FARMINGTON -- Losing can linger, especially when a team makes it all the way to the state finals only to lose on a last-second shot.
That's what happened to Farmington last year when Sidney Townsend made a three-point basket with 3.3 seconds left to give Nashville a 42-41 victory and the Class 4A state championship over the Cardinals.
"I still think about it," said Reese Shirey, Farmington's junior point guard. "It was heartbreaking. I remember putting my hands over my head and thinking, 'no way that just happened.' "
Shirey and her Farmington teammates can flip the script today when the Cardinals and Scrapperettes face off in the Class 4A state championship game at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. Farmington (34-1) beat Morrilton 55-47 in a semifinal game at Blytheville, while Nashville (39-3) advanced with a 57-39 win over Gentry.
"I've been telling myself, 'it's not revenge, it's redemption,' " Shirey said of the prospect of winning a state championship against the team it lost to in last year's state finals. "That's how I think of it."
Farmington is led by Jenna Lawrence, a 6-3 forward who has signed with the University of Arkansas. But few teams can advance to Hot Springs without a strong supporting cast and Farmington has one with players like Shirey and Zoey Bershers, a 6-3 sophomore who averages 6 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Shirey averages 9 points, 3 assists, and 2 steals per game and directs the Farmington offense with a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. She's also made 58% of her three-point attempts on the season.
"Reese handles the basketball, directs traffic, and she's a kid who can hit shots," Farmington Coach Brad Johnson saidd. "Zoey is a kid who's going to rebound the basketball at a high rate, rim protect, and get baskets underneath. We play the game inside-out and that's no real secret. So, that's going to be a big part of what we have to do [today]."
Farmington has other quality players like Hannah Moss and J'Myra London, who scored 10 points when the Cardinals beat Morrilton to stretch its winning streak to 25 consecutive heading into today's championship game at Bank OZK Arena.
Nashville no longer has Townsend, who just finished her freshman season at National Park College in Hot Springs. But the Scrapperettes still have plenty of talent with players like Lauren Carver, who piled up 19 points and 12 rebounds in the semifinal win over Gentry. Rebounding with a big factor in the game with Nashville outrebounding the Pioneers 42-25.
"That tells me we have to rebound and block some shots," Bershers said. "At the end of the day, you have to go out there and do what you do best to help your team win. That's what I hope to do, to the best of my ability."
Farmington is appearing in the state final for the fourth consecutive season. Concerns with the covid-19 outbreak wiped out the 2020 championship game, which left Farmington and Star City sharing the title. Farmington finished as state runner-up to Harrison in 2021, then lost to Nashville on Townsend's last-second shot last season.
FARMINGTON VS. NASHVILLE
COACH Brad Johnson
POSTSEASON RESULTS def. Mena 59-15 (regional first round), def. Gravette 69-28 (regional semifinal), def. Gentry 66-43 (regional final), def. Arkadelphia 74-41 (state second round), def. Morrilton 55-47 (regional semifinal)
X-FACTOR Reese Shirey
COACH Paul Dean
POSTSEASON RESULTS def. Stuttgart 81-23 (regional first round), def. Arkadelphia 65-28 (regional semifinal), def. Star City 81-49 (regional final), def. Gravette 85-62 (state second round), def. Gentry 57-39 (state semifinal)
X-FACTOR Aaliyah Hollins
NOTEWORTHY Nashville was No. 1 and Farmington was No. 2 in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Class 4A Girls Preseason Super Six poll. They have remained 1-2 all season. ... All three Nashville losses came to Conway, North Little Rock and Greenwood -- teams that are playing in state championship games this weekend. ... Both the Lady Cardinals and Scrapperettes are on long winning streaks. Farmington has won 25 consecutive games, while Nashville has reeled off 24 straight victories. ... Nashville has three players in Kyleigh Scoggins, Olivia Dean and Lauren Carver who started in last season's final against Farmington. Scoggins was named the tournament's most valuable player afterwards. ... Coach Brad Johnson has Farmington playing in its fourth straight Class 4A state final. The Lady Cardinals shared the championship with Star City in 2020, were beaten by then-conference foe Harrison in 2021 and lost to Nashville a year ago.