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story.lead_photo.caption Melbourne players celebrate after the Lady Bearkatz defeated Riverside 48-23 in the Class 2A girls state basketball championship Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs. More photos from this game are available at - Photo by Thomas Metthe

HOT SPRINGS -- Sophomore Reagan Rapert led Melbourne in every offensive category as the Lady Bearkatz easily dispatched the Riverside Lady Rebels 48-23 on Saturday in the girls Class 2A state championship game in front of 2,112 fans at Bank OZK Arena.

Rapert, a 5-4 guard, scored 12 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, handed out 5 assists and made 4 steals as Melbourne earned its first five-on-five state championship. Melbourne's previous state title came in 1973 when the girls were playing six-on-six.

"They had somebody on [Rapert] all night long," Melbourne Coach Eric Teague said. "And she was so patient. That's why I'm so proud of her. She didn't try to force the situation. She really led our team tonight."

It was the fourth meeting between the two 2A-3 Conference rivals. Melbourne (30-4) won all four and Saturday's 25-point margin was the largest.

Gallery: 2A Girls Basketball State Championship

"We knew we couldn't run up and down with them," Riverside Coach Spencer Hoffman said. "We knew we had to keep it in the 40s and we were able to do that, but we shot 1 of 10 from the three-point line. We didn't shoot the ball well enough. We weren't going to get a volume of shots, so we were going to have to shoot a high percentage. We didn't do that."

Melbourne finished the season on a 10-game winning streak. The Lady Bearkatz hit 17 of 48 shots from the floor and were 5 of 18 on three-pointers. They turned the ball over only six times and made eight steals.

The Lady Bearkatz also held a 30-29 advantage on the boards, including a 12-8 advantage on the offensive end.

"They were a little bigger than us so we really had to block out and crash the boards," Rapert said.

"We have some athletic kids and can really jump even though they're smaller," Teague said. "We got in there and rebounded big time."

Riverside (35-8) scored first when junior Lotti Hoffman knocked down a 21-footer at the 6:16 mark of the opening quarter. The Lady Rebels, however, did not score again until the 7:06 mark of the second quarter. Melbourne scored the final 12 points of the first.

Riverside junior Grace Puckett scored 9 of her team-high 12 points in the second quarter and her 2 free throws with 1:54 remaining in the half pulled the Lady Rebels back to within 17-12.

Melboune led 21-12 at the half and outscored Riverside 9-4 in the third quarter, getting two three-pointers from senior reserve guard Halle Cooper.

"In the middle of the third quarter we were still OK," Coach Hoffman said. "But we needed to stay close to make a run. When they got the lead up to 14 or 15 points, we had to start extending our defense. But Rapert is a tremendous guard and it's hard to keep things in front of her when you have to extend the defense like that."

Freshman forward Kenley McCann and junior forward Riley Provence each added eight points for Melbourne, which hit 9 of 10 free-throw attempts.

Lotti Hoffman was Riverside's second leading scorer with five points.

Riverside, which was held to its lowest point total of the season, was only 8 of 32 overall shooting.

"We practice on close-outs and locating shooters," Teague said. "Communication is so important for us. It's surprising somewhat because Riverside has such good shooters, but not so surprising for these kids."




The sophomore steadied Melbourne throughout to lead the Lady Bearkats to their first championship since 1973. She finished with 12 points (5-of-13 shooting), 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 28 minutes.


Riverside doesn’t have a senior on its roster. … The Lady Bearkats (30-4) lost to Class 3A champion Mountain View, Norfork and Marmaduke but defeated all three in rematches. The only loss that Melbourne didn’t get a rematch against was Thayer (Mo). … Riverside was beaten four times by Melbourne. … The Lady Rebels dropped a 55-53 decision to Earle in a regional tournament but turned the tables on the Lady Bulldogs 49-47 in the state semifinals. … Riverside lost in its previous title game appearance (2001). … The 23 points was a season-low for Riverside.

— Erick Taylor

At a glance




Melbourne 48, Riverside 23


Melbourne 68, Marmaduke 37

Riverside 49, Earle 47


Marmaduke 66, Murfreesboro 40

Melbourne 70, Spring Hill 44

Riverside 50, Junction City 39

Earle 70, Quitman 58


Marmaduke 72, Danville 66

Murfreesboro 51, Bigelow 47

Melbourne 75, Hector 24

Spring Hill 44, Poyen 40

Junction City 64, England 22

Riverside 37, Lavaca 20

Quitman 39, Cossatot River 34

Earle 58, Cotter 24

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Sophomore guard Reagan Rapert scored 12 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, handed out 5 assists and made 4 steals to earn MVP honors.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Melbourne’s Danni Hardaway had eight points and five rebounds Saturday.

Sports on 03/10/2019

Print Headline: Melbourne cuts down Riverside

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