Defending champions keep pressing on

Defending champions keep pressing on

Photos By: Peggy Barger

Two years ago the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs endured the loss of their head coach when Clay Reeves was forced to take a health-related leave of absence in December of 2018. They responded by reaching the state semi-finals the following March under interim head coach Matt Bryant.

When Reeves returned last season they reached the state finals before the pandemic shut down all high school athletics in the state. Awarded a state title along with Nettleton High School, the GHS girls are one of two defending champions in Class 5A, and their play this season indicates they intend to retain their crown, despite the recent interruptions in their season due to Covid-19 and bad weather.

The most recent evidence was last Tuesday’s thrashing of Nashville’s Lady Scrappers, 85-40. Five days earlier the GHS girls went on the road and defeated the reigning Class 4A state champion Lady Bulldogs of Star City, 79-70. Both of those games happened due to cancellations of scheduled conference games with Russellville and Van Buren.

The GHS girls are currently 10-3 overall, all three of their losses coming at the hands of traditional 6A girls’ basketball powers Conway, Fort Smith Northside, and Bentonville, with two of those losses in overtime. They also had a January 2nd home game with Farmington cancelled due to bad weather. They return to action this Friday evening at home against Vilonia before traveling to Siloam Springs next Tuesday and hosting Mountain Home next Friday.

Nashville

A red-hot Kinley Fisher sparked the 45-point blowout win over Nashville’s Scrapperettes last Tuesday night at H.B. Stewart Arena. The senior guard and homecoming queen scored 17 points in the first half, but really shone brightly in the third quarter, pouring in 12 points on four consecutive three-pointers in less than three minutes before leaving the floor along with the rest of Greenwood’s starters.

Fisher played little more than a half against Nashville, but led all scorers with 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including seven three-pointers. Sophomore Mady Cartwright was next with 14 points along with freshman Anna Trusty with 10 points and senior Ally Sockey with nine. Sophomore guard Anna Williams added eight points in the second half.

The GHS girls netted 26 points in the first quarter and 16 in the second period, but were even better offensively in the third quarter, stroking the nylon for 31 points, invoking the mercy rule for most of the second half to keep the clock running.

Ironically, the Nashville girls (11-3) held a 7-2 lead after two minutes of play before the Lady Bulldogs got going, sparked by Fisher’s first trey. Mady Cartwright then scored inside and Fisher drained another three-pointer. Cartwright added a trey of her own as the home team built a 13-7 advantage with 3:52 remaining in the opening period.

The Scrapperettes managed a single basket to break up the GHS rally, but to little benefit, as the Lady Bulldogs responded with a 20-point run to essentially put the game away before halftime. Greenwood led 26-9 after eight minutes and 42-16 at the intermission.

“We’re blessed to have a lot of different players that can score,” said Coach Reeves after the game, repeating a mantra he’s uttered many times over the past few seasons. “I’ll look up and it will be Ally Sockey one night or Mady Cartwright or Abby Summitt, or just different players at different times.”

Reeves and the Lady Bulldogs are built around the vast experience and talent of four senior starters, including Fisher, Sockey, Haven Clements, and Shea Goodwin, any of which are capable of scoring in double digits on any given night. But it’s Fisher who has led the team in scoring the past couple of seasons. A four-year starter, she has now moved into third place on the career scoring list with 1,534 points with possibly 15 or 16 games remaining this season.

Star City

Last Friday’s home conference game with Russellville was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns by the Lady Cyclones, so the Greenwood girls needed another opponent, and they found a good one in last year’s 4A state champion, the Star City Lady Bulldogs.

The two defending champs went at one another with a vengeance, and for a while it appeared the home team would prevail, building multiple double-digit leads before the visitors rallied with a huge third quarter and held on for the 79-70 win.

Star City rushed out to a 17-7 advantage after one period, but the GHS girls regrouped and trimmed their deficit to four points late in the half at 29-25. Still, Greenwood narrowly won the second quarter scoring battle, 20-18, and trailed at the half, 35-27.

The home team also scored first in the second half, including a three-pointer, helping them build a 12-point lead. But that’s when things began falling apart for Star City as the visiting Lady Bulldogs clawed their way back into the game on defense, creating turnovers and scorching the nets for 32 points in the quarter compared to just 14 points for the locals.

Greenwood led 59-49 after three periods, and the two teams basically fought to a draw in the fourth quarter, with Star City outsourcing Greenwood by a single point, 21-20. When the dust settled, the two exhausted teams left the court still champions, but the bragging rights went to the visitors, 79-70.

Kinley Fisher had another big game, leading her teammates with 24 points, followed by Mady Cartwright with 16 and Ally Sockey with 12. The most important stat of the game were the 20 turnovers created by Greenwood, helping to offset the rebounding edge of Star City, 40-25.

Both teams shot the ball well, but the visitors did hold a slight advantage there too. The GHS girls shot 47% overall and 43% from the three-point line. Star City was better at the charity stripe, 78% to 56%.

Greenbrier

On January 5th the Lady Bulldogs traveled to Central Arkansas to take on the Lady Panthers in the 5A West conference opener for both teams. Greenwood exploded offensively across the first three quarters, scoring 20, 28, and 28 points for an easy mercy rule victory, 84-48.

The game was very competitive throughout the first half. Greenbrier actually led 21-20 after eight minutes and only trailed by seven points, 48-41, at the break. But the swarming GHS defense played havoc with the Lady Panthers in the third quarter as the visitors outscored the home team 28-5 to seize control of the game, 76-46, after three periods. With the mercy rule activated, both teams subbed liberally over the final eight minutes.

Again, Kinley Fisher had 24 points in the victory, followed by Ally Sockey with 16, Anna Trusty with 14, Abby Summitt with nine points, while Mady Cartwright added seven points. Greenwood won the shooting battle 49% to 34%, but the Lady Bulldogs did most of their damage around the basket. The visitors also shot 77% from the free throw line. But the most telling number was the 25 steals created by the Greenwood defense that made all the difference in the game.

Bentonville

In keeping with their trend of facing other state champions, the Lady Bulldogs traveled to Bentonville on December 29th to face the Lady Tigers for the second time this season after winning their first meeting at H.B. Stewart Arena 26 days earlier. But this time Bentonville came out on top, 79-67.

Greenwood led 15-13 after one period, but a disastrous second quarter doomed the Lady Bulldogs as the Bentonville girls outscored them 23-9 to lead 36-24 at the intermission. However, the GHS girls were unable to put together a sustained scoring run in the second half against a very good team.

The Lady Bulldogs narrowly won the third quarter, 20-18, but lost ground in a fast-paced final stanza, won by the Lady Tigers, 26-23. At one point Bentonville led by 17 points before Greenwood closed the gap in the final minutes, accounting for the final 13-point margin.

Greenwood was again led in scoring by Kinley Fisher with 22 points, followed by Mady Cartwright with 13. The biggest statistical discrepancies were in rebounding, won by Bentonville 42 to 26, and in shooting proficiency. The Lady Tigers won the shooting battle 47% to 41% overall and 38% to 31% on three-pointers. Both teams shot well at the free line.

Jacksonville

Just before Christmas, on December 22nd, the GHS girls traveled to Jacksonville to face the Class 5A Lady Red Devils. But as is often the case, the Lady Bulldogs’ scrappy defense gave the Jacksonville girls a devil of a time, leading to 18 steals and numerous uncontested layups.

The visitors led almost from the opening tip, running out to a 27-9 first quarter lead, nearly duplicating that feat in the second period to build an insurmountable 51-22 advantage. With the mercy rule in force, Greenwood subbed liberally but still won the third quarter, 13-11, allowing Jacksonville to trim the final score to 67-45 over the ensuing eight minutes.

Kinley Fisher was the scoring leader for the Lady Bulldogs with 24 points, including several three-pointers. Ally Sockey was next with 15 points, while Mady Cartwright added 11 points. Greenwood narrowly lost the battle of the boards, 42-36, but held a slight advantage in shooting percentage.


 

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