GHS ladies returning to 5A finals against Vilonia

GHS ladies returning to 5A finals against Vilonia

For the second consecutive season the Lady Bulldogs will do battle with the Vilonia Lady Eagles for the Class 5A state championship in girls’ basketball. Greenwood defeated Vilonia by a mere 23 points last March to claim their second straight state title and their third in four years (2020, 2022-23). This time around they hope to make it three-in-a-row and four of five and should be favored to do so. Vilonia is 26-6 overall while Greenwood is 27-4, though the Lady Eagles avenged last year’s state tournament loss to Greenwood by beating the Lady Bulldogs earlier this season.

But to make this title rematch possible, both teams had to fight their way through the 16-team field at the state tournament last week at Searcy High School. Vilonia beat Nettleton, Mountain Home, and Greene Country Tech by an average winning margin of 11 points per game. Greenwood defeated Sheridan, Searcy, and Lake Hamilton by an average margin of 27 points, largely due to a huge blowout win in their tournament opener. Greenwood’s margin of victory over the other two schools was also 11 points per game.


The Lady Yellowjackets were the first postseason victims of the Lady Bulldogs. Winners of 20 games during the regular season, the Sheridan girls were the #4 seed from the 5A South, but they were no match for the #1 seed from the West. The GHS girls scored early and often, and their smothering defense allowed just 10 first-half points and 24 points through three periods. The game long since decided and both team’s starters on the bench, Sheridan did not score a single point in the fourth quarter of a lopsided GHS victory, 85-24.

Greenwood got on the board first with a pair of Kylah Pearcy free throws. She grabbed the opening tip and sprinted through the Sheridan defense down the lane before being fouled in the act of shooting. Moments later a steal led to an easy basket by Anna Trusty, the school’s all-time leading scorer, for a 4-0 lead. After a Sheridan three-pointer, one of only four first half field goals for the Lady ‘Jackets, Brooklyn Woolsey added a pair of free throws.

Trusty then drove the lane and scored as did Pearcy for an 11-5 GHS advantage. Sheridan scored just one more field goal in the first quarter and trailed 36-7 after eight minutes, victims of Greenwood’s rabid defense and hot shooting. The Lady Bulldogs hit four three-pointers in the first quarter – one each by Izzy Smith, Woolsey, Pearcy, and Trusty. They hit two more in the second period, another one by Trusty and the last one by Carley Sexton.

The Lady Yellowjackets failed to score over the final 5:50 of the first quarter, nor did they score in the first 4:20 of the second stanza. That’s a formula for disaster against Greenwood, and the reigning 5A state champs led by the incredible margin of 62-10 at halftime. Coach Reeves sent his starters out to begin the third quarter, but they played only a few minutes. He benched them around the 5:30 mark and his Lady Bulldogs led 75-24 after three periods. The GHS reserves continued Greenwood’s domination by winning the fourth quarter, 10-0, for the 61-point mercy rule victory. One foe vanquished with three to go.

As usual, Anna Trusty led Greenwood in scoring with 24 points to go along with three rebounds, four steals, and two assists, unofficially. Kylah Pearcy finished the game with 13 points, five boards, seven steals, and six assists. Brooklyn Woolsey had 12 points with five rebounds, three steals and three assists. Izzy Smith and Carley Sexton netted seven points each. Smith had two boards and two steals while Sexton had three rebounds, three steals, and two assists.


Searcy High School hosted the 5A state tournament in its beautiful new basketball facility, but Greenwood put an end to any dreams of a Cinderella run through the state tournament by the Searcy girls. The Lady Lions defeated Beebe in the opening round for the privilege of facing the state’s best in the Lady Bulldogs, who battled to a hard-fought 61-47 victory. Two opponents down, two remaining.

The Lady Lions played inspired basketball throughout most of the first half and only trailed the Lady Bulldogs by five points at the intermission. Down by 10 points midway through the second period, Searcy rallied with an 8-0 run to keep themselves in the game. But Greenwood outscored Searcy 20-13 in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead into the fourth quarter, 51-39, before closing out the 61-44 quarterfinal victory.

For the first time in weeks, the GHS girls were tested by the Lady Lions, but responded by playing a full four quarters of gritty basketball while not shooting the ball to their usual standards. Greenwood shot just under 40% for the game, which is not bad for an average team, but the Lady Bulldogs are not average. They also hit five three-pointers during the game, also under their normal amount.

Kylah Pearcy and Carly Sexton both drove the lane and scored layups to start the points parade for Greenwood, 4-0. Another driving basket by Anna Trusty made it 8-7 moments later, but a Searcy three-pointer put the Lady Lions on top, 12-11. The home team then went ahead 14-11 and 16-12 before the Lady Bulldogs drained a trio of free throws. Searcy led 16-15 after eight minutes.

But Carly Sexton hit a three-pointer to start the GHS scoring in the second quarter, followed by a driving bucket from Anna Trusty, putting Greenwood up to stay, 20-18. Kylah Pearcy added a free throw and a layup to make it 23-18. A Trusty three-pointer continued to build the Greenwood lead to 26-18. Trusty then hit a long jumper to make it 28-18, and it appeared the Lady Bulldogs were about to go on one of their famous scoring runs to put the game away.

But the Lady Lions roared back with eight consecutive points, trimming their deficit to just two points at 28-16. A Kylah Pearcy free throw and a short jumper by Brooklyn Woolsey pushed the GHS lead to five points at 31-26 before the half ended, and for the first time in a long while, the outcome of a game was still in doubt at halftime for the Lady Bulldogs. But Kylah Pearcy put an end to any doubts early in the third quarter.

The super sophomore scored 13 of Greenwood’s 20 points in the period, driving hard to the basket and forcing Searcy to foul her. She hit all seven of her free throws and added a trio of field goals to compliment Anna Trusty’s seven points on two field goals and a three-pointer. By the end of the period the Lady Bulldogs were ahead by double figures, 51-39, and GHS fans present, and those watching the live stream broadcast could start breathing easier.

Izzy Smith drove the lane and scored early in the fourth quarter before Pearcy picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench. Brooklyn Woolsey hit her only three-pointer of the game and Carly Sexton followed with her only trey as well. Smith then scored on a layup to put the GHS girls on top, 61-42, for their largest lead of the game. But to their credit, the Lady Lions rallied to score the last five points of the contest to make the final score, 61-47.

On the strength of her third quarter performance, Kylah Pearcy led the Lady Bulldogs in scoring with 20 points, also grabbing five rebounds, dishing out three assists, and making three steals. Anna Trusty had 17 points and seven rebounds and Carly Sexton netted 12 points with four steals and three rebounds. Brooklyn Woolsey scored eight points with eight boards and Izzy Smith added four fourth-quarter points and had seven assists. Reserves Pate Jones and Jenna Honkala also saw time on the floor in relief of the starters.

Lake Hamilton

The Greenwood and Lake Hamilton girls have met on the hardcourt several times over the years, including in the playoffs, with the Lady Bulldogs coming out on top in most cases. They would do so again in the state semifinals last Saturday at Searcy High School, but not without a fight from a solid Lake Hamilton lineup that featured one senior and four talented sophomores. Despite severe foul troubles, the Lady Bulldogs won the game, 64-57.

The opening moments of last Saturday’s contest more closely resembled a volleyball match than basketball with the team’s rapidly swapping possession, making steals, and in one case, swatting the ball out-of-bounds like a slam at the net. Anna Trusty finally scored the game’s first basket on a hard drive in the paint, only to have it waived off by the official, tagging the GHS senior with charging. But teammate Izzy Smith broke the scoring drought soon after with a three-pointer at the 7:00 mark. It was the first of four long-distance bombs for the Lady Bulldogs in the first period.

After the Lady Wolves got on the scoreboard, Brooklyn Woolsey made a steal and layup then added a free throw to make it 6-2 in Greenwood’s favor. That early lead went to 11-2 after a Woolsey three-pointer and a runout layup by Trusty. After Lake Hamilton’s second basket, Trusty hit another three-pointer to make it 14-4 at the 4:45 mark. A Carley Sexton bank shot off the glass put the GHS girls up 23-10 inside the 3:00 mark, but Greenwood was outscored 5-2 the rest of the way. The Lady Bulldogs led 25-15 when the buzzer sounded.

But of greater consequence than the score was that their aggressive style of play caused the Lady Bulldogs to pick up numerous early fouls including two each on Smith and Woolsey. Greenwood would lose both players for significant minutes starting late in the second quarter and Woolsey would eventually foul out of the game in the waning minutes of the fourth period, along with Kylah Pearcy. Enter reserves Jenna Honkala, Pate Jones, and McKenzie Thomas.

Those three girls provided quality minutes off the bench in relief of the foul-plagued starters, enabling the Lady Bulldogs to hold off the Lady Wolves throughout the second half. Lake Hamilton was able to trim a 14-point second half deficit to just two points but could never get over the hump to tie the score or take the lead. In fact, the Lady Wolves never had a lead in the game at all and were forced to play from behind throughout the contest.

A Lake Hamilton three-pointer opened the scoring in the second period, but Izzy Smith countered with her second trey of the game to push the GHS lead back to 10 points. Unfortunately, Woolsey and Smith picked up their third fouls and went to the bench late in the quarter, replaced by Jones and Honkala, who finished the half, though the Lady Wolves were able to cut the GHS advantage to just six points at the break, 38-32.

A Carley Sexton three-pointer opened the second half scoring for Greenwood, extending the lead to nine points. Continuing the theme of the first half, Kylah Pearcy picked up her second foul and Smith her fourth, sending the junior guard to the bench, replaced by Jenna Honkala who quickly got into the action with a mid-range jumper, making the score 43-34. Sexton’s second three-pointer of the period and a baseline jumper by Pearcy then pushed the GHS lead to 14 points at 48-34, threatening to blow the game open.

But credit Lake Hamilton’s young but talented lineup for not cracking under the pressure. The Lady Wolves outscored Greenwood 11-4 over the final few minutes of the quarter to keep themselves within striking distance of the lead, trailing 52-45 when the horn sounded ending the third period. But again, foul troubles continued to mount for the Lady Bulldogs. Brooklyn Woolsey picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench and Kylah Pearcy was whistled for her third and fourth fouls in quick succession, though she remained in the game for the final two minutes of the period.

With Woolsey, Smith, and Pearcy on the bench, starters Anna Trusty and Carly Sexton returned to the floor to start the crucial fourth quarter along with Honkala, Jones, and senior McKenzie Thomas. Those five players held the Lady Wolves at bay for the first 4:40 of the final stanza before Coach Reeves called a timeout to reinsert his missing starters with Greenwood on top, 60-51.

Before picking up her third foul, Trusty scored four points on a jumper and a pair of free throws, while Sexton hit her third three-pointer and Honkala added a free throw. Pearcy added a free throw upon her return, but quickly picked up her fifth foul and left the game, replaced again by Honkala. Woolsey soon followed suit, replaced by Jones before Izzy Smith canned a pair of free throws at the 1:25 mark with Greenwood on top 63-57.

The next 60 seconds was a wild scramble for the ball with time running out for the Lady Wolves. Coach Reeves then called timeout with 31 ticks remaining and his Lady Bulldogs still firmly in control. When play resumed, Smith was fouled with 18 seconds left and made one of her two free throws. Lake Hamilton’s final shot missed the mark and Anna Trusty grabbed the rebound with only seconds remaining as the Lady Wolves finally gave up the fight. A weary and battle-tested bunch, the Lady Bulldogs began celebrating their 64-57 victory and a return to the state finals. Three foes sent packing with one remaining.

Unofficially, Anna Trusty led Greenwood with 18 points, surpassing 1,900 points for her career, a historic mark that will likely stand for years to come. She also had five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Despite fouling out of the game, Brooklyn Woolsey pumped in 16 points with six steals and two assists. Carly Sexton had a quiet but very effective 12 points with four boards and three assists. Izzy Smith scored nine points and Kylah Pearcy added five points with five assists and four rebounds. Jenna Honkala added three points, three rebounds, and two steals, while McKenzie Thomas added a free throw. Pate Jones did not score but had a pair of assists and two rebounds.

Setting the stage

Later that same day, the Vilonia Lady Eagles easily defeated Greene County Tech of Paragould, 72-58, but were ahead by 27 points in the third quarter. Both teams were the top seeds from their conference, as were the Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Wolves. For the first time in recent memory, all four #1 seeds reached the semifinals.

Next Friday at noon in Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs, Greenwood and Vilonia will square off in the state championship game for the second consecutive season. The Lady Bulldogs won last year’s game by a wide margin, 58-35, and should be favored to repeat as state champions for the third straight year. However, Vilonia beat Greenwood back in November, 68-63, in the Lady Bulldogs’ season opener, so some doubt remains.

In that contest, early foul trouble forced leading scorer Anna Trusty to the bench for half the game, allowing Vilonia to rally from a 10-point deficit in the second period to a 16-point lead early in the fourth quarter. The Lady Bulldogs then made a late charge, but still fell short, losing 68-63. “We weren’t having the best offensive night,” admitted Coach Reeves after the loss.

With Trusty on the bench for most of the second and third quarters, Vilonia built a double-digit lead in the second half, outscoring Greenwood 24-14 in the third quarter, at one point leading by 16 points. With Trusty back on the floor for the final nine minutes, the Lady Bulldogs closed the gap to three points in the final seconds, but could not climb all the way back, losing by five. “But all of our kids still competed and fought, so I like what I saw there,” said the coach last November.

“We have to take what we did last [season] and build on that and do more. Everybody [must] step up to make us the team we need to be,” Reeves added. “I don’t ever like to lose, but sometimes winning too much can hurt you too. We hope to see [Vilonia] in March, and that’s a great possibility. We’ll be a different team [then], and so will they.”

Now it seems that Reeves’ hope will be realized with a rematch between his Lady Bulldogs and the Lady Eagles of Vilonia, coached by Jeremy Simon. The two teams had only one common opponent this season. Vilonia lost to Conway, 65-55, back in November, while Greenwood beat Conway, 73-67, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Conway is playing Little Rock Central for the state’s 6A championship on Friday at 6 p.m.

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