HOT SPRINGS -- There was nothing fancy about Wonderview's approach to Saturday's clash with 1A-5 Conference rival Rural Special. A heavy dose of senior leadership was all that it needed.
Wonderview's four upperclassmen -- led by guard Faith Byers -- teamed for 58 points and 19 rebounds as the Lady Daredevils sprinted past the Lady Rebels 68-46 to win their second consecutive Class 1A girls state title in front of 4,590 at Bank OZK Arena.
"I'm just proud of these four seniors," Wonderview Coach Jerod Squires said referencing Byers, Hadley Jones, Kailey Gullett and Bailey Wright. "I think that was their 112th win out of the last three years against 11 losses, and that's not counting after their junior high season when they moved up. To be the first group to ever win back-to-back state championships is truly special.
"They had to deal with a lot of distractions this year, injuries and a lot of things that could've thrown teams off. But they never flinched, they never blinked, and I couldn't be more proud of them."Gallery: 1A Girls Basketball State Championship
It was a collective effort for Wonderview (34-6), which beat Mount Vernon-Enola in last year's final, but the Lady Daredevils followed the leads of their senior quartet to dispatch Rural Special for the fourth time this season.
Byers was named the most valuable player after finishing with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists. Gullett had 16 points, while Jones had 12 and Wright 8. The four also accounted for 16 of the team's 19 steals -- an aspect that would plague the Lady Rebels all game.
Rural Special (30-12), which had won its previous three state tournament games by an average of 29 points, turned the ball over 20 times, resulting in 21 Wonderview points. The Lady Rebels were making their first appearance in the title game since 2005 and have just two seniors on their roster. Coach Trey Berry attributed his team's inexperience and youth as the deciding components in the final outcome.
"You could tell that [Wonderview] had been here before," he said. "They've been here three years in a row, with the fans, the open gym, the lights. ... they were ready for it. We're young, and I was hoping that wouldn't play a factor in it.
"But it did. I had a feeling it was gonna happen. I was just hoping it wouldn't."
Sophomore forward Kamryn Sutterfield had 16 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Lady Rebels, who shot 18 of 42 (42.9 percent). Sophomore guard Abbey Linville added 11 points.
The Lady Daredevils were 27 of 57 (47.4 percent) and held a 35-26 rebounding cushion, but they didn't completely run away from the Lady Rebels until late in the first half. Rural Special led 17-16 toward the end of the first quarter before Byers hit the first of two buzzer-beating shots to put Wonderview back in front. A short basket from junior forward Mallory Jones at the start of the second quarter launched a 13-4 burst that sparked the Lady Daredevils to a 31-21 lead.
The Lady Rebels responded with consecutive buckets from Sutterfield and Linville to cut into their deficit, but Wonderview ended the quarter on a 10-2 run, capped by Byers' lay-up at the horn, to take a 41-27 lead.
"We added a few little wrinkles, knowing that they've got three games on film for us," Squires said. "We hadn't pressed them much at all in the first three games, and we wanted to come out and start the game like that. That helped get some nervous energy out."
Rural Special remained at a respectable distance by riding the coattails of Linville and Sutterfield. The duo combined for 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting over the first two quarters. The Lady Rebels shot the ball effectively in the first half (11 of 18) and had just as many rebounds (12) as the Lady Daredevils did by halftime. The issue for Rural Special was that it couldn't hang on to the ball, and those turnovers seemingly came at the most inopportune moments.
"We weren't very disciplined on offense," said Berry, whose team turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. "The momentum was in their favor for most of the game, and that goes back to experience. Even if we did manage get a turnover from them, they didn't get flustered.
"It was like it never happened. They just came back and stayed composed."
The senior guard finished with 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting to lead the Lady Daredevils to their second consecutive Class 1A state championship and third overall. She also had 11 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists. Byers scored 10 of her 17 points in the first half as Wonderview led 41-27 at halftime. She made two buzzer-beating layups at the end of the first and second quarters.
Wonderview won its third state title. The Lady Daredevils also won in 2012 and 2018. ... Rural Special was making its fourth state finals appearance, with its last final coming in 2005 before Saturday. ... Wonderview won all four meetings against Rural Special. ... The Lady Rebels committed 20 turnovers, which led to 28 points for the Lady Daredevils. ... In Saturday's victory, Wonderview had 19 steals, including five apiece from Faith Byers and Kalley Gullett.
-- Jeremy Muck
At a glance
CLASS 1A GIRLS
STATE TOURNAMENT SCORES
Wonderview 68, Rural Special 46
Rural Special 69, Alpena 40
Wonderview 48, Concord 37
Rural Special 87, Norfork 58
Alpena 62, Emerson 49
Concord 54, Jasper 50
Wonderview 59, Viola 35
Norfork 62, St. Paul 30
Rural Special 77, Blevins 56
Alpena 65, Maynard 33
Emerson 62, Mount Vernon-Enola 54
Concord 64, Kirby 52
Jasper 52, Mammoth Spring 30
Wonderview 62, Caddo Hills 45
Viola 69, Kingston 34
Guard Faith Byers had 17 points and 11 rebounds to lead Wonderview to its second consecutive state championship.
Sports on 03/10/2019
Print Headline: Seniors carry Wonderview to repeat