities.”

Bergman returns just one player (Holt) from its Class 3A state championship team that finished 43-0 last season.

“This was a huge tournament for our players, to be in a spot where if you don’t do your job correctly, it can be rough,” said Halitzka. “And they showed little inexperience during the week, but overall they did well."

Holt hit five of Bergman’s three-pointers, with a team-high 21 points. Freshman Taryn Holt had nine points. The team shot 22% from the floor in the first half but hit 55% of its shots in the second half

“We weren’t moving the ball very well in the first half,” Maddi Holt said. “The coach said if we came out and moved the ball a bit more, we would get our shots, and that’s what we did. We started knocking them down, and everyone’s confidence grew. That’s where it starts.”

Northside sophomore Erianna Gooden had 17 points, and Washington added 13.

Sapulpa (Okla.) 82, Carl Junction (Mo.) 59

Sapulpa won the 25th edition of the Taco Bell Tournament of Champions by defeating Carl Junction.

The Chieftains established their up-tempo playing style in the first half, and Carl Junction could not catch up.

Carl Junction’s three-year starter Destiny Buerge led with 39 points, and Dezi Williams added 12. Sapulpa junior Tyla Heard had 23 points, and senior and OSU signee Stailee Heard had 22 points.

Jones (Okla.) 57, Lamar 41

Senior Zoe Tucker scored 16 points as the Longhorns placed fifth in the Taco Bell Tournament of Champions.

Senior Boston Berry added 12, and junior Kasia Hansen tossed in 11 for Jones.

Back-to-back baskets by senior Morgan Cochran and sophomore Kori Sanders early in the game put Lamar up 8-6 at the 2:01 mark. Jones would outscore the Warriors 9-2 the rest of the quarter to take the lead for good.

Lamar’s Cochran and Shae Taylor had 11 points each.

Stilwell (Okla.) 54, Southside 42

The Mavericks hung close for the first half, but Stilwell pulled ahead in the third to win the seventh-place game of the Taco Bell Tournament of Champions.

Southside junior Sophia Neihouse hit a late basket to cut Stilwell’s lead to two, 29-27, before

halftime, but Stilwell launched into a 9-2 run to start the third quarter and didn’t look back.

Junior Snowda Waite led the game with 17 points for Stilwell, and Kinley Johnson added 14.

Neihouse finished with a team-high 14 points and nine rebounds.