Leopards, Lady Leopards sweeps conf. series against Hope on senior night; Malvern earns No. 5 seed for district tournament

Seniors' (2) Logan Schneider for Malvern goes to contest to block Hope's (41) Torey Phillips shot in the lane while (10) Blace West and (1) London Flourence and (0) junior Dallas Lewis stand guard defensively during senior high basketball action against Hope on Friday, February 8, 2019 at the Leopard Center. Photo by Gerren SmithSenior (24) Tiaunica Henderson for Malvern drives hard against Hope's pressure defense of (4) Ra'nazyia Miller during senior high girls action on Friday, February 8, 2019 at the Leopard Center. Photo by Gerren SmithSenior (33) Jasmyne Monk for Malvern drives hard against Hope's pressure defense of (3) Jaleia Davis during senior high girls action on Friday, February 8, 2019 at the Leopard Center. Photo by Gerren Smith
Gerren Smith
Staff Writer

For their final home game of the 2018-19 basketball regular season, the hometown Malvern Leopards and Lady Leopards were victorious hosting the Hope Bobcats and Ladycats on Friday, February 8, 2019 on senior night at the Leopard Center. This concluded their 7-4A Conference series match-up with Malvern sweeping both season meetings against Hope. The Lady Leopards defeated the Hope Ladycats 59-43 in senior high girls play. The Lady Leopards finish conference play 4-8 and improve to 5-17 overall.

The Leopards topped the Hope Bobcats 68-60 led by a thrilling overall performance from Dakovon Blackmon pouring 32 points to lead Malvern in scoring for the game's high-scorer of the night. The Leopards finish conference play at 6-6 and improve to 9-14 overall.

This week, the Leopards and Lady Leopards will travel to Mena to compete in the 7-4A district boys and girls tournament schedule February 11-16, 2019. The Lady Leopards will be the No. 5 seed and scheduled to face No. 4 seed Mena on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 4 p.m. The Leopards will be the No. 5 seed and scheduled to play No. 4 seed Nashville Scrappers on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.

Malvern Lady Leopards 59, Hope 43
In senior high girls hoop competition, the Malvern Lady Leopards sparked in a big way to finish opening quarter play leading Hope, 11-8. Viktoria Jergenson and Kiya Mitchell got Malvern rolling by scoring the first two baskets of the contest to give the Lady Leopards an 4-0 advantage down to the 6:19 mark. Hope's Ra'nayzia Miller sank two free-throws at the charity stripe to cut the Ladycats' deficit 4-2 at the 5:36 mark. Senior Tiaunica Henderson answered with a jumper for Malvern to extend their lead over Hope, 6-2. Miller for Hope drained a three-pointer and fouled on the shot to complete a four-point play to tie the game at 6-6 at the 2:24 mark. Mitchell posted another key basket in the post, then Tiffany Monk swished a trey from downtown behind the arc to give Malvern an 11-6 lead with 15 seconds remaining in first period action. Hope's Mariuna McClenton closed the period with a basket at the buzzer to cut Malvern's lead to a three-point advantage going into the second quarter.

In the second, the Lady Leopards and Ladycats continued a close scoring encounter to keep the game tight for the first four minutes of action. Malvern held a slight 16-15 lead over Hope down to the 4:14 mark. Jergenson knocked down a trey with Mitchell going on a scoring spree of scoring two baskets to give Malvern their one-point advantage while McClenton and Miller provided the scoring for Hope. Mitchell came back by dropping a few more baskets on the scoreboard with Henderson connecting on two foul shot attempts to put Malvern ahead 21-15 over Hope with 2:39 remaining in first half action. Following some stiff defense by the Lady Leopards, Hope was held scoreless for the remaining time of play in the second. Malvern closed out the first half with scoring from senior Jasmyne Monk and Mitchell and Jergenson sinking a couple of free-throws to take a 12-point advantage 27-15 lead into the locker room over Hope at halftime.

In the second half, the Lady Leopards maintained control and held a 41-30 lead over Hope to end third quarter action. In the fourth, the Lady Leopards outscored Hope 18-13 despite both teams posting in double-digits in the final period. Mitchell dropped five points, Jergenson and Jasmyne Monk each scored four points apiece, Henderson split a pair of free-throws and Nykie Rhymes bank a three-pointer off the glass to scoring contributions in the final period of play. Ashanti Bennett, McClenton and Zahria Woods each scored from the field for Hope with a three-pointer banked off the glass by Anntaevia Briggs for the Ladycats. The Malvern Lady Leopards went on to an 16-point victory over Hope to win their final home battle on senior night for the hometown hoop fans. For the game, Lady Leopards' Mitchell led scoring with 17 points and Jergenson dropped 14 points with two trey's for double-figures. Seniors Henderson finished with nine points and Jasmyne Monk had seven points on their night. Tiffany Monk added eight points, Ryhmes contributed three points and Haley Moore chipped in one point from the charity stripe. For Hope, Miller led scoring with 14 points and McClenton had 13 points for double-figures.

Malvern Leopards 68, Hope 60
In the featured nightcap game for senior high boys action, the Malvern Leopards competed in a competitive bout against a high-energized Hope Bobcats squad on the hardwood. In first quarter action, the Bobcats came out as the aggressors early to outscore Malvern with Hope taking an 18-12 lead over the Leopards to end opening period play. Senior Blace West split a pair of free-throws, with Blackmon draining a trey and posted a couple of baskets from the field, that included a behind the back move toward the lane to spark Malvern. Dallas Lewis and Aaron Jones each contributed points in the period for Malvern. The Bobcats got big lifts of scoring from Zykeis Raglon, Zakee Lawson and a two-handed monster dunk by Jaydon Riley with a trey swished from Keyontai Harris to help visiting opponent Hope maintain a six-point advantage going into the second quarter.

In the second, the Leopards rallied back into the game led by Blackmon opening the quarter draining a trifecta from behind the arc and Schneider and Jones both scoring key baskets for Malvern. Cavontae Young came up big defensively with two steals to score a basket apiece for Hope. Big man Torey Phillips made his presence known with scoring inside in the post area while Raglon and Riley each scored baskets from the field for the Bobcats. Malvern outscored Hope 23-17 in the second to result a 35-35 tie at the break.

In the second half, the Leopards and Bobcats kept their scoring war close that showcased a third quarter with Malvern holding onto a slim 53-52 lead over Hope at the end of three periods of action. The Leopards outscored the Bobcats 18-17 in the third quarter. In the fourth period, the Leopards stepped up their level of play by seizing to outscoring the Bobcats 16-8. Defensively, the Leopards held the Cats under double-digit scoring for the only period of the game, which came in the fourth and final quarter. Blackmon paced the Leopards with seven points in the period, with Lewis, Schneider and Jones all accounting key baskets to lift Malvern for momentum to surpass the Cats for victory. For the game, Leopards' senior Schneider dropped 17 points on his night and Jones followed with 10 points for double-figures. Lewis contributed nine points and senior West chipped in one key point on his night as well. For Hope, four Bobcats posted in double-figures led by Raglon with 17 points, Riley had 16 points, Phillips posted 11 points and Lawson finished with 10 points.