By Nate Olson | Photos by Tommy Land
HOT SPRINGS — Entering the Class 4A state championship game Saturday morning, Harrison was riding a two-game losing streak to conference foe Farmington.
Aggressive from the onset, the Goblins never trailed in the final and ran away with a 68-54 win at Bank OZK Arena.
“Up until today, I didn’t think we had put together a full game,” said Harrison coach Kristian Williams, who finished her first season at the school. “We had played good on defense and struggled on offense or vice versa, but we finally put it together.
“This morning (we) were the most aggressive team and actually rebounded. They are probably glad they don’t have to hear me yelling that from the sidelines. We put a full game together, and I wasn’t surprised.”
Harrison thumped Farmington 56-42 on Jan. 8 but then fell to the Cardinals 76-64 and 63-61 in the postseason before exacting revenge Saturday.
Senior guard Alex Hill set the tone for the Goblins with seven points in the first quarter. She finished with a game-high 30 to go with 10 rebounds and four assists on her way to Most Valuable Player honors.
“As long as our lead was staying the same, I wasn’t thinking (about individual points),” said Hill, also a standout track athlete who will play basketball at Arkansas Tech University. “I just wanted to keep that lead, and we did.”
After three meetings, Farmington coach Brad Johnson said he wasn’t surprised Harrison came out as the aggressor.
“First of all, you have to congratulate Harrison,” Johnson said. “I thought they played really, really well. They hit some shots early and got us back on our heels. They made plays on the defensive end. That’s a credit to them. We battled them all year, and there were no secrets coming in. Hats off to them.”
Harrison led 20-15 after one quarter and had built the lead to 37-25 by halftime.
The Goblins began the second half much like the first and led by 15 points at the 1:46 mark of the third period when Claire Barger, who finished with12 points, hit a jumper with an assist from Hill.
Farmington standout senior Tori Kersey, who led the Cardinals with 27 points, finished the quarter with her own 5-0 mini run which included three free throws.
Farmington continued to ride Kersey’s hot hand into the final period as the lanky forward hit one of two free throws to cut the lead to 52-44 with 6:59 to play.
Kersey’s layup with 3:02 left cut the margin to five. That’s as close as Farmington would get.
Williams had to reassure her team that the Cardinals were not going to mount a comeback like they did when they pulled off a regional win this month.
“I called a timeout and told them to take a breath and that this was our game,” Williams said.
Hill went 7 of 8 from the line down the stretch and Kersey scored only two points in the final 2:32 to help the Goblins hold on and pad the lead.
“One game doesn’t define a season,” Johnson said. “For us, this thing started last year at this time not being able to take the floor (because COVID-19 canceled the Class 4A state final). We graduated quite a few seniors from that team. To have this group come back and battle the way they have and stay together and stay focused and put themselves in position to win a state championship is unbelievable.
“This is one of our finest hours of our program. I’m unbelievably proud of them.”
Farmington senior forward Trinity Johnson, the coach’s daughter, was the only Cardinal besides Kersey in double figures. She had 10 points.
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