The GHS girls’ varsity basketball team is off to another great start under Head Coach Clay Reeves, posting a 7-2 record so far after nine games. Both losses came in the last two weeks against traditional Class 6A basketball powers Conway and Fort Smith Northside as the Lady Bulldogs split their most recent four games after beginning their season 5-0.
They will host North Little Rock this coming Friday in a another “Clash of the Titans” at H.B. Stewart Arena. The NLR Lady Wildcats are expected to challenge for the 6A state title next March while the Lady Bulldogs are always contenders for the 5A championship. Coach Reeves has won five state crowns at Greenwood and eight overall in his career.
The Lady Wampus Cats came to play when they visited H.B. Stewart Arena on December 2nd, taking it to the Lady Bulldogs right from the opening tip. Greenwood was outscored 22-8 in the first eight minutes and 16-11 in the second period. After trailing 38-19 at the break, things didn’t improve much in the second half for the home team, with the visitors outscoring Greenwood 24-18 over the final two periods for the lopsided 62-37 victory.
“They had a lot of speed,” said Coach Reeves of Conway. “Our kids practice hard, but it took us a little while to adjust to the speed of the game. [Conway] had a good first quarter. They hit a few three-pointers early until we figured out what defense worked the best against them. But [the scoring] kind of evened out after that. We didn’t shoot a high percentage, but our kids gave the effort. But that’s why we play them, for our kids to get used to [tough competition].
“[Conway] also had a 6-4 or 6-5 girl who could basically go anywhere she wanted to go,” added Reeves. “That was the difference for that game. When she was out, we caused a lot of turnovers, but when she was in they could just throw it up and she could go get it, and there was only so much we could do about it.”
Junior Mady Cartwright led the Lady Bulldogs with 22 points, followed by sophomore Anna Trusty with 10 points. The two guards are the top players returning for Coach Reeves from last season’s 22-5 team that reached the second round of the playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Jonesboro. Several key bench players also return, such as senior guards Megan Gray and Abby Summitt, who have moved into starting roles this season, supported by some younger talent promoted from last year’s ninth grade team.
After a week off from live action, the GHS girls next participated in the annual Taco Bell Tournament of Champions, played this year in the new basketball facility on the campus of Fort Smith Southside. Their first opponent on December 9th were the Lady Cougars of Ada, Oklahoma, and the contest turned out to be an easy win for the Lady Bulldogs, 62-34.
The Greenwood girls dominated the first three quarters of play before Coach Reeves began pulling his starters. The Lady Bulldogs built a double-digit lead after eight minutes, 17-7, before leading 31-16 at the intermission. Balanced scoring was the ticket for Greenwood throughout the game with six players scoring at least five points each in the contest. The GHS girls won the third quarter by a 21-7 margin to put the game away, leaving reserves from both teams to close out the contest.
Mady Cartwright led Greenwood in scoring with 13 points, followed by Abby Summit and sophomore Carly Sexton with 11 points each. Anna Trusty added nine points, Megan Gray seven points, and junior Madelyn Wilkinson five points.
The Lady Tigers of Tuttle, Oklahoma, were up next for Greenwood the following day, and gave the Lady Bulldogs all they wanted before suffering a 54-49 loss. A poor offensive performance by the GHS girls in the second quarter allowed the Tuttle girls to rally after trailing 18-13 at the start of the period. Greenwood scored only eight points in the second stanza, allowing the Lady Tigers to lead at the half, 29-26.
But the Lady Bulldogs regrouped during the break and outscored Tuttle 16-12 in the third quarter and 12-8 in the fourth for the victory. A quartet of players accounted for most of Greenwood’s scoring, led by Cartwright with 20 and Trusty with 14, the only two girls in double figures. Megan Gray canned a trio of three-pointers for her nine points while Abby Summitt hit two long-distance shots for her six points.
“They were the 4A state champs in Oklahoma last year,” said Reeves of the Lady Tigers. “They had four starters back and they have a really good team. Their coach does an unbelievable job. They are fundamentally sound. One of their post players is committed to Oklahoma and another is committed to Tulsa. But our kids played hard and handled things well. Those close games make you a better player mentally and a better coach.”
Ft. Smith Northside
Reaching the finals last Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs faced a familiar foe in the Lady Bears of Fort Smith Northside, a longtime power in 6A girls’ basketball. Unfortunately, unbeaten Northside (9-0) got off to a 7-0 start in the opening period, with all seven points coming from dynamic freshman Erianna Gooden. But Greenwood rallied later in the quarter and trailed by only one point, 12-11, at the buzzer.
Trailing 14-12 early in the second quarter, the Lady Grizzlies turned to star player Yoni Releford to carry them. She made her first basket to tie the game at 14, added a three-pointer to make it 24-all, then converted a traditional three-point play for a 27-27 score at the half.
The back-and-forth affair featured eight lead changes between the two storied programs. After a Mady Cartwright three-ball narrowed the margin to 31-30, Releford grabbed an offensive rebound for a put back basket and a free throw to put Northside up by four points.
Cartwright had nine points in the second half, including a three-pointer late in the fourth period after a pair of Releford lay-ups. With 3:31 remaining, the Northside senior broke a 41-all tie with another contested lay-up. Then with the clock ticking down, two more lead changes occurred before both teams scrambled for the ball near the Lady Bulldogs’ basket with less than a minute to play.
The wild sequence began when Releford caught an air ball, but missed her shot on the other end. A Greenwood player initially grabbed the rebound, but in the ensuing melee the ball ended up in the hands of a Releford, who was fouled. Three Northside free throws then sealed the 48-44 victory, earning the Lady Bears the tournament championship. Releford also earned MVP honors.
“It was a tie game or two-point game all the way. But our kids played hard. It’s always a competitive game when both of us play each other. I know we got beat, but those are the games that make us better. It was a battle,” said Reeves. Both Cartwright and Trusty were named to the all-tournament team.
There has also been a slight change in Friday’s lineup at H.B. Stewart Arena, according to Coach Reeves. The action was initially slated to start at 4 p.m. with a junior varsity girls’ contest between Greenwood and North Little Rock. But that game has been cancelled due to some injury and Covid issues with the Lady Wildcats. Instead, the varsity girls will still play at 5 p.m. followed by the GHS boys’ junior varsity and varsity games against Springdale Har-ber.
Closing out their first semester of play, the Lady Bulldogs will also host Bentonville next Tuesday, December 21st, starting at 5 p.m. with a junior varsity game followed by the varsity at approximately 6 p.m. The GHS boys will play at home earlier that afternoon at 2 p.m. against visiting Nashville, both JV and varsity teams. Both GHS squads will return to action after Christmas in the Beebe Invitational held December 28-30.