Panther soccer teams win at Morrilton, improve to 3-0

Heber Springs’ Selena Childress goes up in an attempt to control the ball in action last week at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 9, 2020

The Heber Springs girls and boys soccer teams traveled to Morrilton on Monday, came away with victories in wet conditions and improved to 3-0 on the season.

The girls jumped out to a 5-nil lead and held on to win 5-2 despite two late penalty-kick goals by the Devil Dogs (3-3).

Abbi Dew, Taylor Hammons, McKenzie Becerra, Cristina Garcia and Ashley Spanel all scored goals for Heber Springs. Dew and Hammons assisted on two of those goals.

In senior boys play, the Panthers’ Jackson Harrod assisted on both goals as Heber Springs defeated Morrilton 2-nil. Luke Greenwald and Julio Rubio scored the goals for the Panthers. Morrilton fell to 1-2 on the season.

Both soccer teams host Conway St. Joseph beginning at 5 p.m. at Panther Stadium.

HEBER SPRINGS GIRLS SOCCER
COACH DREW LAWRENCE
OVERALL RECORD: 3-0
4A-NORTH CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-0
February 24  Heber Springs 5, Harding Academy 3 $
March 3      Heber Springs 4, Vilonia 1
March 5      Heber Springs 6, Southside Batesville 0
March 9      Heber Springs 5, Morrilton 2
March 10     Conway St. Joseph          7 p.m.
March 13     Greenbrier                 7 p.m.
March 19     at Cave City               7 p.m.
March 31     at Mountain View           7 p.m.
April 2      at Wynne *                 7 p.m.
April 6      Jonesboro Westside *       7 p.m.
April 9      at Brookland *             7 p.m.
April 13     Valley View *              7 p.m.
April 18     Southside Batesville Tournament
April 20     at Southside Batesville *  7 p.m.
April 23     at Lonoke *                7 p.m.
April 28     Batesville *               7 p.m.

(* - Denotes 4A-North conference contest.)
($ - Denotes Arkansas Activities Association Benefit Match. The match does not count on the official record.)
HEBER SPRINGS BOYS SOCCER
COACH JAY BISHOP
OVERALL RECORD: 3-0
4A-NORTH CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-0
February 24  Harding Academy 5, Heber Springs 1 $
March 3      Heber Springs 6, Vilonia 1
March 5      Heber Springs 2, Southside Batesville 0
March 9      Heber Springs 2, Morrilton 0
March 10     Conway St. Joseph          7 p.m.
March 13     Greenbrier                 7 p.m.
March 17     at Conway Christian        7 p.m.
March 19     at Cave City               7 p.m.
March 31     at Mountain View           7 p.m.
April 2      at Wynne *                 7 p.m.
April 4      Southside Batesville Tournament
April 6      Jonesboro Westside *       7 p.m.
April 9      at Brookland *             7 p.m.
April 13     Valley View *              7 p.m.
April 20     at Southside Batesville *  7 p.m.
April 23     at Lonoke *                7 p.m.
April 28     Batesville *               7 p.m.

(* - Denotes 4A-North conference contest.)
($ - Denotes Arkansas Activities Association benefit match. Does not count on official record.)

Panther seventh-grade girls finish strong

Heber Springs’ Taylor Parker looks to get rid of the basketball in action earlier this season at the Panther Den. PHILIP SEATON FILE PHOTO

February 14, 2020

The Heber Springs seventh-grade girls basketball team started slow but showed great improvement over the course of the season.

Heber Springs coach Jay Moore said that this was the first time most of his team had played together.

“Half of my girls said that this was their first year to experience basketball, just playing the game,” he said. “I felt like we started way behind as far as learning to play with each other. We went from the first game where we could hardly inbound the basketball to beating a team that had beaten us earlier in the season.”

That team was Cedar Ridge, whom the Panthers beat on Feb. 6 at the Panther Den, 14-6.

“The only thing they are lacking in my opinion is to just go out there and play as hard as they can and believe in themselves,” Moore said. “The last couple of games of the season the effort really showed.

“We struggled to score in the early part of the season, and the last couple of games, we average in the teens close to 20 points so definitely a lot of improvement.”

BOXSCORES
CEDAR RIDGE AT HEBER SPRINGS
February 6
CEDAR RIDGE SCORING (9): No. 25 7, No. 3 2
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (14): Jovie Smithson 5, Kinnison Prince 4, Taylor Parker 4, Baleigh Burchfield 1

CLINTON AT HEBER SPRINGS
Clinton        7 12  6  7 - 32
Heber Springs  2  6  5  2 - 15
CLINTON SCORING (32): Gresham 14, Long 8, Collins 6, Shaver 4 
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (15): Baileigh Burchfield 5, Kinnison Prince 4, Taylor Parker 2, Kaitlyn Pierce 2, Faelen Evans 2 

Panther 7th-grade boys finish season with 8-1 mark

Heber Springs’ Weston Warden dribbles past at Mount Vernon-Enola defender in seventh-grade action at the Panther Den this past season. PHILIP SEATON FILE PHOTO

February 14, 2020

The Heber Springs seventh-grade boys basketball team closed out its season on February 6th with a victory over Cedar Ridge.

The Panthers finished the season with an 8-1 mark with several games canceled due to weather and one game with Quitman because of the flu.

Heber Springs coach Dusty West was pleased with how the season went for the Cubs.

“This group showed promise and a lot potential,” West said. “The class has some good guard play, got some bigs (post players) and gives us something to look forward to toward the future. If that core groups stays together, Heber basketball is about to improve.”

BOXSCORES 
January 30 
HEBER SPRINGS AT SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE 
Southside Batesville  3  7   4  5 - 19 
Heber Springs         9  6  15  7 - 37 
SOUTHSIDE BATESVILLE SCORING (19): Kiefer 8, Calhoun 5, Force 3, Keeling 2, German 1 
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (37): Liam Buffalo 16, Ty West 5, Jude Herring 4, Weston Warden 3, Braden Biggs 3, Lawson Greenwald 3, Cooper Cantrell 3 

January 27 
HEBER SPRINGS AT MAYFLOWER 
Mayflower      8  10 - 18 
Heber Springs  6  14 - 20 
MAYFLOWER SCORING (18): No. 35 9, No. 20 5, No. 11 2, No. 10 1, No. 21 1 
HEBER SPRINGS SCORING (20): Liam Buffalo 7, Ty West 6, Weston Warden 3, Jude Herring 2, Jacob Harrod 2  

Heber Springs starts season 2-0

Heber Springs’ Cristina Garcia fights for the ball with the Southside Batesville goalie. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 5, 2020

Lyon College signee Taylor Hammons finished with a hat trick as Heber Springs improved to 2-0 on the young season with a 6-nil victory over Southside Batesville at Panther Stadium.

Hammons scored all of her goals in the first half, as Heber Springs built up a 6-nil lead at the break and cruised to a mercy-rule win, which included a shortened second-half clock.

“I didn’t even notice it a first,” Heber Springs coach Drew Lawrence said. “I went ‘wow, Taylor’s got three.’ She’s the type that you give her the ball around the net and it will usually find a way.”

Heber Springs senior Jillian Herring looks to go on the offensive against the Southerners. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Panthers stayed on the offensive throughout most of the contest with McKenzie Beccera, Jillian Herring and Abbi Dew all adding goals. While Becerra assisted on two goals and Selena Childress on another.

“McKenzie had two assists … and half of those were assisted,” Lawrence said. “It’s really good that we scored six goals but to have at least half of that were assisted, that’s really big. We not only have girls that can go out there and get goals on their own like Jillian and Libby did tonight, but we are also able to use the team and score that way as well.”

Heber Springs opened it’s season with a 4-1 victory over 5A Vilonia on Tuesday.

“That’s really big,” Lawrence said of the win. “I know Vilonia beat us 4-0 last year. They are a bigger school and we are a newer soccer program, so to go on the road, it was nice to really put it on them. We got big contributions from everyone involved. “

Stutts finished with two goals against Vilonia while Hammons and Herring each put one in the back of the net.

Those three seniors are among a core group that are poised for a big season.

Heber Springs senior Abbi Dew gets a kick off against Southside Batesville. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

“It really helps that nine out of our 11 starters are seniors,” Lawrence said. “It makes us really excited for this year.”

With 31 players out for the team, Lawrence is also excited about the future of the program.

“Most people would get kind off worried for the next couple of years,” he said, “but I think are first five off our bench are freshmen or sophomores. We are really excited about this year, not only because the strong senior group, but because we arealso going to keep working in those freshmen, keep on working in those sophomores, and keep on building this program.”

Heber Springs also picked up an Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) Benefit Match win on February 24 at Panther Stadium with a 5-3 decision over Harding Academy.

The Panthers led 5-nil at the break and played back-ups the second half.

Benefit matches played before the first official start date by the AAA for soccer of March 2 do not count in the official record.

HEBER SPRINGS GIRLS SOCCER
COACH DREW LAWRENCE
OVERALL RECORD: 2-0
4A-NORTH CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-0
February 24  Heber Springs 5, Harding Academy 3 $
March 3      Heber Springs 4, Vilonia 1
March 5      Heber Springs 6, Southside Batesville 0
March 9      at Morrilton               7 p.m.
March 10     Conway St. Joseph          7 p.m.
March 13     Greenbrier                 7 p.m.
March 19     at Cave City               7 p.m.
March 31     at Mountain View           7 p.m.
April 2      at Wynne *                 7 p.m.
April 6      Jonesboro Westside *       7 p.m.
April 9      at Brookland *             7 p.m.
April 13     Valley View *              7 p.m.
April 18     Southside Batesville Tournament
April 20     at Southside Batesville *  7 p.m.
April 23     at Lonoke *                7 p.m.
April 28     Batesville *               7 p.m.

(* - Denotes 4A-North conference contest.)
($ - Denotes Arkansas Activities Association Benefit Match. The match does not count on the official record.)

Heber Springs tops Southside, travels to Morrilton

Heber Springs’ Luke Greenwald looks to go on the attack against Southside Batesville in soccer action at Panther Stadium. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 5, 2020

Heber Springs held off a spirited Southside Batesville to claim a 2-nil victory on Thursday at Panther Stadium.

The win improved Heber Springs to 2-1 on the young season.

“Tough playing against that bunch,” Heber Springs coach Jay Bishop said. “They always play incredibly hard. They get fired up to play Heber Springs and so do we in playing them.

“They defend really well, really hard. We had a lot of chances to score, but unfortunately only two of them fell for us, but that’s two more than they got. “

Heber Springs got a first half goal from junior Landon Barbee to lead at the break, before getting a late goal from senior Jackson Harrod on a free kick to set the margin.

The Southerners (0-1-1) played more of preventive defensive match allowing most of the action take place on their end, keeping a majority of the players back on defense which made shots on goal difficult but kept the offensive threats at a minimum.

“It very much is a prevent style,” Bishop said. “(They are looking to ) draw you or beat you in a shootout. Scoring two goals against this bunch is difficult. It’s hard to score one with the way they play and the way they defend.

“I am proud of them (my team). I told them at the end of the game, would have liked to have had a bigger margin of victory but ultimately a win is a win. When you go to bed tonight, you go to bed a winner.”

Though Southside Batesville is a conference foe, this match was scheduled as a nonconference contest.

On Tuesday, Heber Springs traveled to 5A Vilonia and came way with a 6-1 victory.

The Panthers got two goals from Julio Rubio and single goals from Diego Rubio, Gus Hannah, Jackson Harrod and Luke Greenwald against the Eagles. Barbee finished with two assists.

“We played a real good game against Vilonia,” Bishop said. “They are the exact opposite of what we saw tonight (against Southside Batesville). A team that was going to let us get behind and run create some of those chance. We scored six goals and anytime you do that you feel good about what you did.”

Heber Springs opened the season with a 5-1 loss at Panther Stadium to Harding Academy in Arkansas Activities Association benefit match.

“Of the three teams we’ve played, Harding’s the best team we have faced,” Bishop said. “They do a good job. It’s only the second year of their program, but they are a very good team. We are going to have to beat good teams to get where we want to be at the end of the road.”

HEBER SPRINGS BOYS SOCCER
COACH JAY BISHOP
OVERALL RECORD: 2-0
4A-NORTH CONFERENCE RECORD: 0-0
February 24  Harding Academy 5, Heber Springs 1 $
March 3      Heber Springs 6, Vilonia 1
March 5      Heber Springs 2, Southside Batesville 0
March 9      at Morrilton               7 p.m.
March 10     Conway St. Joseph          7 p.m.
March 13     Greenbrier                 7 p.m.
March 17     at Conway Christian        7 p.m.
March 19     at Cave City               7 p.m.
March 31     at Mountain View           7 p.m.
April 2      at Wynne *                 7 p.m.
April 4      Southside Batesville Tournament
April 6      Jonesboro Westside *       7 p.m.
April 9      at Brookland *             7 p.m.
April 13     Valley View *              7 p.m.
April 20     at Southside Batesville *  7 p.m.
April 23     at Lonoke *                7 p.m.
April 28     Batesville *               7 p.m.

(* - Denotes 4A-North conference contest.)
($ - Denotes Arkansas Activities Association benefit match. Does not count on official record.)

Heber Springs host Pottsville in 4A-4 play

March 8, 2020

Heber Springs returns to 4A-4 action on Monday when the Panthers host Pottsville at 4:30 p.m. at the Heber Springs Sports Complex.

The game was originally scheduled for Friday but was pushed back because Pottsville was in the 4A state basketball tournament.

Heber Springs opened conference play on March 3 with a 13-3 setback at Dover (1-2 overall, 1-1 in 4A-4).

The Panthers and Pirates were tied at 3-all heading into the bottom of the fourth before Dover plated 10 unanswered and run-ruled Heber Springs.

The Panthers struck first in the top of the first as Alec Kelley walked and would later score on a double steal.

Dover will would tie things up in the bottom of the frame with a triple and a single off Heber Springs starter Garrett Hudspeth.

After a quiet second for the Panthers, a lead-off walk and back-t0-back singles would give Dover a 3-1 advantage heading into the third.

The score would remain that way until the fourth when Matthew Cook lead off by reaching on an error and scoring on an Hudspeth double. Fate Berry followed with a single driving Hudspeth for the Panthers final runs of the afternoon.

In the bottom of the fourth Dover would plate four runs, after a lead-off walk, a double and two errors would help push across four Pirate runs.

In the fifth, two more Panther errors and four doubles helped Dover end the contest with six runs in the inning.

Heber Springs had three hits on the night with Berry going 2-for-2 with an RBI.

Hudspeth struck out five but walked four in getting the loss in three plus innings of work.

Dover used five Panther errors and 12 hits to plate five earned runs.

HEBER SPRINGS AT DOVER
March 3
Heber Springs    100 20 -  3  3  5
Dover            120 46 - 13 12  1
Note: 1-out when winning run scored
WP: Dawson Branch
LP: Garrett Hudspeth (1-1)
HEBER SPRINGS HIGHLIGHTS: Fate Berry 2-for-2 with an RBI; Garrett Hudspeth, RBI double with run scored; Alec Kelley, run scored
DOVER HIGHLIGHTS: Dawson Branch 2-for-3, double, triple, RBI and two runs scored; Brock Payne, 2-for-4 with a double, three RBIs, and a run scored; Josh Besterfeldt, two runs scored; Kaleb Williams 1-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs; Lance Millsaps 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored; Jeremy Robinson, RBI double, run scored; Jayce Sharp 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored; and Jon Greathouse 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.
PITCHING: Heber Springs, Hudsepth 3 2/3 innings pitched, six hits, seven runs, three earned runs, five strikeouts, four walks; Alec Kelley 2/3 IP, five hits, six runs, two earned runs, one strikeout; Matthew Cook, faced one batter and gave up a hit; Dover, Dawson Branch 5 innings pitched, three hits, three runs, two earned runs, seven strikeouts and one walk.
HEBER SPRINGS 2020 BASEBALL
COACH SCOTT BRAMLETT
OVERALL RECORD: 1-1
4A-4 RECORD: 0-1
March 2   Heber Springs 7, West Side Greers Ferry 5
March 3   Dover 13, Heber Springs 3 *
March 9   Pottsville *                 4:30 p.m.
March 10  at Ozark *                   4:30 p.m.
March 13  Subiaco Academy *            4:30 p.m.
March 16  at Harding Academy           4:30 p.m.
March 17  Dardanelle *                 5 p.m.
March 19  at Pangburn Tournament
March 20  at Clarksville *             4 p.m.
March 21  at Pangburn Tournament 
March 31  Morrilton *                  4 p.m.
April 3   Dover *                      4:30 p.m.
April 7   at Pottsville *              4:30 p.m.
April 9   Ozark *                      4:30 p.m.
April 14  at Dardanelle *              5 p.m.
April 17  at Subiaco  Academy *        4:30 p.m.
April 21  at Morrilton *               4 p.m.
April 23  at Clinton                   6 p.m.
April 24  Clarksville *                4 p.m.
April 27  4A-4 Tournament at Dover

(* - Denotes 4A-4 Conference contest)
(Note: Games and times are subject to change)

Panther softball team heads to UCA for conference opener

Heber Springs’ Hope Turney touches home plate in softball action last week in Heber Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 8, 2020

The Heber Springs softball opens conference play on Monday with a doubleheader against Ozark.

The pair of 4A-4 contests will be played at neutral site on the University of Central campus in Conway.

Heber Springs (2-1) is coming off a 14-0 setback at Sylvan Hills on Thursday. The Panthers will be looking for their first conference win since 2018 and their first since the 4A-4 was created before the start of the 2019 season.

Heber Springs will be on the road Thursday and Friday before return to the Heber Springs sports complex on Saturday for their annual tournament.

HEBER SPRINGS 2020 SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
COACH DUSTY WEST
RECORD: 2-0
4A-4 RECORD: 0-0
March 2   Heber Springs 16, Maumelle 9
March 3   Heber Springs 13, White County Central 2
March 5   Sylvan Hills 14, Heber Springs 0
March 9   vs. Ozark at UCA *           V DH      4:30 p.m.
March 12  at Riverview                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 13  at Conway St. Joseph         V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 14  Heber Springs Tournament     V
March 16  at Dover *                   V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 17  Dardanelle *                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
March 19  Clinton                      V/JV      5 p.m.
March 30  at Clarksville *             V/JV      4 p.m.
March 31  Morrilton *                  V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 3   Dover *                      V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 6   Jacksonville                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 7   at Pottsville *              V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 13  Cedar Ridge                  V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 14  at Dardanelle *              V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 16  at Calico Rock               V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 20  at Cave City                 V/JV      4 p.m.
April 21  at Morrilton *               V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 23  at Mayflower                 V/JV      4:30 p.m.
April 27  4A-4 District Tournament at Dover

(* - Indicates 4A-4 Conference Contest)
(Note: Schedule is subject to change due to weather)
(Note: The Heber Springs/Pottsville contest for March 6 will be re-scheduled due to a basketball conflict)

Vanlandingham signs with Lyon college

Heber Springs senior Katelyn Vanlandingham signs her NAIA Letter-of-Intent to play volleyball next season at Lyon College in Batesville.

February 28, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

Heber Springs senior Katelyn Vanlandingham quickly made the decision of her distinction to play college volleyball.

Vanlandingham, a four-year starter, signed a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics letter-of-intent with Lyon College Friday (February 28).

She played an important role in leading the Lady Panthers to the 2018 state tournament and within one win of returning in 2019.

“My brother, Tyler, just graduated from Lyon and played football,” said Vanlandingham, when asked about her choice of school. “I received a few other offers, but Lyon was my choice. I love the school.”

Vanlandingham moved from Memphis to Heber Springs before the start of her freshman season. She played volleyball while living in Memphis, and Heber Springs coach Andrea Riggs said that experience showed on the court during the past four years.  

“She was a huge contributor to the program,” Riggs said. “She had more experience in the beginning than other players and it showed. She had good skills and could pass, serve and hit the ball well.”

Heber Springs’ Katelyn Vanlandingham

Vanlandingham said she didn’t know what to expect after leaving Memphis, but it worked well.

“It was a big transition,” she said. “I had a good four years and proud of what I did.”

Vanlandingham said it’s difficult to select one special memory while playing for the Lady Panthers, but she will remember all four seasons.

“Every game was a memory,” she said.

Riggs said Vanlandingham is showing the younger players that hard work can pay off and help in receiving an opportunity to play in college.

“The current high school players and the younger players coming up will benefit from Katelyn’s signing,” Riggs said. “It may help in getting girls playing other sports to consider volleyball. It will help in continuing the program’s success. We want to keep it going in that direction.”

Vanlandingham said one of her goals next season is contribute to her new team’s success.

“I hope to play as a freshman,” she said. “I’m focusing on all areas. There is always room for improvement.”

LYON COLLEGE BOUND
With Vanlandingham signing with Lyon College, she becomes the sixth Heber Springs athlete to sign with the Batesville school in the past two years.
CLASS OF 2020
CHEER AND DANCE - Gentry Hamilton     
VOLLEYBALL - Katelyn Vanlandingham
WOMEN'S BASKETBALL - Libby Stutts 
WOMEN'S SOCCER - Taylor Hammons
CLASS OF 2019
BASEBALL - Nick Chaney
FOOTBALL - Blaze Nelson

Quitman advances to 2A state title game

The Quitman Lady Bulldogs defeated Earle on Saturday, 40-28, to advance to the 2A state championship game this week in Hot Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 7, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

QUITMAN – Defense, not a high-scoring offense, opened the door for a return to the Class 2A state championship basketball game for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs.

Earle was held to single digit in three of four quarters as Quitman advanced to the state final for the third time in four seasons with a 40-28 win at the Bulldog Complex Saturday.

Quitman (30-3) will meet Melbourne (33-2) at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Bearkats punched their ticket with a 68-54 win against Des Arc in the other semifinal on Saturday at Quitman.

“It was a defensive game between two good teams,” Quitman coach Tim Hooten said. “Both teams reacted against the physical play. We did a good job of getting into defensive position and drew charges. That slowed down Earle. It is a defensive accomplishment to hold Earle to 28 points.

“We got good play off the bench when we got into foul trouble during the second half. They may have been out of positions at times, but they got the rebounds and took good care of the ball. They played their roles.”

Quitman’s Taylor Hooten. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE McCARTY

Hooten hinted after Friday’s quarterfinal win against Marmaduke how defense would be a key against Earle. He also said scoring back-to-back field goals in the final seconds of the first half was important.
“The girls did it on their own,” said Hooten when asked about that sequence. “We jumped passes and scored. I told the girls earlier to play a little off Earle’s players because of their speed. Those two field goals gave us a big lift at halftime.”

Taylor Hooten led Quitman in scoring with 11 points while post player Lucy Holland also finished in double figures with 10. Carson Rackley had nine points but her play was limited because of foul trouble during the second half, but Holland shouldered part of the load during Rackley’s absence.

“Our defense pulled us through,” Rackley said. “I was in foul trouble, but my teammates picked it up. I never care about how many points I score, but my only concern is getting the win. I try to be a good cheerleader from the bench when that happens.”

Quitman’s Lucy Holland looks to go up for a shot against Earle’s Kaliyah Washington. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Holland downplayed her role during the second half and credited her teammates for their performance.

“Someone has to step in when that happens,” she said. “We can’t rely on just one player to do it all.”

Rackley and Holland said the team welcomed an opportunity to play in the state tournament at home. They also said part of the motivation was getting redemption from last year’s performance against Earle at the state tournament in Carlisle.

“We came into the tournament confident and knew Earle was there,” Rackley said. “We benefited from playing at home and in front of our fans.”

Holland agreed.

“I knew it would be Earle and us in the semifinals,” she said. “The seniors realized every game could be our last one. Our crowd and community are the best around. Our fans had a great effect on us. It will be great to play our final game on the biggest stage. It will be the greatest feeling in the world.”

Earle took a 2-0 lead early in the first quarter, but Quitman answered by scoring seven consecutive points and led 7-2 going into the second quarter.

Quitman’s Halle Bennett looks to penetration past Earle’s T’asja Hughey. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

The Lady Bulldogs maintained the lead and struck quickly in the final 10 seconds for a momentum lift. Rackley scored on an inside move and then Taylor Hooten intercepted the inbound pass and made a shot at the buzzer for the 20-14 halftime lead.

Tim Hooten said the message to his players during halftime was simple.

“We were missing too many shots and taking too many shots in a panic,” he said. “We needed to relax, so we could shoot better. We did that in the third quarter.”

Quitman controlled the second half. The Lady Bulldogs built a 29-22 lead by the end of the third quarter and never challenged for the remainder of the game.

Hooten said preparation for Melbourne will begin on Monday.

“We lost to them early in the season,” he said. “We are a different team now.”

EARLE VS. QUITMAN 
Class 2A Semifinals at Quitman
March 7, 2020
Earle (30-7)   2  12  8   6 - 28
Quitman (30-3) 7  13  9  11 - 40
EARLE SCORING (28): Colbi Maples 12, Elaijha Brown 8, T’asja Hughey 6, Tiara Rogers 2
QUITMAN SCORING (40): Taylor Hooten 11, Lucy Holland 10, Carson Rackley 7, Halle Bennett 7, Gracie Smith 2, Haley Trawick 2, Autumn Johnson 1