Lady Bulldogs streak into early conference showdown
Springdale High heads into Friday's 6A-West Conference game against Fayetteville with a full head of steam, sporting a six-game winning streak.
Lady Red'Dogs coach Heather Hunsucker said defense has been a constant throughout the winnings streak.
"We shot so poorly last week against Har-Ber and West," Hunsucker said. "I think we shot 22 percent on Friday night. You just don't win unless your defense sustains. And since that first game back from Christmas break that's the one thing that's been steady for us."
Springdale (11-4, 4-0 6A-West) led by nine over Rogers High at halftime Tuesday, but defensive pressure fueled a third-quarter flurry that led to a 66-43 rout. Arkansas signee Marquesha Davis did her part, pouring in a game-high 24 points. But she had plenty of help and Hunsucker said opponents are learning her team is much more than a one-person show.
Senior Jeniya Gause chipped in 17, including three 3-pointers, and Ashlyn Minchew added 111.
"I think we have a lot of nice pieces," Hunsucker said. "We focus on team basketball and that's something I'm proud of."
She also pointed out senior Ashley Pegue has elevated her play, after being benched for a time earlier this season.
"I'm really proud of her, she came back with some extra motivation," Hunsucker said. "Her attitude was 'I'm willing to do whatever it takes and work here.' She wanted to win that spot back for her team.
"I raised that same thing with Jeniya and she did the same thing instead of taking it personal. For a 17-year-old old to show that maturity. That's something."
Even this early in the conference season, Hunsucker agreed tonight's game is big with both teams being undefeated in league play and tied for first place in the 6A-West.
"The league goes through Fayetteville, there's no doubt," Hunsucker said. "But if we can play defense without fouling and keep those kids on the floor, we feel like we have a chance."
-- Paul Boyd • @NWApaulb
Eagles earn attention with win over Harrison
Huntsville first-year coach Grant Myrick thought his team might surprise a few folks this season, after seeing them in a few summer camps.
The undersized Eagles (13-6, 5-0 4A-1 Conference) did just that with a big 79-73 overtime win over Harrison on Friday night and they lead the east division of the 4A-1. They are also tied with west division leader Farmington for the best record in the league.
"People were kinda talking about how Harrison might just run through this league," Myrick said. "We took that and kinda talked to our kids. We kinda felt like we could shock the conference and maybe shock the state."
Myrick said the team's hung its hat on solid man-to-man defense, but the offense has come around lately.
"We're starting to hit some shots and the guys are getting some confidence," Myrick said. "We're finishing around the basket some, too."
Huntsville doesn't have many players with varsity experience, but lack of size has been the biggest issues, Myrick said. But the Eagles have worked to overcome that problem.
"My biggest guy is 6-1 and a-half, and my post player is about 6-foot," Myrick said. "But these guys don't have any quit in them."
Myrick said following a coaching legend like Jim Stafford hasn't been a problem either.
The monumental shift in Huntsville basketball was obvious as Stafford and girls coach Charles Berry both decided to retire after last season. It was no doubt the end of an era, but the players have adapted, Myrick said.
"One's name is on the building and the other is on the court," Myrick said. "They have a big picture that says legends and that's what they are. The transition's been good. The kids have done everything I've asked. They don't care who scores. They just want to win."
-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB
Mann riding hot shooting streak
Junior guard Cejay Mann ended nonconference play for Alma with a key shot and hasn't looked back after that, being a reliable scoring option in Class 5A-West Conference play.
Mann hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds against Pea Ridge in the championship game of the Airedale Classic and now is averaging 20 points in conference play for the Airedales.
"He certainly has hit some big shots for us," Alma coach Stan Flenor said of Mann. "As we have grown as a team, he has improved at that point guard position. We have two seniors, so we are young trying to get better."
Since conference play started, Mann has been the leading scorer twice and was the second leading scorer in the other two games for Alma (12-2, 3-1).
He opened league play scoring 17 against Vilonia then 14 against Siloam Springs. He scored 23 points against Little Rock Christian and finished with 26, including making six 3-pointers, against Russellville on the road.
Senior guard Tanner Shelton and junior forward Taelon Peter also have been key on offense to keep the scoring attack balanced.
"We are kind of one of those teams where we have a lot of scoring options," Flenor said. "Most nights it could be a handful of guys that lead us in scoring. They do a good job finding the open man."
Alma has been tested early in the season playing in seven games decided by six points or fewer, including three overtime games.
"That experience in a close game is very valuable," Flenor said. "You can talk about it and practice it all you want. But until you go out there in key situations in games, you never know."
-- Harold McIlvain • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Reames, Indians rolling in 1A-4 Conference
Expectations were high entering the season for senior guard Pacyn Reames with County Line returning just one other starter from last year's team. He hasn't disappointed.
Reames, now a three-year starter and a two-time all-state player, is leading the way for the Indians again this year scoring 16 points per game.
"He is doing a good job for us," County Line coach Joe Brunson said. "On top of scoring the ball, he does a lot for us. He does a good job rebounding and plays good defense."
Reames has been the go-to often on offense in most games, but the Indians have been able to be balanced. Senior Zack Franklin, a returning starter, and Tyler Young, last year's sixth man and starter down the stretch, have been key.
"It helps to have someone out there who you trust in Reames with the experience," Brunson said. "We've looked to him a lot. But we've got other kids who have had that experience as well. They've all done a good job for us."
County Line (19-5, 8-0 1A Region 4) remain unbeaten in conference play but still has a lot to learn down the stretch run of the season, Brunson said.
"We still have some road games that will be good tests for us," Brunson said. "We are still trying to find our footing at times. We are still trying to find everybody's role on offense and defense. I think we are getting closer to what we are supposed to be doing."
-- Harold McIlvain • Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette
Lady Wolves on the move
Lincoln has won seven consecutive games and moved into second place heading into tonight's 3A-1 West Conference home game against Mansfield.
That's quite a turnaround for Lincoln (16-4, 6-1), which finished 15-13 last season and 5-22 the year before coach Emilianne Slammons took over a girls program that was in disarray.
Slammons knows about winning. She played high school basketball at Greenland under coach Alan Barton and she was an assistant there when the Lady Pirates captured a state championship in 2013.
Lincoln hasn't lost since a 55-28 defeat to defending state champion Charleston on Dec. 18. But the Lady Wolves have recovered with a seven-game winning streak that included a 51-35 victory at Greenland and a 51-44 victory over West Fork on Tuesday.
Lincoln also won the championship in the Ozark Holiday Tournament, where junior Jessica Goldman was named Most Valuable Player.
"Jessica averages 15 points for the season, but she's been scoring about 20 the last eight games," Slammons said. "We can count on her every night. Winning the tournament at Ozark really helped our confidence. I've been telling the girls they're good enough, and they've embodied it."
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
West secures first league win
A fast start enabled Bentonville West to beat Springdale Har-Ber 53-51 and earn its first 6A-West Conference victory of the season.
But poor free throw shooting down the stretch led to a comeback bid by Har-Ber, which outscored West 21-8 in the fourth quarter. The difference was Anna Kash, who finished with 19 points and made 3 of 4 free throws in the final minutes to secure an important road victory for the Lady Wolverines (6-10, 1-3).
West will try for a second conference victory tonight at Rogers Heritage (4-12, 0-4), which lost 55-33 at Van Buren on Tuesday.
"That's Anna," West coach Randy Richardson said of the senior guard's clutch performance against Har-Ber. "Her instincts kicked in. She knows who to get the ball to and when to hang and get fouled to get to the free-throw line."
West shot the ball well from the outset and used a 15-2 run to take a lead 29-18 at halftime. The Lady Wolverines changed defenses early, a move Richardson credited to assistant coach Demi Hargrove.
"We started in man and they were hitting us, then we went to a matchup (zone)," Richardson said. "Coach Hargrove, she's in my ear all the time giving advice. She made that call and I'm glad she did. We jumped into that and started playing defense at a higher intensity level because we're making shots."
-- Rick Fires • @NWARick
Lady Bulldogs overcome foul problems
Fayetteville's 41-40 victory over Bentonville High was a close call in more ways than one Tuesday night.
The Lady Bulldogs (11-2, 4-0 6A-West) ended the game with starters Sasha Goforth, Hatianna Releford and Coriah Beck -- who hit the game-winning shot as the buzzer sounded -- all having four personal fouls and in danger of leaving the game if one more foul was called on those three players.
"We, unfortunately, have had experience with that this year," Fayetteville coach Vic Rimmer said after Tuesday's game. "I think our bench did a good job of maintaining. That's what we were trying to do: maintain during the middle of the game."
Beck and Releford spent a lot of time on the bench because of foul troubles, while Goforth picked up her fourth foul late in the game while trying to defend Maryam Dauda, Bentonville's 6-foot-4 sophomore post. Beck, however, scored Fayetteville's last four points, including her shot at the buzzer.
Dauda gave Bentonville a 40-39 lead on her jumper with 3.5 seconds remaining, and the Lady Tigers had three fouls to give before putting the Lady Purple'Dogs on the free-throw line. Two of them were used -- at 2.6 seconds in Fayetteville's backcourt and again with 1.9 seconds left -- but Beck was not fouled as she went to the bucket for her last shot.
"That's just coach's philosophy on that because there wasn't a lot of time left," Rimmer said. "I think (Bentonville coach Tom Halbmaier) was afraid we might catch and shoot, and if he fouls there then we get three free throws.
"I know what he was thinking, and I'm not criticizing it. I think I would have done the same thing."
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Pirates seek 20th victory tonight
Jasper's boys can reach the 20-win plateau tonight as the Pirates earn a victory tonight against 1A-1 Conference foe Alpena.
More importantly, it keeps Jasper (19-9, 5-2) firmly in second place in the 1A-1 standings and just one game behind league-leading Deer. The Pirates maintained their grip in the No. 2 spot Tuesday with a 65-55 victory over The New School.
"We've been so up and down this year," Jasper coach Steve Lynch said. "We're beating the teams that we're supposed to beat, but we couldn't seem to get over the hump until Tuesday night. The middle quarters, we played really well against The New School.
"Now we have a big conference game against Alpena, which just upset Deer the other night. I hope we can be ready to play again."
Junior Caleb Carter, a 6-foot-3 junior forward who earned all-state honors last year, is the Pirates' leader when it comes to scoring on a regular basis. The Pirates, however, are more effective when Carter gets help from Chance Pruitt, a 6-foot forward who missed 18 games last year following knee surgery, and point guard Jonathan Schweitzer.
Pruitt enjoyed a big game Tuesday against The New School, when he scored a team-high 24 points, while Carter added 23.
"When Chance is playing that well, then we have a chance to beat somebody," Lynch said. "Schweitzer is also having a good, solid year. He doesn't score a lot, but if you leave him open he can knock down a 3 and keep teams honest.
"I thought we played so poorly the other night against Deer, and I told our players that good teams always find out how to respond after a loss like that. We shot the ball really well, and I was proud to get a good win."
-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry
Preps Sports on 01/18/2019
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