By Cayla sue Blanchard
The Norfork Lady Panthers are headed back to the Spa City for the 1A State finals game for the 3rd Consecutive year! The Norfork Lady Panthers won the State Title last year and must defend their title this year against the very same opponent they ousted in the Championship , the Mammoth Springs Lady Bears. The first trip saw the Lady Panthers face a 1A-2 Conference rival the Rural Special Lady Rebels coached by now Head Coach of the Norfork Lady Panthers, Luke Cornett. Although not successful in 2021, the Lady Panthers made a return trip in 2022 facing the now all too familiar foe, Mammoth Springs, all too familiar set of circumstances had the Lady Panthers falling to the Lady Bears in the past two Regional Championship game but the Norfork Lady Panthers avenging the 2022 loss with the title of State Champions about a week later in Hot Springs Arkansas. The Norfork Lady Panthers look to make history repeat itself and in pursuit of a second State Title after falling again this year in the Regional final, they will once again face Mammoth at Bank OZK Arena in Hot springs, on March 10th at 6pm.
At Ozark High School in Ozark Arkansas the Lady Panthers took the Hillbillies floor but the road to the finals wasn’t a walk in the park , the Lady Panthers proved why they are ranked #2 in the state as they rolled past their first round match up , Sacred Heart’s Lady Knights. The Lady Panthers made use of great offense and defense to defeat the Lady Knights 62-38. Keely Blanchard led the Lady Panthers with 23 points while Kiley Alman scored 18 for Norfork and Liza Shaddy netted 13 for the Lady Panthers.
The Quarterfinal round saw the Norfork Lady Panthers take on Dermot Lady Rams. The Lady Panthers saw their second state victory with a 62-40 final against the Lady Rams. Junior Keely Blanchard led all scorers with 29 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists. Fellow Junior, Liza Shaddy scored 13 points and 7 rebounds for Norfork and Senior Kiley Alman netted 13 points and 5 rebounds for the Lady Panthers.
Semifinal Saturday pitted the Lady Panthers against a very familiar 1A-2 Conference rival Rural Special’s Lady Rebels who they had played three times previously this season, winning those three contests. The Lady Panthers decided they wanted that return trip to the Spa City and made that four wins for the season over the Lady Rebels with a 55-26 final. Senior Kiley Alman led the Lady Panthers in the Semifinal game with 21points and 9 rebounds and Junior, Liza Shaddy had herself a double double in the form of 11 points and 13 rebounds against the Lady Rebels, Keely Blanchard added 11 more points for the Lady Panthers.
Throughout the State tournament so far the Norfork trio of Keely Blanchard, Liza Shaddy, and Kiley Alman have collectively averaged a total of 50 points per game in the tournament. Keely Blanchard averaged 21 points per game, Kiley Alman 17 points per game and Liza Shaddy 12 points per game.
As mentioned previously the Lady Panthers will face Mammoth Springs Lady Bears in the 1A State Championship game on March 10th at 6pm at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs Arkansas. Go Lady Panthers, bring home that hardware! Go Lady Panthers, Take State!