You may not have noticed yet, but the Greenwood varsity girls’ basketball team has already begun their 2023-24 season. In fact, counting their pre-season contest against Gravette, they are four games into their schedule before taking some time off for Thanksgiving. Officially, the GHS girls are 2-1 on the season. They handily defeated Gravette in the benefit game before dropping their regular season opener at Vilonia. Last Thursday they defeated Class 6A Fayetteville at H.B. Stewart Arena before winning at Nashville this past Tuesday.
The annual basketball tip-off was held at H.B. Stewart Arena on Tuesday, November 7th, during which all Greenwood teams from grades 7-12 were introduced, welcoming the start of a new season. Two days later, on Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs hosted the Class 4A Lady Lions of Gravette, winning in a walk, 78-35. Greenwood led 50-16 at the intermission and cleared the bench in the second half, allowing everyone to play.
With a starting lineup filled with talented, experienced players, the GHS girls rolled out to a 27-6 lead after the first eight minutes. Three of Greenwood’s five starters, Anna Trusty, Brooklyn Woolsey, and Carly Sexton, all seniors, have been part of back-to-back state championship teams. The other two starters, junior Izzy Smith and sophomore Kylah Pearcy, were both contributors in last season’s title run. Against Gravette, their margin wasn’t quite as large in the second period, but still amounted to a 23-10 advantage and a 34-point lead at the break.
Gravette outscored Greenwood in the third stanza, 16-13, before the Lady Bulldogs dominated the fourth quarter, 15-3, accounting for the 78-35 final score. Anna Trusty led the home team with 23 points in limited minutes, including five three-pointers. Kylah Pearcy had 13 points, Brooklyn Woolsey and Izzy Smith nine points each, Pate Jones seven points off the bench, and starter Carley Sexton had six points.
Greenwood shot nearly 47% from the field, including 11 of 24 from beyond the three-point arc. They scored 39 points off 32 turnovers by Vilonia. The Lady Bulldogs also had 16 steals in the game, accounting for half of Vilonia’s turnovers. The GHS girls were also nine of 12 at the free throw line.
The Lady Eagles were the opponents last March when Greenwood won its seventh state title in school history, defeating Vilonia, 58-35. But this time around, 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 in the rematch.
Vilonia led 15-13 after eight minutes but trailed 28-27 at the half. Trusty’s foul trouble began early, picking up her third violation early in the second period with Greenwood up by 10 points. Head Coach Clay Reeves then pulled her from the game to protect his star player, and the Lady Eagles rallied to trim their deficit to one point at the break.
“They were all [genuine] fouls,” said Reeves of Trusty’s offenses. “But that happens, and as a coach I have to decide [when to take her out]. Obviously, hindsight is 20/20. I probably should have left her in [the game] because she is smart enough to be able to play in foul trouble.”
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.
Due to her foul problems and time on the bench, Trusty netted just four points in the game. Stepping up, Kylah Pearcy scored a career-high 22 points and Brooklyn Woolsey scored 20 points. Carly Sexton netted nine points and two other players scored four points each – Pate Jones and Jenna Honkala.
Vilonia shot 50% for the game compared to 37.5% for the visitors and both teams hit eight three-points, though Vilonia had a better percentage. Woolsey led Greenwood with nine rebounds, while Pearcy had eight and Sexton seven. Sexton also led the team with five assists. “We weren’t having the best offensive night,” admitted the GHS head coach.
“Our kids have confidence, but we still have to show up and work hard, and they have. But there is another level of playing hard and competing hard, and our kids do that daily. But we have to take what we did last year and build on that and do more. Everybody has to step up to make us the team we need to be,” said Reeves. “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 and so will they.
The Lady Purple Dogs came to Greenwood last Thursday night, winners of eight state titles, one more than the Lady Bulldogs with seven. But it was all Greenwood once the game started. The GHS girls jumped out to an 18-6 lead after one quarter and led 36-21 at halftime. Greenwood’s relentless defense caused problems for the Fayetteville girls early, generating several turnovers.
Greenwood also won the third period, 14-7, for a 50-28 advantage heading into the final stanza. Anna Trusty drained a three-pointer in the final seconds of the quarter for the 22-point lead. That margin grew even more before the Lady Purple Dogs hit a pair of late treys to trim the final deficit to 21 points. Coach Reeves pulled his starters midway through the fourth period.
Anna Trusty led the GHS scoring machine with 20 points, followed by Kylah Pearcy with 15, Brooklyn Woolsey with 11, and Carly Sexton with eight points. The coach talked about the win over Fayetteville and the status of his team so far this season. “We’re just trying to make progress every day and keep improving every day. That’s what our focus is right now.”
Before dismissing his team for the Thanksgiving holiday, Coach Reeves took his girls to Nashville on Tuesday to face the Lady Scrappers, led by former GHS assistant coach Paul Dean. Nashville won the 4A state title in 2022 and reached the finals again last spring. Greenwood won last year’s contest over Nashville at H.B. Stewart Arena, 80-61, and won Tuesday night by an even greater margin, 77-48.
The GHS offense was on fire for the first three quarters, scoring at least 21 points in all three periods, largely due to their excellent three-point shooting. The Lady Bulldogs won the first eight minutes by a wide margin, 26-10, and lead at halftime by 20 points, 47-27. Nashville scored just five points in the third period as the visitors built their lead to 70-31, instituting the mercy rule for the remaining time. The Lady Scrappers won the final stanza, 16-7, as Coach Reeves pulled his starters from the game.
Seniors Anna Trusty and Brooklyn Woolsey had huge games, scoring 30 and 26 points, respectively. Trusty had five three-pointers, but Woolsey had seven treys for the game. Sophomore Kylah Pearcy had nine points, all in the first half, including a three-pointer and 6-of-6 at the free throw line. Senior Carley Sexton finished with eight points.
The GHS girls will take some time off for Thanksgiving before returning to live competition next Tuesday at home against one of the top teams in Class 6A, the Conway Lady Wampus Cats. Nearly 10 days later, from December 7-9, Greenwood will play in the Northwest Arkansas Classic at Fayetteville featuring several 6A teams including a rematch with Fayetteville and games against Bentonville and Springdale Har-Ber.
Greenwood will also play Little Rock Christian, Little Rock Central, and North Little Rock before Christmas then take part in the Pink/White tournament after the holiday at the end of the month. The Pink/White tournament will be held December 27-30 on the campus of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.