Shooting woes cost Bulldogs in title game

The Quitman Lady Bulldogs pose with the state runner-up trophy on Thursday in Hot Springs. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 12, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

HOT SPRINGS — One of Quitman’s major strengths — outside shooting — didn’t materialize in the Class 2A girls’ state tournament basketball game at the Bank  OZK Arena Thursday.

The Lady Bulldogs made 10-of-43 shots (23.3 percent), 2-of-18 3-pointers (11.1 percent), in the 47-28 loss to Melbourne.

2A STATE FINALS COVERAGE SPONSORED BY 

Quitman started the game by hitting 4-of-20 (1-of-9 3-pointers) during the first half. Hooten voiced concerned earlier this week of Melbourne’s height affecting his team’s shooting efficiency.

“We didn’t shoot up to our capability,” he said. “Maybe, it was the bright lights, but Melbourne needs to be credited from sticking with us. We had a lot of shooting difficulty. Melbourne’s size affected us. They always had a hand in our face.”

Quitman’s Lucy Holland. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Senior post Lucy Holland led the Lady Bulldogs with 14 points and all of the team’s points during the first quarter. Holland made 5-of-14 shots (1-of-2 3-pointers) and had seven rebounds.

Players also dealt with the possibility of cancellation of the game because of the COVIDA-19 virus and suspension of spring sports by the Arkansas Activities Association until March 30.

“We found out right before the game that the virus may cancel softball and track and field,” Holland said. “We knew this may be our last chance to play. That helped to motivate us, but we tried not to think about it much. The possibility of not playing again also gave us motivation to play until the final second.”

A majority of the players also play softball and won back-to-back state championships. They also are the nucleus of the track and field team that competes at a high level.

But basketball was the No. 1 concern during the game. Holland did yoeman work on the boards with five of her seven rebounds on the defensive end.

The taller Lady Bearkatz held a 31-28 rebounding advantage against Quitman.

“Even if you are smaller, you can’t be thinking that way,” she said. “You can’t think that way when going up against someone taller. It may be a disadvantage, but it can be an advantage for your teammates. You can pass out to one of the guards on the perimeter.”

The Quitman seniors, from left, Haley Trawick, Gracie Smith, Lanny Goff, Autumn Johnson, Erin Stephens, Lucy Holland, Halle Bennett, and Carson Rackley. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Holland also talked about not changing her shot, even against a taller opponent.

“You can’t alter your shot because you get off rhythm,” he said. “You have to keep doing what you want to do.”

The seniors compiled a 126-18 record, four conference and regional championships and three state final appearances.

“We hope the program’s success continues,” Hooten said. “These girls set the bar very high. We don’t say we are rebuilding, but reloading. We intend to be back here (to state final) next year.”

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‘Katz bite ‘Dogs for 2A championship

Melbourne wins back-t0-back titles with win over Quitman
Quitman’s Autumn Johnson walks off the floor at the end of the 2A senior girls championship game. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

March 12, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

HOT SPRINGS — Melbourne’s height advantage and a tenacious full-court press defense proved too much for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs to overcome at Bank OZK Arena Thursday.

Quitman (30-4) never recovered from the second quarter and lost to defending champion Melbourne 47-28 in the Class 2A state basketball championship game.

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“We had an outstanding season,” Quitman coach Tim Hooten said. “We played a team with outstanding height and speed. We still won 30 games and kept the streak of five consecutive conference and regional championships going.”

The Lady Bulldogs stayed close during the first quarter, but Melbourne pulled away by outscoring Quitman 26-9 in the second quarter. Lucy Holland scored all of Quitman’s points during the opening quarter and finished with 14 points.

Quitman’s Erin Stephens looks to drive past Melbourne’s Kylee Humphries. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Melbourne (34-2) outscored the Lady Bulldogs 16-14 during the second half.

“We did a good job defending them during the first quarter,” Hooten said. “We took away the things from them we wanted to take way. The full-court press hurt us in the second quarter. We never recovered from the second quarter.”

Melbourne coach Eric Teague said winning back-to-back state championships was not easy.

“We started the season with a different group of players and didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “They trusted the coaches and each other.”

Jenna Lawrence led Melbourne with 11 points and blocked seven shots.

“Both teams were nervous at the beginning of the game,” Teague said. “We needed to let game come to us in the first quarter. I told them between quarters they hadn’t played well and they need to pick up their play. Our full-court press and by making 3-pointers helped us to the lead in the second quarter. We did a better job of challenging Quitman.”

Melbourne’s Josie Roark goes up for a shot against Quitman’s Carson Rackley. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Holland became the first player to score as she drove, drew a foul and made the shot with 3:54 left in the first quarter. She sank the free throw to complete the three-point play.

Kenley McCarn and Dani Hardaway answered by making 3-pointers and Melbourne never trailed again. Holland hit 2-of-2 free throws as the Lady Bearkatz led 6-5 going into the second quarter.

McCaron started the second quarter by making a 3-pointer. Holland kept Quitman close by making 2-of-2 free throws, reducing Melbourne’s lead to 10-9. The Lady Bearkatz broke the game open on a 22-5 scoring run and built a 32-14 halftime lead.

Melbourne’s Kenley McCarn was named the state finals MVP. PHILIP SEATON PHOTO

Melbourne increased its lead to 44-21 by the end of the third quarter.

“We felt a target on our back this year after winning it last season,” Teague said. “Every team gave us everything they had. We kept getting better and I knew it would help us to get back to the state final. That was one of the big differences against Quitman.”

Melbourne lost back-to-back games to Bentonville and Classen SAS from Oklahoma City, the second-ranked team in that state, in late December. Teague said that was a turning point for his team.

“Those experiences taught them to listen and trust more,” Teague said. “We lost to two good teams and learned our weaknesses.”

CLASS 2A SENIOR GIRLS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
QUITMAN VS. MELBOURNE
March 12, 2020
at Bank OZK Arena, Hot Springs
Quitman (30-4)   5  9 7  7 - 28
Melbourne (34-2) 6 26 12 3 - 47
QUITMAN SCORING (28): Lucy Holland 14, Taylor Hooten 6, Halle Bennett 5, Autumn Johnson 3.
MELBOURNE SCORING (47): Jenna Lawrence 11, Kenley McCarn 8, Dani Hardaway 8, Kiley Webb 6, Halle Weaver 6, Josie Roark 5, Kylee Humphries 3.
QUITMAN STATISTICS: Autumn Johnson 2 rebounds; Halle Bennett 4 rebounds, 3 steals; Taylor Hooten 3 rebounds, 1 rebound, 1 steal; Lucy Holland 7 rebounds; 4 rebounds; Carson Rackley 1 assist, 1 blocked shot, 1 steal; Erin Stephens 1 rebound, 1 steal; Gracie Smith 1 rebound; Haley Trawick 2 rebounds.
MELBOURNE STATISTICS: Kiley Webb 3 rebounds, 1 assist; Dani Hardaway 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals; Josie Roark 5 rebounds, 1 assist; Jenna Lawrence 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 blocked shots, 1 steal; Kenley McCarn 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals; Halle Weaver 1 rebound, 1 blocked shot.  

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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

 
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Quitman runs past Marmaduke, advances to 2A semifinals

Quitman’s Autumn Johnson drives past a Marmaduke defender during class 2A senior girls state quarterfinal action in Quitman. The Bulldogs defeated the Hounds, 71-37, to move into Saturday’s semifinals.

March 6, 2020

By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY

QUITMAN – Friday turned into another day at the office for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs.

The Lady Bulldogs controlled from start to finish and defeated the Marmaduke Lady Greyhounds 71-37 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A state basketball tournament at the Bulldog Complex.

Quitman (29-3) will meet Earle (30-6) at 6 p.m. today with the winner advancing to the state championship game at the Hot Springs Convention Center next weekend. Earle defeated Conway Christian 59-41 in Friday’s quarterfinals.

“It was nothing different than what we did in games during the entire season,” Quitman coach Timothy Hooten said. “We were very accurate on shooting 3-pointers. Every game we play, I tell the girls to play like it is a championship game, so when we get to the championship game, it will be like another game.”

Carson Rackley was one of four Quitman players scoring in double figures with 17 points. Autumn Johnson had 15 points, while Taylor Hooten and Lucy Hooten each finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

The Lady Bulldogs made nine 3-pointers, led by Johnson and Hooten, who each had three. Halle Bennett, Gracie Smith and Rackley each made a 3-pointer.

Quitman’s Carson Rackley goes up for a shot against Marmaduke’s Zoe Massey during 2A state senior girls quarterfinal action at Quitman. PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHELLE McCARTY

Reesa Hampton, who made four 3-pointers, led Marmaduke with 16 points. Heidi Robinson, one of the team’s leading scorers on the season, was held to five points no 3-pointers.

“I told the girls to challenge Robinson to shoot 3-pointers,” Hooten said. “We didn’t want Hampton shooting 3-pointers, but she did. When Robinson picked up her fourth foul, they put a smaller girl into the game, and we took advantage of the mismatch inside.”

Holland made a jumper to break a 2-2 tie early in the first quarter. Quitman increased its lead and took an 18-9 advantage going into the second quarter.
Smith’s 3-pointer gave the Lady Bulldogs a double-digit lead at 24-11 with less than six minutes left in the first half. The two teams played even for the remainder of the quarter as Quitman led 33-20 at halftime.

Quitman outscored Marmaduke 22-15 during the third quarter and held a 55-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“The third quarter has been a big quarter most of the season,” Hooten said. “We came out and played at a higher level of intensity.”

Quitman finished the game on a 16-2 scoring run.

The Lady Bulldogs will get a familiar state tournament opponent in Earle, also the Lady Bulldogs. Earle ended Quitman’s season last year in the state quarterfinals with a 70-58 decision, cost Quitman a chance to repeat as state champions in 2018 with a 48-43 setback in the 2A finals while the Cleburne County Lady Bulldogs downed Earle 49-44 in the semifinals before going on to win the 2A state title in 2017

“Saturday is going to be a great game,” Hooten said. “We don’t have the size like recent seasons, but our posts still play good defense and know how to take charges. We will be ready to play Earle.”

QUITMAN-MARMADUKE BOXSCORE
Marmaduke  9 11 15  2 - 37
Quitman   18 15 22 16 - 71
MARMADUKE SCORING (37): Reesa Hampton 16, Karlin Gilliam 5, Heidi Robinson 5, Angel Johnson 5, Maranda Bear 3, Tori Sutherland 2, Zoe Massey 1.
QUITMAN SCORING (71): Carson Rackley 17, Autumn Johnson 15, Taylor Hooten 13, Lucy Holland 12, Halle Bennett 7, Gracie Smith 3, Erin Stephens 2, Haley Trawick 2.  

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