PEA RIDGE -- Arkadelphia appeared to be headed for its first loss of the season when a pair of offensive rebounds gave the Badgers new life with under five seconds left Friday night.
Trailing 49-47, Antoine Palmer somehow pulled down an offensive rebound in a crowd of Pea Ridge players and drew a shooting foul when he tried to go back up with a shot. Palmer hit the first free throw to cut the margin to 49-48 but missed the second.
Arkadelphia (8-0): Smith 25, Hughes 10, Palmer 8, Harris 5, Phifer 2.
Pea Ridge (5-2): Peterson 18, Wales 13, Whatley 5, Brewer 5, Harris 4, Rains 2, Edwards 2.
Arkadelphia's 6-foot-6 senior Sam Smith gathered in the long rebound off Palmer's miss and also drew a shooting foul with 1.2 seconds left. Smith sank both free throws, and the Badgers claimed a 50-49 win in the semifinals of the Battle at the Ridge Tournament to advance to today's 3:30 p.m. championship game against Estem, a 64-51 winner against Joe T. Robinson in the other semifinal.
"This is a big win for our team," said Badgers coach Donald Williams. "To go on the road and get a win like this against a well-coached team, disciplined. To come up here and play a team like this and get a win, I'm just pleased with the kids and the effort. That's all we can do this time of year. I really don't know what else to say. I'm just ecstatic. I didn't think we had a chance."
Smith, a move-in from Gurdon, was huge early for Arkadelphia (8-0), scoring 16 of his game-high 25 points in the first half to help the Badgers to a 31-29 lead at halftime. Smith was a force inside, but he also knocked down three 3-pointers in a well-rounded game.
"Sam has been a pleasant surprise for us this year," Williams said. "We are expecting big things out of him. He's a great kid, coachable. Just a good kid and a great player. We're really pleased to have him this year."
Smith helped the Badgers grab the early lead, scoring 10 of his team's first 12 points for a 12-5 lead. But Pea Ridge (5-2) was able to recover and closed within 17-14 by the end of the first quarter when sophomore Jared Brewer rolled off a high screen and drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Brewer's buzzer-beater sparked the Blackhawks, who later tied the game at 26-26 on Brewer's breakaway layup, then Pea Ridge took the lead at 29-26 when Noah Peterson knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:16 left before half.
The hot streak Pea Ridge rode in the second quarter turned cold in the third as the Blackhawks scored just four points and fell behind 41-33 going into the fourth quarter.
But the switch flipped back again in the final eight minutes as the Blackhawks went on a 12-4 surge that tied the score at 45-45 when Wes Wales completed a 2-on-1 fastbreak with a layup with 2:30 left in the game. After Arkadelphia missed a shot, the Blackhawks called a time out and set up a successful lob from Hunter Rains to Wales and a two-handed dunk for a 47-45 lead with 1:45 left.
The Badgers turned it over and Pea Ridge worked the clock to 55 seconds when Wales was fouled. Wales hit one free throw for a 48-45 lead. Lavararrious Hughes pulled the Badgers within 48-47 with 18 seconds left on a drive in the lane. Arkadelphia quickly fouled Blackhawk Brandon Whatley with 15 seconds left, but Whatley made just one of two free throws and a 49-47 lead, setting the stage for the dramatic ending.
Preps Sports on 12/14/2019