GHS boys making positive strides before 5A West conference opener at Russellville

GHS boys making positive strides before 5A West conference opener at Russellville

The Greenwood Bulldogs (4-9) showed significant improvement in their play in five games during the Christmas break, according to Head Coach Donnie Husband. The ‘Dogs struggled in late November and much of December due to a depleted roster, expecting the arrival of several football players and waiting for injuries to heal. But the GHS boys have won three of their last five games, and both losses were at the hands of Class 6A schools. The positive vibes couldn’t come at a better time either, with the start of conference play this Friday at Russellville.

The Bulldogs began their holiday slate with a home game against Springdale Har-Ber on December 17th, the last day of classes for the first semester. They followed up with another home contest against Nashville on the 21st. After splitting those two games, the ‘Dogs joined the Lady Bulldogs in participating in a holiday tournament at Beebe last week. Both GHS teams won two of three games at Beebe to close out their non-conference schedules.

Springdale Har-Ber

Coach Husband knew his team would have their hands full with the Class 6A Wildcats, but playing at H.B. Stewart Arena for only the second time this season was a plus for the Bulldogs, who went toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with Har-Ber for more than three quarters before losing 61-54. It was Greenwood’s best performance to that point in the season.

Despite trailing 15-9 after the opening period, the Bulldogs rallied in the second stanza to lead 29-28 at the break. The visitors regained the lead after three quarters, but only by a slim margin, 43-42, as the fourth period began. The two teams continued to battle in the early moments of the quarter before a sequence of negative possessions turned the tide against the home team, allowing the Wildcats to pull away late in the game.

Senior guard Sam Forbus led the way offensively for Greenwood with his best performance of the season thus far, hitting a trio of three-pointers and draining all eight of his free throw attempts, besides four more field goals for 25 points. Emerging sophomore Peyton Presson added nine points and senior Jay Wright had eight points. Altogether, seven GHS players scored points in the game.

Asked about his team’s play against the Wildcats, Coach Husband said, “We really did play well against them, and had [some] opportunities. We looked up with four or five minutes to go and said, ‘Oh heck, we could win this.’ Then we tried to win it on about three possessions in a row, real fast, and it didn’t work. But it was a really good performance, especially where we were at the time. It was real encouraging, for sure.”

Analyzing the offensive production from the game, Husband said of leading scorer Sam Forbus, “He really had a good game, defensively [too]. It was a good all-around solid game, no doubt. We are getting a little more depth in our scoring. We’ve had some guys step up off the bench and contributing some shots. It just takes time to get their feel and touch.”

Nashville

The Bulldogs played well offensively in three of their four quarters against visiting Nashville on December 21st, handing the Scrappers a 62-51 loss. Greenwood scored 16, 21, 6, and 19 points in successive periods while holding Nashville to 15, 8, 11, and 17 points. It was the Bulldogs’ second victory of the season and snapped a seven-game losing streak.

The Bulldogs led 16-15 after the first eight minutes of play, but an explosive second quarter netted Greenwood 21 points and a cushy 37-23 lead at the intermission. But the magic wore off during the break and the home team could muster just six points in the third stanza, allowing Nashville to trim its deficit to 43-34 with eight minutes remaining. The Bulldogs then regrouped and won the final period, 19-17, to preserve the much-needed victory.

As usual, Sam Forbus led the team in scoring with 19 points, including a trio of shots beyond the arc. But it was Jay Wright who shined brightest, scoring what may have been for him a varsity career-high 17 points, also hitting three long-distance bombs. Peyton Presson added seven points and junior Dawson Holt had six points.

“Jay Wright had a tremendous second quarter,” said Coach Husband of the senior. “He hit three or four threes and had a really good quarter getting the ball up and down the floor and knocking down some shots. But we didn’t finish the second quarter [well] and came out flat in the third. I think [Nashville] cut it to one point, but we really responded. Sam [Forbus] scored some points down the stretch and we got some [defensive] stops and extended our lead again.”

Husband also commented when asked about the improving play of sophomore Peyton Presson, who had seven points in the contest and is threatening to break out as a genuine scoring threat for the Bulldogs. “He really is,” said the coach. “He’s doing a ton of good things. He’s really come on these last couple weeks. He’s undersized around the basket, but he’s kind of fearless and throws himself around. He’s really done a good job. “

Beebe tournament

The GHS boys got a tough opening-round draw at Beebe, facing Class 6A Cabot last Tuesday, December 28th. Despite the game being something of a mismatch, the Bulldogs competed well against the Panthers, especially in the first and fourth quarters. But Cabot dominated the middle two periods and rode that advantage to a 62-45 victory.

Greenwood trailed by a single point, 10-9, after eight minutes, but was outscored 17-11 in the second period. Trailing 27-20 at the break, the Bulldogs couldn’t buy a basket in the third quarter, scoring just six points and fell behind 47-26 heading into the final period. The GHS boys won the fourth stanza, 19-15, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the loss.

Despite losing by 17, the game was much closer than that in the first half and could have turned out differently. “It was a 21-20 game with about two minutes to go before the half,” explained Coach Husband. “We were right there, really playing well, then we gave up three layups and took a bad shot when we didn’t need to, and we just never recovered. [Cabot] is a good team, but we felt if we played four solid quarters that we had an opportunity. Their coach did tell me that he thought that was their best game of the year. We just didn’t play as well as I thought we were capable of at that time.”

No Bulldogs reached double digits in scoring. Peyton Presson and Josh Ligon, both sophomores, led the team with nine points each. Sam Forbus added seven points and junior Aiden Kennon contributed six points. On a positive note, ten different Bulldogs’ players scored points in the contest.

Greenwood’s second-round game the next day was against Friendship Aspire Christian Academy (FACA) of Little Rock, but it wasn’t much of a game. According to Coach Husband, FACA was riddled by illness and injury and was missing several players, helping the Bulldogs steamroll their way to an 80-25 victory.

“They [only] had six players and had some guys gone, and so we were able to handle them pretty easily,” said the coach. “A lot of [our] kids got in the game and a lot of kids scored. But in the long run we probably needed a tougher game to improve, but it was still good to get [a win] and move on.”

The ‘Dogs ran wild offensively, scoring at least 18 points in every quarter. They led 19-5 after eight minutes and 39-14 at the half. After scoring 23 points in the third period, Greenwood held a 62-22 advantage at the start of the fourth stanza and coasted to the 55-point win, clearing their bench along the way.

An even dozen Bulldogs scored points in the lopsided victory, led by Sam Forbus with 12 points and Josh Ligon with 10. Senior Lance Merak had nine points and Aiden Kennon eight. Sophomore Brady Mackey and Jay Wright both had seven points, and junior Hunter Houston added six points.

The third and final game at Beebe was played last Thursday, December 30th, against the Little Rock Flames, a team made up of home-schooled students affiliated with Pulaski Academy. Greenwood won the game, 46-43, but did so without the services of its best offensive player and team leader. Same Forbus missed the contest due to illness.

The Bulldogs got off to a solid start, leading 14-7 after one period and 28-18 at the intermission. But a poor second half allowed the Flames to climb back into the game. Greenwood scored only seven points in the third period and 11 in the fourth, while the Flames scored nine and 16 points, respectively. The contest was tied at 43-all inside the final minute before Greenwood scored the game’s last three points for the win.

Without Forbus to lead the offense, Greenwood’s top scorer was senior Joe Russell with 10 points, followed by Peyton Pression with nine points and Jay Wright and Aiden Kennon with eight points each.

“He did a good job,” when asked about the play of Joe Russell. “He started in Sam’s place and did a good job of playing the point and running our team. He was a big factor.” The coach also said that his football players, namely Aiden Kennon and Hunter Houston, are rounding into shape. Kennon has particularly shined with his rebounding. Houston has hit three of his last five three-pointers and is a solid defensive player. Sophomore Josh Ligon, the coach’s son, is also showing signs of breaking out, and sophomore L.J. Robins has just returned to practice after recovering from a football injury and is expected to make a solid contribution at point guard, both offensively and defensively.

The GHS coach was impressed by the Flames whose one deficit was the lack of a strong post player. “If they’d had a post guy they would have been scary,” admitted the GHS head coach. “But they had a bunch of guards. We had a big lead and they went to a zone [defense] in the second half and we didn’t do a very good job of executing [against it]. Sam was sick and wasn’t there, and we didn’t shoot free throws well either.

“Peyton Presson took a huge charge at the end of the game,” said Husband. “He hit the free throw that put us back up by one, then took a charge at the end. And before that, they had the ball with the lead and Hunter [Houston] made a big defensive play to alter a shot and get the rebound. Jay Wright then hit a couple of free throws to ice it.”

Upcoming games

After Friday’s conference opener at Russellville, Greenwood will host the Van Buren Pointers next Tuesday night at H.B. Stewart Arena. They will travel to Vilonia next Friday to take on the Eagles. The following week they will host Siloam Springs on Tuesday and travel to Mountain Home on Friday, January 21st. Let’s hope the Bulldogs’ recent signs of improvement will translate into enough conference wins to qualify for the post-season in 2022. Things are looking up. Go ‘Dogs!

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