Eaglettes Win First State Tournament Game, Advance To Final Four

by Rusty Ellis

The Van Buren Eaglettes overcame a tough offensive performance in the first half to take down North Greene 55-45 in the Class A State Quarterfinals on Wednesday evening.

Both teams struggled to find any rhythm early, as Van Buren managed just 14 first-half points on just 24% shooting from the field. They ended up taking a 14-12 lead into halftime however, as Layla Bouldin scored on a transition layup to cap a 6-0 run to close the half.

The third proved to be a pivotal quarter for the Eaglettes, as they shot 57% from the floor and outscored North Greene 20-15 to take a seven-point advantage into the fourth quarter at 34-27.

Emily Allen drained a three to give Van Buren its first double-digit lead of the game at 38-28, and the Eaglettes took their biggest advantage with a 47-35 margin after a pair of Greta Rigsby free throws.

North Greene cut the lead down to 49-45 at one point, as their full-court press gave Van Buren some fits, but the Eaglettes would not be denied their first state tournament win in program history, as they held on for a 55-45 victory on Wednesday night.

Bouldin led all scorers with a game-high 21 points, while Rigsby scored 13 points and 11 rebounds of her own. Cara Mills added a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double as well for head coach Tyler Sapp.

It wasn’t the prettiest shooting game early on, but excellent defense and a 26-18 advantage in the paint is ultimately what got the job done for Van Buren.

“We try to hold teams to 40, 45 points, because we know that we can get to 50 without shooting the three-ball well,” Sapp said. “(Layla Bouldin) can get into the paint and score pretty much any time she wants to. I told them at halftime that they had more rebounds than us, but we shot (poorly). So that was the difference in them getting more rebounds than us, because we shot it so poorly.”

For Bouldin, it’s a rewarding moment as she was a key member of the team a year ago when they had a similar shooting performance and fell short against Dresden in the first round.

Needless to say this time, she’s feeling much better after the program’s first victory on this stage.

“It feels a lot better, we weren’t just thinking that we were just (happy) to be in the Glass House,” Bouldin said. “We’re here to win, and not just lose and go home.”

Mills and Rigsby gave the team a big lift in the paint with 23 points and 21 rebounds between the two of them. As just a freshman, Mills says this is just a great experience and example of how her team can win when they play together.

“It’s amazing, it feels so good,” Mills said. “I just feel like this team has improved so much, and I’m just proud of all of us.”

After taking down Clarkrange in the sectional round, Sapp emphasized that this trip to Murfreesboro wasn’t about sight-seeing or vacation.

The Eaglettes now have a win in the left-hand column in their state tournament record, and it’s an incredibly rewarding moment, though Sapp knows their stay in the tournament isn’t over yet.

“It’s something we’ve never done in school history,” Sapp said. “This is our third time here, and we were 0-2 before today, so it’s just huge to do something that this program has never done. All the credit to the players, they’re the ones that did it.”

The Eaglettes will now turn their attention to the Class A Final Four, as they will take on the winner of Peabody-McKenzie at 2:45 P.M. on Friday.

Photos by Michael Lindsay


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