Portageville will face No. 1 seed Campbell Lady Camels tonight at 7:30 p.m. Campbell needed overtime, but got past the pesky Kennett Lady Indians in the first semifinal of the night, 55-52.
Against the Lady Tigers, Portageville held dynamic guard Kyisha Ricks to only six points in the contest with solid man-to-man defense.
"Not to disrespect the other players on Caruthersville," said Portageville head coach Eric Ellerbrook, "but our focus coming into the game was Kyisha. We had to stop her drives to the basket and I think we did a good job of that. It wasn't just one girl, it was a team defensive effort. The girls came out focused and worked hard on the defensive end."
The Lady Bulldogs took control early in the first quarter behind the play of sophomore Brittney Walker. Portageville went on a 13-2 run to take a 17-6 lead with 2:40 to play in the quarter.
Walker had 10 points in the quarter to lead the Lady Bulldogs and junior forward Kellye Penn tossed in seven points. After one quarter of action, Portageville led 21-12.
Portageville ran into a little bit of foul trouble in the second quarter with Walker, Penn and senior Hannah Rone all on the bench with two fouls apiece in the quarter. Ellerbrook went to the bench and called upon 6-foot sophomore Jeleea Drake, who controlled the action in the paint with seven points in the quarter.
"We got into foul trouble because we were not playing smart on defense for a stretch," said Ellerbrook. "The girls were not moving their feet and reaching at the ball. Fortunately, our bench picked up the slack. This just shows that we have depth on our roster."
While Ricks was held to just two points in the first half, senior Leola Hubbard tried to keep the Lady Tigers within striking distance. In the second quarter, Hubbard scored nine points and finished the half with 13 points, as Caruthersville trailed Portageville 37-30 at halftime.
"The girls just couldn't get it going tonight," said Caruthersville assistant coach Lamont Bell. "We couldn't get our shots to fall. We did nothing on the offensive end. We are used to playing against zone defenses and this was a switch for us."
In the second half, Portageville outscored Caruthersville 35-24 with crisp passing and solid defense. The Lady Bulldogs recorded 17 assists as a team, while the Tigers could only manage two.
"Our passing was excellent tonight," said Ellerbrook. "Caruthersville is a very athletic team and they can take a team out of what they like to do on offense. The girls kept their heads up and were looking to make the extra pass."
Portageville locked up the game in the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run midway through the quarter. Penn led the charge in the fourth with eight points, while Rone and Walker chipped in five points apiece.
"I was disappointed with our play on defense," said Bell. "We lost focus on defense at times. They were working and we were just standing around. We are young and hopefully we can bounce back from this."
Hubbard led the Lady Tigers with 20 points. Freshman Katrina Taper scored 13 points and led Caruthersville with nine rebounds (five offensive) and six steals. As a team, Caruthersville (8-7) recorded 12 steals, forcing 20 Lady Bulldog turnovers.
Penn led Portageville (16-5) with 19 points and had five rebounds. Walker ended her night with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Rone had a stellar overall game with 14 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Drake led the Lady Bulldogs with 10 rebounds and finished with 13 points off the bench.
Campbell defeated the Lady Bulldogs earlier in the season, but has a couple players currently out due to injuries. Ellerbrook stated his team has been pointing to tonight all season.
"The girls want to be conference champs," said Ellerbrook. "Our goal at the start of the year was simple, win the conference tournament. Now that we have a chance, yeah, it will be a big deal tomorrow night."