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Bobcat girls make return to regional finals

The Phil Campbell Bobcats used their size and quickness to defeat the New Hope Indians 44-26 and advance to the finals of the Northwest Regional tournament.

The Bobcats will face Lauderdale County in the regional final Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.

It was the third quarter that got everyone’s attention. Trailing 29-21, New Hope backed up into a 2-3 zone. Phil Campbell Coach Craig Thomas countered the move with a decision to go to a stall, with his point guard Kallie Allen holding the ball at mid-court unguarded for almost four minutes.

Fresh on Thomas’ mind was his team’s late collapse last year in the regionals against Winfield.

“I wasn’t going to let that happen again. We would have held the ball all night if it meant winning the game,” said Thomas. “We wanted to get them out of that zone and force them to guard us one-on-one. We felt like they would be outmatched if we could get the ball to the goal.”

And the Indians were indeed outmatched.

Phil Campbell outscored New Hope 26-2 inside the lane. The Bobcat girls also scored 12 points off turnovers.

Not everyone was a fan of the strategy. Fans from New Hope booed while Phil Campbell cheered. New Hope’s coach was visibly upset and admitted it after the game.

“I can’t tell you everything going through my mind,” he said, but he later pointed out his respect for Phil Campbell’s program. “That’s where we want to be in a few years. Physical and quick. I have great respect for the program they have built.”

With the game tied 8-8 late in the first quarter, senior point guard Allen crossed over a New Hope defender for a layup, sparking a 9-0 run the rest of the quarter. The Bobcats led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter.

Junior guard Caitlyn Mills hit a three at the end of the first quarter, starting a run of her own that would last much of the second quarter. Mills scored 10 points for the Bobcats from the waning seconds of the first quarter and throughout the second quarter.

The Bobcats kept the pressure on, continuing the run to 17-2 and extending their lead to 24-10.

New Hope, however, found hope in 12-year-old seventh-grader Kaylee Yarbrough, who knocked down two three-pointers and scored the last eight points of the first half for the Indians.

New Hope cut Phil Campbell’s lead to eight, 26-18, by halftime.

After the third-quarter stall, Phil Campbell dominated the game, primarily inside the lane.  The Bobcats shot 59 percent from the field in the game and 80 percent in the second half.

“We got some really good looks in the second half,” said Thomas. “That allowed us to pull away from them late in the third quarter and the fourth quarter.”

Mills led Phil Campbell with 14 points. Olivia Taylor followed with 12 points and four blocked shots. Faith Cook had seven points. Allen added five points and four blocks.  Katie Thomas pitched in four points and pulled down seven rebounds. Kenner Scott had two points.