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Lady Bulldogs Continue Strong Season Against League Foes

By Richard White

It’s not as though anyone really doubted the strength of this current Lady Bulldogs’ basketball team. After all, they are the reigning Class 6A state champions. But just to alleviate any remaining uncertainty, Head Coach Clay Reeves’ girls are systematically marching their way through the first half of the 7A/6A Central schedule with hardly a hiccup.

After posting a 13-1 mark in non-conference play, they are off to a 5-0 start in league play and now have an impressive record of 18-1. They continue to hold down the top spot in the Class 6A state rankings after wins over Russellville, Alma, Conway, and Siloam Springs in the past two weeks.

 

At Russellville

Sarah Elkins passes the ball while sprinting down the court. She scored 14 points at Russellville last Friday to lead the team. (Photo by Richard White courtesy of the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Sarah Elkins passes the ball while sprinting down the court. She scored 14 points at Russellville last Friday to lead the team. (Photo by Richard White courtesy of the Greenwood Dog Pound)

Last Friday night the GHS girls battled through major foul trouble to post a 46-27 conference win over the Lady Cyclones at Russellville. While the victory kept the Lady Bulldogs atop the 7A/6A Central standings, more importantly it was their third Class 6A win after earlier defeating Siloam Springs and Alma. Eligibility and seeding for the state tournament will be determined not by their overall conference mark, but by Greenwood’s record against the other three 6A schools in the league.

Cold shooting doomed the Lady Cyclones against the GHS girls, who turned in a somewhat less-than-inspiring performance themselves, no doubt due largely to an epidemic of fouls. Russellville had just five points in the first quarter and eight in the second to trail 24-13 at the break.

The Lady ‘Dogs took control of the game with 11 unanswered points during a critical stretch of the first half, while the Lady Cyclones’ offense remained in the deep freeze. But the decisive quarter was the third, when Greenwood outscored Russellville 12-4 to take a 19-point lead at 36-17.

Megan Hartness, the team’s leading scorer this season, had just five points and was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game, along with teammates Peyton Clements (5 points) and Maddie Goodner (11 points). Sarah Elkins led Greenwood with 14 points. Fellow senior Sydnie Henson added five points off the bench, while senior starter Brittany Branum had three points and pulled down seven rebounds.

 

Alma at Greenwood

Maddie Goodner

Lady Bulldogs’ junior Maddie Goodner (15) plays defense at mid-court against the Airedalettes last week. (Photo by Richard White courtesy of the Greenwood Dog Pound)

After scratching and clawing their way to a 19-19 draw after eight minutes, the Lady Bulldogs ripped the net for 26 points in the second period, and never looked back on their way to a 74-44 home victory over rival Alma on January 20th. It was their fourth consecutive win to start conference play.

After connecting on just seven of 22 field goal tries in the first period, they hit 10 of 16 shots in the second quarter to build a 46-26 halftime advantage over the Airedalettes. Greenwood put on an offensive show in the second quarter with a 7-0 run to open the stanza, an 11-0 burst midway through the period, followed by a 9-0 scoring streak to end the half.

The GHS girls also forced 19 turnovers in the first half and had a five-rebound margin on the boards, many of them on the offensive end of the court. The Lady ‘Dogs also easily won the third quarter, outscoring Alma 23-11, before clearing the bench and coasting to the 30-point win.

“We came out with a lot of confidence,” said Alma Head Coach Madelyn Flenor. “I was not at all disappointed in our effort. [But] we had three or four turnovers in a row, and [Greenwood] went bam, bam, bam. By the time we regrouped, it was really over. “We had a rash of turnovers and they really spread it out,” said Flenor. “It got ugly from there.”

Coach Reeves echoed those same sentiments. “Alma did a great job in the first quarter. They attacked us, and hit a bunch of shots. Their kids were playing hard and giving great effort.”

Brittany Branum

Senior Brittany Branum (13) eyes the shooter at the free throw line in last week’s blowout win over the Alma varsity girls. (Photo by Richard White courtesy of the Greenwood Dog Pound)

As for his team’s offensive performance, Reeves said, “We try to play full speed, and we do have a lot of [scoring] runs. We may go a minute without scoring, and then score three or four quick baskets. We’ll take them any way we can get them.”

He also acknowledged that the game lived up to his expectations, at least in the first half. “It’s Greenwood-Alma, [so] it’s always going to be a fight,” said the coach. “It’s always going to be a battle. It’s a rivalry game. That’s what I expected at the start of the game.”

Megan Hartness had 21 of her team-high 25 points in the first half, opening the decisive second period with a personal 7-0 scoring run on a three-pointer, an 18-foot jumper, and a fast-break lay-up. Fellow seniors Sarah Elkins and Brittany Branum also had 10 points each in the first half and combined for 32 points in the game, 16 each. The large second half lead also invoked the Arkansas Activities Association’s Sportsmanship (Mercy) Rule, hastening the game’s conclusion.

 

Conway at Greenwood

What a great game! The January 16th meeting at H.B. Stewart Arena between the Lady Bulldogs and Conway’s Lady Wampus Cats was a classic. The scheduled rematch on February 13th at Conway should also be a humdinger. Both teams are coming off state title campaigns, and both are hoping to repeat as champs this season. With 22 lead changes, the game went down to the wire.

Greenwood senior guard Megan Hartness calmly deposited two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining, and Conway’s top player, guard Jordan Danberry, drove the length of the floor and had a final shot roll off the front of the rim at the buzzer as the Lady Bulldogs won a nailbiter, 64-63.

“This game is exciting to watch every time we play,” said Coach Reeves after the win. “It’s pretty much like this every time. It was great. We try to play teams like this in the pre-season.”

“We know every time we come to Greenwood, it’s a great basketball atmosphere,” said Conway Head Coach Ashley Nance. “We really don’t have this atmosphere at Conway because the place is so big. They had somewhat of a home-court advantage, and we knew going into it that it was going to come down to the wire.”

Greenwood trailed 22-19 after one period, but rallied in the second quarter to take a 41-37 lead at the half as the two teams combined for 78 first half points. The offensive pace slowed somewhat after the intermission, but Conway used an 18-7 scoring advantage in the third period to erase the Greenwood lead. A steal and lay-up put Conway ahead 59-49 with 6:11 remaining in the fourth quarter for the biggest lead of the contest by either team.

But if the Lady Bulldogs felt any pressure or panic, they didn’t show it. Senior guard Sydnie Henson drilled a three-pointer to jumpstart an 11-0 Greenwood run, wiping out the Conway lead in less than four minutes. After a Brittany Branum free throw, Sarah Elkins hit two more charity shots and added a bucket off an offensive rebound, before Megan Hartness put Greenwood up 60-59 with a long-range bomb at the 2:24 mark.

Trailing 63-62 with 34 seconds remaining, the Lady Bulldogs ran the clock down to take the last shot, putting the ball in the hands of Hartness, who was fouled after driving the lane and making a move to the basket. After a timeout she hit both free throws, but the defense had to be careful not to foul Conway’s Danberry, hoping to inhibit her progress enough to force her into taking a bad shot. As it turned out, she got a great shot under the basket, but the ball rolled off the rim to preserve the GHS victory.

“There’s five minutes to go and we’re down 10,” said Coach Reeves. “Our kids just kept fighting all the way to the end and never gave up. That’s what winners do, and [Conway] would do the same thing. It was a great game to watch. [But] it’s a hard one to coach.”

Hartness finished the game with 24 points and three blocked shots. Sarah Elkins had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Peyton Clements and Brittany Branum both had seven points, while Sydnie Henson finished with six points.

 

At Siloam Springs

The Lady Bulldogs opened the road portion of their conference season at Siloam Springs on January 13th with a decisive 69-39 victory over the Lady Panthers. Greenwood’s swarming defense took away passing lanes and suffocated the home team with pressure, converting multiple turnovers into easy baskets in the 30-point lopsided win.

The GHS girls dominated all four quarters offensively, outscoring Siloam Springs 21-11 and 10-4 in the first half for a 31-15 margin at the break. They won the third quarter by a cushion of 19-10 and coasted to the victory with a 19-14 edge in the fourth period.

The top-ranked Lady Bulldogs forced third-ranked Siloam Springs into 27 turnovers for the game, including eight straight in the second quarter. Greenwood also drilled nine 3-pointers on the night, including two by Megan Hartness, who led the team with 21 points. Sydnie Henson, Maddie Goodner, and Ashley Rozell also hit a pair of treys each. Goodner finished the game with nine points, while Brittnay Branum had seven.

“This team really plays well together when we play hard and all five players are working on the defensive end,” said Coach Reeves. “Our defense creates a lot of scoring opportunities.”

“We just had too many turnovers and too many gifts,” said Siloam Springs Head Coach Tim Rippy. “[Greenwood] shoots really well, but we can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did and be able to beat a team like that.”

 

Upcoming

This week the GHS girls hope to remain unbeaten in conference play with games at Van Buren this past Tuesday, before returning home on Friday to face Mt. St. Mary’s of Little Rock. Results for Tuesday’s contest were unavailable at press time.

This week will also complete the first half of the league schedule for Greenwood, with seven games remaining over the next four weeks before the start of post-season play. The 6A state basketball tournament will be played at Siloam Springs in early March. Friday’s home game should tip-off around 6 p.m. at H.B. Stewart Arena.

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