The Greenwood varsity girls, the reigning 5A state basketball champions, have opened the 2022-23 season with five consecutive wins, clearly cementing themselves as the team to beat in the 5A West conference and in the race to claim yet another state title next March. Head Coach Clay Reeves knows his team is loaded, returning four starters and several other experienced players from last season and having been infused by a wealth of young talent to form a strong supporting cast.
After winning their season opener at Gravette, 86-34, the GHS girls participated in the Lake Hamilton Classic, winning all three games over Little Rock Christian, Lake Hamilton, and El Dorado. They followed up with a victory over Nashville in their home opener at H.B. Stewart Arena this past Tuesday. During that stretch, the Lady Bulldogs scored nearly 80 points per game and only the Nashville contest was really competitive. They will be off a few days for Thanksgiving before regrouping to prepare for a tough stretch of games against several quality opponents.
Tuesday’s home opener began early because school was already out for the Thanksgiving holiday. The junior varsity game tipped off at 4 p.m. followed by the varsity contest before a smaller than normal crowd for the early start. But that didn’t stop the home team from getting off to a blazing start, scoring 14 of the game’s first 16 points, half of them by junior Carly Sexton, who emerged as a key player at the end of last season with an excellent state tournament performance.
Sexton scored the game’s first six points, aided by a pair of Nashville turnovers against Greenwood’s full court pressure defense. Junior Anna Trusty added a fourth basket before the Scrapperettes were able to get the ball safely across the mid-court line. The Lady Bulldogs led 14-2 less than 2½ minutes into the game before the visitors regrouped to make it 24-16 after one period, mostly on the strength of their three-point shooting.
But the Nashville rally continued into the second quarter, outscoring Greenwood 19-16, missing two chances to take a lead. The Lady Scrappers are coached by Paul Dean, a former GHS assistant under Reeves for eight years. Coach Dean also has two daughters playing for him, a junior and sophomore. They are also the defending Class 4A state champions, making the game with Greenwood an early contest between basketball giants.
“We could have laid down and we didn’t,” said Dean after the game. “But classification matters,” referring to Greenwood’s higher ranking in the AAA’s pecking order of schools based on student enrollment. “They’re a championship program and we’re a championship program,” said Coach Reeves following the win. Both coaches share a mutual respect. Reeves also revealed that Nashville’s leading scorer did not play in the game due to an injury.
With 40 ticks left in the second period the game was knotted at 35-all before the GHS girls closed the half with a 5-0 run on a corner trey by Carly Sexton and a pair of free throws by Brooklyn Woolsey. The long distance shooting by Greenwood was somewhat suspect in the first half, but Woolsey turned that around quickly in the second half to lead the team in scoring.
After trading baskets to open the third stanza, the Lady Bulldogs scored 17 of the next 21 points in the game, including a 12-0 run to take a 59-39 lead at the 2:30 mark, then led 64-47 at the end of the period. The Nashville girls never made a run in the fourth quarter, trailing 77-56 at the 1:39 mark before Coach Reeves sent in a fresh wave of five new players. The final score was 80-61.
Brooklyn Woolsey’s five three-pointers were enough to make her the team’s top scorer with 21 points, followed close behind by Anna Trusty with 20, senior Mady Cartwright with 15, and Carly Sexton with 13. Balanced scoring has been the hallmark of this team so far this season, with several players reaching double figures and others coming off the bench to provide supplemental points.
“I knew they could play like that, and our kids did too,” said Coach Reeves of the Lady Scrappers. “Champions don’t quit, no matter what the score is,” referring to Nashville’s first half rally and their willingness to fight to the end. “Their kids were down and they fought back, and that’s why we try to schedule these games, to show us what we need to work on.
“We’ve got good scorers, but we need to work on defense, rebounding, and taking care of the ball,” added Reeves. “A couple games have shown us what we need to work on, and we’ll work on that in practice. But we’ve got a few more games that will show us what to work on, and that’s why we play who we play.” The coach was referring to upcoming games with several powerhouse teams like Conway, Vilonia, and Little Rock Central, not to mention a pair of tournaments in Bentonville and Springfield, Missouri, all before conference play begins in January.
Little Rock Christian
A week earlier the GHS girls traveled to Lake Hamilton near Hot Springs for their annual tournament featuring quality teams from all other the state. All three Greenwood opponents were potential state tournament teams, though it’s doubtful they want to see the Lady Bulldogs on their side of the bracket come next March. Greenwood’s average margin of victory last week at Lake Hamilton was a whopping 43 points, winning two of the three games by more than 50 points.
The first victims were the Lady Warriors of Little Rock Christian, who played Greenwood the closest of the three, losing to the Lady Bulldogs, 63-41. Again, the GHS girls jumped out to a big advantage early, leading 23-10 after one period and 32-19 at the half. Greenwood won the third stanza, 14-12, and the fourth period, 17-10, accounting for the 22-point win.
Anna Trusty led the scoring for Greenwood with 26 points, followed by Mady Cartwright with 16 points. Carly Sexton added eight points and Brooklyn Woolsey contributed six points in the first-round victory.
Against the host Lady Wolves the GHS girls were even less kind, blowing the game open with a first half offensive explosion, leading 25-3 after one period and 56-9 at the break. Greenwood hit a barrage of 10 three-pointers in the first half then added four more after the intermission for a total of 14 in the game.
Coach Reeves cleared his bench in the second half and Lake Hamilton was able to score in double digits (10 points) in the third stanza, though still short of Greenwood’s 18 points. The Lady Wolves did win the fourth quarter, 8-6, but still lost by a surprising 53 points, 80-27.
Seven Lady Bulldogs scored significant points in the contest, led by Mady Cartwright with 16 points. Ninth-grader Kylah Pearcy was next with 12 points with Anna Trusty scoring 11 points. Brooklyn Woolsey netted nine points while Carly Sexton and senior Ella Williams added eight points each. Sophomore Izzy Smith contributed seven points off the bench.
A similar scenario played out against the Lady Wildcats, who struggled to score against Greenwood’s defense throughout the game, but especially in the first half. Greenwood burned the nets for 29 first quarter points and 32 second quarter points, while holding the El Dorado girls to just nine points in the half. The Lady Bulldogs led 61-9 at the intermission.
Once again Coach Reeves cleared his bench in the second half as the GHS girls cruised to an easy 83-29 victory in which 11 players scored, with four in double figures. Cartwright led the way with 17 points, followed by Woolsey with 14 while Trusty and Sexton both had 11 points.
Speaking of Greenwood’s tournament opponents, Coach Reeves said, “All three of those teams were state tournament teams last year, but we’ve got a lot of players back and a lot of good players that moved up. We have a lot of strengths, and our kids are playing to those strengths right now. We’re shooting the ball well. But the next seven games we’ll be playing from the jump ball to the final buzzer, which is what we need at this time.”
Up next for the Lady Bulldogs after their Thanksgiving break will be a road trip to Class 6A Conway next Tuesday, November 29th. The Lady Wampus Cats recently defeated the Nashville girls by 10 points. The GHS girls will then host 5A rival Vilonia next Friday at H.B. Stewart Arena with the junior varsity tipoff set for 5 p.m. followed by the varsity contest. The next week the Lady Bulldogs will travel to Bentonville for a three-day weekend tournament, December 8-10.
Other games in December include a home rematch with Little Rock Christian, a trip to Little Rock Central, and the Springfield, Missouri, tournament after Christmas. Conference play begins at home against Russellville on Friday, January 6th.