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Battling Bulldogs hoping for better results
Greenwood’s Drake Lee (21) cradles the basketball, trying to keep it away from Van Buren’s 6’-10” Mitchell Smith, who led the Pointers to a convincing win over the visiting Bulldogs on January 27th. The GHS boys hope to get back on the winning track this week at home against Siloam Springs or on the road at Conway. (Photo by Richard White courtesy of the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Battling Bulldogs hoping for better results

By Richard White

It’s been a tough stretch for the Greenwood Bulldogs, losing nine consecutive games overall and eight straight in conference play. But despite the mounting losses, Head Coach Brian Martin is pleased with the overall effort and tenacity of his team. Recently the Bulldogs fought hard on the road against league favorite Van Buren, took visiting Little Rock Catholic right down to the wire, and battled hard on the road at Bryant last Friday, despite playing with a depleted bench.

 

At Bryant

Illness and academic testing was responsible for thinning the roster last Friday against the Bryant Hornets. Junior point guard and team leader Grant Morgan was sidelined with the flu, but foreign exchange student Giovanni Germana from Italy filled in nicely, finishing the game tied for the team lead in scoring with nine points.

Still, the Bulldogs trailed 15-7 after one period and 32-17 at the half, failing to cash in on numerous trips to the free throw line, missing eight of their first ten charity shots. They were more competitive in the third quarter, outscored by only two points, but the Hornets put the game away with a strong fourth period effort. The final score was 68-47.

Germana and senior guard Matt Ludwig both scored nine points in the game. Sophomore Luke Hales added eight points, while three others scored seven points each, including seniors Drake Lee and Hunter Johnston, and sophomore Devin Gilbert.

“The guys that were there competed hard and executed well,” said Coach Martin. “Bryant wore us down. They played 15 guys, five in and five out about every two or three minutes. But execution-wise I thought we did a great job of putting the ball in the basket. [Germana] did a good job and led us in scoring with nine [points]. We had a pretty balanced scoring attack and it was a good team effort.

“But we definitely ran out of gas,” added the coach. “They pressed us for four quarters, regardless of the score. We missed some shots and free throws, but we fought to the very end. I’m proud of them.”

But the schedule is relentless, and the Bulldogs know that their post-season eligibility will be determined in the next two weeks, and possibly this week with a home game against the Siloam Springs Panthers scheduled for this past Tuesday night.

“It’s a must-win for post-season play,” said Martin. “We need to beat Siloam Springs. We need a minimum of two 6A wins, and one of them needs to be against Siloam by four or more points. But we can only control that next game, and obviously Siloam can’t win another 6A game. If we beat them, they have to lose to Russellville and Alma, and then we get them on the tiebreaker, if we get another 6A win.”

Greenwood travels to 7A Conway this coming Friday and goes to 6A Alma next Tuesday, before a February 29th contest at home against 6A Russellville. Earlier in conference play at Siloam Springs, the Bulldogs lost in overtime by three points.

 

LR Catholic

Prior to going to Bryant, the ‘Dogs hosted Little Rock Catholic on January 30th, and the narrow last-second loss was a hard one to swallow. The Bulldogs really needed a lift as they closed out the first half of the conference schedule, but Dustin Lunsford’s lay-up attempt wouldn’t fall at the buzzer, preserving Catholic’s 44-43 victory.

“I know the kids are disappointed, but I’m proud of [them] for fighting all the way to the end,” said Coach Martin. “All we can ask for is a chance to win the game, and we got the shot we wanted at the end. Credit Catholic for getting an offensive rebound and hitting a runner. It was a tough shot and the guy made it.”

Catholic trailed 9-2 to open the contest, but battled back to cut the GHS lead to 12-10 after one period. Both teams scored 11 points in the second quarter, keeping the Bulldogs on top at the break, 23-21. And Greenwood still led 35-29 late in the third quarter when Catholic scored eight consecutive points to erase the deficit, ending the period with a 37-35 lead.

The Bulldogs retook the lead (38-37) on Drake Lee’s three-pointer with 7:17 left in the game. Then after the Rockets went ahead 40-39 minutes later, they ran 2½ minutes off the clock before a turnover and two Greenwood free throws gave the Bulldogs a 41-40 lead with 1:29 showing on the clock.

Catholic got a lay-up with 55 seconds left to put the Rockets in front, 42-41, but Greenwood’s Grant Morgan sank two foul shots with 34.4 seconds remaining to put the Bulldogs in front once again, 43-42. But after Catholic missed a shot, the Rockets grabbed the offensive rebound and hit an off-balance floater with 6.9 seconds left to put them ahead for good.

After a timeout by Coach Martin, Grant Morgan drove the length of the floor, hoping to draw a foul. Instead, the ball was knocked away and out of bounds as he neared the basket. With 1.9 seconds remaining, about all the Bulldogs could hope for was a quick shot off the in-bounds pass.

As it turned out, Lunsford found an opening in the defense and received the ball almost under the basket, lunging for the rim, releasing the ball just before the horn sounded. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the ball rolled off the iron and fell harmlessly away.

Despite the frustrating miss at the buzzer, junior Dustin Lunsford led the Bulldogs with 17 points in the game. Fellow junior Grant Morgan added 10 points, and sophomore Luke Hales scored nine points on a trio of first half three-pointers.

“We wanted to put the pressure on their defense,” said Coach Martin of his strategy in the final seconds. “We really didn’t want to settle for a jump shot,” Martin added. “Grant [Morgan] is our strongest kid and he gets to the line well. We wanted him to get as far (down the floor) as he could.”

The Bulldogs enjoyed last weekend off and will get a slight break in the schedule this week with no Tuesday game. They won’t return to live competition until Friday night at Bryant. Their next home game will be February 10 against Siloam Springs, and it will be a must-win situation for the GHS boys if they hope to secure a berth in the post-season.

 

At Van Buren

Anointed as the team to beat in the 7A/6A Central at the start of the season, Van Buren has lived up to its expectations, finishing the first half of the league schedule at 6-1, including a 70-36 victory over visiting Greenwood on January 27th.

But the final score doesn’t quite do justice to the effort put up by the Bulldogs, especially early. Trailing 14-11 after eight minutes, they actually led 17-14 in the opening minutes of the second quarter before their unorthodox strategy began to unravel.

“They had a good game plan early,” said Van Buren Head Coach Randy Loyd of the Bulldogs. “They spread us out a little bit, and it worked. They made some shots and got some momentum. But we changed a couple of things, and some guys made plays and we had a big run.”

Greenwood went on a 6-0 scoring run to open the second quarter on a pair of field goals by senior Hunter Johnston and two charity shots by sophomore Dylan Hughes. But the Pointers answered with a 16-0 run to end the first half and Greenwood’s lead evaporated for good.

Trailing 30-17 at the break, the Bulldogs had no answer for Van Buren’s big man, 6’-10” Mitchell Smith, who finished the game with 17 points, including a couple of dunks, plus six rebounds. The Pointers easily won the third quarter by a score of 21-9, and scored 19 more in the fourth period for the 70-36 win.

“We played a good first quarter,” said Coach Martin. “But Van Buren created some momentum and got some steals. They got some easy baskets, and some open threes. We just couldn’t stop the bleeding.”

Hughes led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points, the only GHS player to reach double figures. Johnston added seven points, while senior Matt Ludwig and junior Dustin Lunsford had five points each.

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