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PREP BASKETBALL | Smooth sailing: Salem runs away from Lamar in 2nd half

by Sam Lane | March 12, 2023 at 3:54 a.m.
Salem’s starters huddle together before the start of the Class 3A girls state championship game against Lamar on Saturday at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs..(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

HOT SPRINGS -- High school basketball quarters last eight minutes. But it can feel like an eternity when the ball doesn't go through the basket.

That's where the Lamar girls basketball team found itself four minutes into the third quarter of the Class 3A championship game against Salem and without a point to show for it.

Salem held Lamar to one field goal in the third quarter, that coming with 37 seconds left, and two in the fourth quarter as it ran away with a 56-36 victory to claim its first girls basketball state championship Saturday night at Bank OZK Arena.

Lamar's offensive struggles began in the second quarter, making 2-of-10 attempts to fall behind 30-23 at halftime. The Warriors made 3-of-18 in the second half and scored 13 points.

"I kept thinking, 'This one's gonna go in or we're gonna get one and get some rhythm and we're gonna get going,' but it just never really happened," Lamar senior Karley Williams said. "That sucks, and I guess that's just how basketball is, but I kept hoping one would fall and it just never did."

Williams led Lamar with 11 points, but those came on 3-of-10 field goal attempts and 4-of-6 free throws. No other Lamar player had more than seven points.

Despite Lamar hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers in the first quarter, Salem sagged off after that. The Warriors made 1-of-10 attempts after that, scoring 20 points in the final three quarters against the restructured defense.

"We're coming to guard you every night we show up," Salem Coach Josh Bateman said. "I felt like the first quarter was on me. ... The first quarter was trying to just feel out what they do. And from the second quarter on, we guarded really, really well, and that's what we hang our hat on."

Salem forced 15 Lamar turnovers, converting those into 23 points on the other end. Chelsea Hamilton had five steals; Marleigh Sellars had two as well.

Offensively, the Greyhounds had three players combine for 49 points. Hamilton led all scorers with 20 thanks on the strength of 12-of-13 free throws, Madeline Keen hit 4-of-6 three-point attempts to score 16 and Sellars was named game's Most Valuable Player thanks to her 13 points and seven rebounds.

"With the way we guard, if we can get three people to get double figures, that's gonna win a lot of games," Bateman said. "Chelsea and Marleigh have done a great job all year long of carrying us in scoring. ... If [Madeline] Keen scores in double figures along with Marleigh and Chelsea, there's not a lot of teams that are gonna beat us."

Saturday wasn't the first trip to a state final for Bateman, Sellars or Hamilton. They led Salem to the 2021 Class 2A title game against Melbourne but fell 55-34.

Bateman said he rewatched that game, as well as the 2017 boys title game he lost to Tuckerman, to see if there was anything he could improve on heading into Saturday's contest.

"Before you succeed, sometimes you got to fail," Bateman said "We failed, and it hurt, but you know, you could sit there and feel sorry for yourself or you can go back to work and figure out why you failed. ... You learn from failure. Everybody enjoys success, but sometimes you got to fail before you succeed."

 Gallery: Class 3A Girls State Basketball Championship

Print Headline: Smooth sailing


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