Paragould girls basketball coach Jay Cook saw enough of Alma at Greenbrier last week to know one thing: he couldn’t let the Airedalettes shoot 3-pointers.
Paragould took away Alma’s outside game, holding the Airedalettes to just four 3-pointers, and sophomore Sydney Layrock scored 17 points to power the Lady Rams to a 70-38 victory in the first round of the 5A state tournament Thursday afternoon.
Alma’s best 3-point shooter, Robin Stewart, was just 1-of-11 from the field with 11 points. Alma was just 9-of-41 overall.
"We saw them play Greenbrier and they had six different kids hit 3-pointers in the first quarter," Cook said. "That put the red flags up, so we went into the game knowing we couldn’t them shoot the three. That’s one of the hard things about our matchup, because I basically have five guards on the floor. I thought our kids did a good job of being discipline and not fouling."
Paragould (20-5) trailed only briefly before ending the first quarter with a 10-0 scoring run. When the Lady Rams weren’t shooting layups, they were shooting free throws.
Paragould was 18-of-21 from the line in the first half and 28-of-35 overall. Layrock, who has led Paragould to back-to-back state runnerup finishes, had plenty of help. Three other Lady Rams — Korie Bryant, Alexis Benson and Abby Gibson — scored 10 or more points as well.
"The kids hadn’t seen them with their own eyes," Cook said. "We had seen them on film, but until you see them in person you just don’t get the same feel. We prepped for no wide open looks."
"We didn’t shoot very well," Alma coach Madelyn Flenor said. "We got some really good looks and missed nine layups. We didn’t shoot free throws well, either, and those things we do well. You can’t play a team that’s that good and not shoot better than that. That was probably the biggest difference."
Paragould also had its way on the boards, outrebounding the smaller Airedalettes 47-22.
"They killed us on the boards," Flenor said. "We knew they were big. We felt like, in the press, they would take some shots and we would have to rebound. Our kids played really hard — but we needed to shoot better and rebound better."
Hot Springs led 11-6 midway through the first quarter when Hailey Ostrander hit a 3-pointer and Alexys Criswell got a layup to drop and the game was tied.
But the Lady Rams, who were 11-of-14 from the line in the first quarter, led 21-11 after one, then extended the lead to 28-15 with 4:46 left in the half on Gibson’s three-point effort.
Alma trailed 40-20 at halftime, and closed to within 49-33 on Ostrander’s driving layup with 1:30 to play in the third.
But Paragould outscored Alma, 31-5 the rest of the way.