CARLISLE -- Melbourne advanced to the Class 2A girls state final with a 68-37 victory over conference rival Marmaduke on Saturday afternoon at Carlisle High School.
It marked the third time Melbourne (29-4) beat Marmaduke (26-14) by 20 or more points this season, and Marmaduke Coach Rick Smith said it's more of an indication of how good Melbourne is than anything negative about his Lady Greyhounds.
"They've been 20 points better than everybody all year long, and they're 20 better than everybody right now," he said.
Marmaduke beat Melbourne once -- 63-51 on Jan. 11 -- at Marmaduke.
"We just happened to play really, really well that night," Smith said. "We're the only team to beat them in 2A, and we're going to be the only team to beat them."
Melbourne advances to next week's state title game in Hot Springs.
Bearkatz Coach Eric Teague said Melbourne was able to do what it had to do to beat Marmaduke -- slow down the guard tandem of freshman Heidi Robinson and junior Reesa Hampton. Melbourne held Robinson and Hampton to on point each en route to building a 29-11 halftime lead.
Robinson got going in the second half, scoring 16 of her team-high 17 points, but the Lady Greyhounds could get no closer than 15 points at any juncture of the second half.
"Take their two guards away," Teague said. "That was our plan defensively. We've played them enough to know what their strengths were, and it worked tonight."
It was not nearly as easy for Marmaduke to defend a Melbourne team that has more scorers and more height across the floor.
"When we get down to our 6-7-8-9, we're a little stronger than theirs," Teague said.
Four Melbourne players scored nine or more points, led by guard Regan Rapert's 18 points. Josie Roark had 15, Kiley Webb 9 and Kenley McCarn, an acclaimed freshman, also scored 9.
"They've got a lot of pieces," Smith said.
So many, in fact, that he sees no way Melbourne won't acquire the championship trophy next week.
"Unless somebody gets hurt stepping on the bus," he said.
RIVERSIDE 49, EARLE 47
Lotti Hoffman, a 5-4 junior guard, scored the go-ahead basket on a driving layup with 7.8 seconds to play, and Riverside held on to beat Earle to advance to next week's Class 2A girls state final in Hot Springs against Melbourne.
Earle (25-5) had a chance to tie or possibly win when it gained possession after Hoffman's basket.
Senior RoShala Scott took the inbound pass and dribbled the length of the court to the Riverside baseline before attempting a 4-foot jumper that rimmed off as time expired.
Riverside Coach Spencer Hoffman said the design of the final play was simple.
"Just put the ball in your best player's hands and let her make a play," Hoffman said.
Lotti Hoffman, who led Riverside (35-7) with 17 points, including 12 of her team's fourth-quarter points, said her coach, who is also her father, gave her two options.
"He just told me to go 1-on-1 and either go to the basket or kick it out," she said. "I went to the bucket. It was just a reaction."
Hoffman thrust her fist while jumping in the air after the basket, but there was still plenty of time for Earle to make a game-tying or winning play.
Lotti Hoffman said the final 7.8 seconds seemed much longer as Scott, who led all scorers with 19 points, dribbled down the court.
"A year," she said. "About a year."
Lotti Hoffman was one of three Lady Rebels to score more than 10 points. Lotti's sister, freshman Carolina, had 15 and senior post Grace Puckett scored 13.
Sports on 03/03/2019
Print Headline: Opposing coach says Melbourne is best