Returning several top players from last year’s state championship team, the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs could easily be undefeated this season after 10 games, but they aren’t. Instead, they’ve built for themselves an impressive 8-2 record playing some of the best teams in the state of Arkansas. Both of their losses have come on the road against top quality Class 6A schools, Conway and Bentonville, by a combined total of nine points.
To recap their season so far, the Lady Bulldogs have played just two home games, an 80-61 signature win over the 4A defending state champion Nashville Lady Scrappers and a 25-point victory over 5A rival Vilonia. All other games have been on the road, including wins at Gravette, Fayetteville, Springdale Har-Ber, and three victories in the Lake Hamilton tournament over the host Lady Wolves, El Dorado, and Little Rock Christian, all quality 5A opponents.
But Head Coach Clay Reeves always schedules tough non-conference foes, including numerous larger schools in Class 6A, to prepare his girls for the rigors of conference play starting in January. “That’s why we play the schedule we play,” said Reeves in a recent interview. Sometimes those tough opponents expose weaknesses in his Lady Bulldogs, allowing Reeves and assistant coach Ryan Lensing to focus their efforts in practice to make adjustments to get better as a team. So, losing to a quality opponent early in the season is of little concern if the team improves as a result.
The coach added, “We need to develop a little more chemistry and identity and understanding what we’re doing. We’re still developing that. We’ve got a lot of players back but some are playing different roles and are doing different things than they did last year. We’re trying to find the comfort zone for some players.”
Asked about the emergence of other players early this season, Reeves said, “It’s no secret that Mady [Cartwright] and Anna [Trusty] have led us in scoring last year and this year, but it takes the entire team to contribute, so we’re learning what each player has to do. Even [juniors] Brooklyn [Woolsey] and Carly [Sexton] are still young. [Senior] Ella Williams is playing good defense and rebounding. [Senior] Adriana [Rusin] is doing what she needs to do and is starting to score for us. [Freshmen] Kylah Pearcy and Izzy Smith are playing well at the guard spots and becoming more relaxed in high school.” Reeves has a wealth of talent and experience to draw on this season and the team should continue to improve with time.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, the GHS girls traveled to Central Arkansas on November 29th to take on the state’s #1 ranked team in the Lady Wampus Cats of Conway. Featuring a point guard committed to play at Stanford University and a 6’4” post player headed to Auburn University, the Conway girls presented quite the challenge to the Lady Bulldogs, who jumped ahead 11-4 after one period. But that early 7-point advantage had nearly vanished by halftime with the visitors clinging to a 22-20 lead.
Both teams reached double digits in scoring in the last two quarters, but it was the Lady Wampus Cats who slowly pulled ahead, outscoring Greenwood 15-13 and 15-10 over the final two stanzas. When the buzzer sounded ending the low-scoring defensive struggle, the home team survived by a 50-45 margin. Both teams shot around 30% for the game. For Greenwood, senior Mady Cartwright led the way offensively with 16 points, followed by junior Anna Trusty with 13 points.
“They are ranked #1 in Arkansas in all classifications,” said Coach Reeves of Conway. “We played pretty [well] but probably missed some shots that were open. We were rushing our shots. But that’s why we play the schedule we play, to show us what we need to work on. Our schedule is helping us get better.”
On December 2nd the Lady Bulldogs hosted their second home game of the young season, welcoming the Vilonia Lady Eagles to H.B. Stewart Arena. The two teams played in the same conference not that long ago, so they have a history. But on this night, it was all Greenwood as the GHS girls exploded offensively for a dominant 77-52 victory.
Leading 17-13 after eight minutes, the Lady Bulldogs added 21 second quarter points for a 38-30 halftime advantage. But it was the third period that allowed the home team to build an insurmountable lead. Greenwood continued its strong scoring with 20 points while holding the Lady Eagles to just eight points, building a comfortable 58-38 lead after 24 minutes.
The home team also won the fourth stanza by a 19-14 margin to account for the 25-point final victory. Mady Cartwright led the way for Greenwood with 22 points, followed by Anna Trusty with 19 points and freshman guard Kylah Pearcy with nine points off the bench.
Greenwood’s second loss of the season came nearly a week later (Dec. 8th) in the opening round of the Bentonville Classic in Northwest Arkansas. The Lady Bulldogs fell to a solid Bentonville team by a score of 60-56. Coach Reeves admitted that he didn’t think his team played to their full potential while the Lady Tigers played much better than expected. Still, the game was lost in the third quarter when Greenwood was outscored 13-4. The Lady Bulldogs won two of the remaining three quarters, but still lost the game.
Jumping out to a 22-15 advantage after one period, the GHS girls gave up much of that lead when Bentonville won the second quarter, 15-11. Still, the Lady Bulldogs led 33-30 at the break before the offensive drought in the third period, falling behind 43-37 after three stanzas. Greenwood won the fourth quarter, 19-17, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the loss. Mady Cartwright led the team in scoring with 15 points, followed by Anna Trusty and Kylah Pearcy with 12 points each.
“They shot [well] the whole night,” said Reeves of Bentonville. “I thought they played really well. They hit their open shots and every time the game was close they would make the play they needed to make to keep that two or three point lead. We didn’t play particularly well for most of the game, and I thought Bentonville played really well.”
Their next tournament opponent was the Lady Purple Dogs of Fayetteville, who came out scorching the nets for 20 points in the opening quarter. Greenwood held its own though, scoring 18 points over the first eight minutes, before shutting the door defensively on Fayetteville in the second and third quarters, allowing just 10 points over the next 16 minutes.
After trailing 20-18 at the end of one quarter, the Lady Bulldogs led 31-24 at the half and 47-30 at the end of the third stanza. Greenwood then cruised through the final period, outscoring Fayetteville 15-11 for the 62-41 final, getting points from numerous players, led by Mady Cartwright’s 16. Ann Trusty and junior Brooklyn Woolsey had 12 points each while freshman Izzy Smith contributed eight points off the bench. Junior Carley Sexton scored six points and senior Adriana Rusin added four points for Greenwood.
Greenwood’s final game in the Bentonville tournament was against the girls of Springdale Har-Ber, another easy win for the Lady Bulldogs, who jumped out to an 18-6 first quarter lead. The Lady Wildcats rallied in the second period to trim their halftime deficit to 29-22, but the second half belonged to the Lady Bulldogs.
The GHS girls won the third quarter, 13-8, and the fourth, 20-16, to roll to a 62-46 victory. Four Greenwood players reached double digits in scoring, led by Mady Cartwright with 23 points. Anna Trusty had 13 points while Kylah Pearcy and Adriana Rusin scored 11 points each.
Up next for the Lady Bulldogs is a home contest against Little Rock Christian this coming Friday night. The two teams played earlier this fall in tournament action at Lake Hamilton with Greenwood winning, 63-41. Next Thursday, December 22nd, the GHS girls will travel to Pulaski County to take on Little Rock Central before breaking for the yuletide holiday. After Christmas the Lady Bulldogs return to action in the Pink/White tournament in Springfield, Missouri, December 27-30. They then open 5A West conference play on the road at Russellville on January 6th.