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.
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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.”
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.”
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.”
Melbourne wins back-t0-back titles with win over Quitman
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.
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.”
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 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.”
Quitman, Melbourne to tangle in Hot Springs for championship
March 12, 2020
By LARRY “SCOOP” McCARTY
QUITMAN — Playing for the Class 2A state championship is becoming an almost every year event for the Quitman Lady Bulldogs.
The Lady Bulldogs, who advanced for the third time in the last four seasons, will play defending state champion Melbourne at 6 p.m. Thursday in the state final at the Bank OZK Arena.
Quitman (30-3) defeated Hector in the 2017 final and lost to Earle in 2018. Melbourne (33-2) won last year’s championship with a win against Riverside.
“This will be different from last week as we must wait almost a week to play,” Lady Bulldog coach Tim Hooten said. “Sometimes, it’s anticlimactic, but we have to build back to last week’s level of play.”
Quitman lost to Melbourne 59-43 in November, but Hooten said that game will not affect Thursday’s matchup.
“We are aware of how good Melbourne’s posts are and they are two players deep at all five positions,” Hooten said. “We have quickness and speed, and hope to take advantage of it. We are a different team and not look back at the last time we played Melbourne. Records are meaningless now. It’s a one-game season.”
Sophomore Kenlee McCarn is one of the Melbourne players to watch, along with Jenna Lawrence. Kiley Webb runs the show at point guard. Josie Roark and Halle Weaver round out the starters.
“There is a lot of excitement,” Melbourne head coach Eric Teague said when asked about the atmosphere since Saturday’s semifinal win against Des Arc. “Winning the state tournament last year was exciting. It has been a tough year and we got every team’s best shot. We are excited about Thursday’s (today) game against Quitman.”
Melbourne has won 23 consecutive games with the last loss to Classen SAS from Oklahoma City in December. The Lady Bearkatz’ other loss came to Class 6A Bentonville, also in December. Melbourne averages 59 points a game and held opponents to 37 points.
“Defense is the strongest part of our team,” Hooten said. “We will use a full-court press and try and not let them get down the floor easily. We don’t have the size to battle inside. We will rely on our speed and quickness.”
Teague expects a tough game and hopes playing for the second straight year in the state final will benefit the Lady Bearkatz.
“We hope to be more settled than last year,” he said. “Quitman has a great team and is the hottest team right now in Class 2A.”
Quitman, which has won five regional tournament titles, will put a nine-game winning streak on the line. The Lady Bulldogs’ last loss came at home to Mount Vernon-Enola. Quitman lost to Melbourne and Mountain View in November.
Who wins the 2A Girls State Title
Melbourne (57%, 4 Votes)
Quitman (43%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 7
Senior guards Autumn Johnson and Halle Bennett start on the perimeter, with sophomore Taylor Hooten at point guard. Seniors Lucy Holland and Carson Rackley are the posts.
Holland said the team is confident and the earlier loss to Melbourne was forgotten a long time ago.
“You can’t go into a game scare about what happened last time,” she said. “Every game is new. “Our past state tournament experience will help because we know what it is like to win and also know what it is like to lose it. The nerves will still be there, but we don’t want to lose again.”
Rackley also agreed that the Lady Bulldogs will be ready for the matchup against Melbourne.
“I didn’t even score in that game and expect to play better,” she said. “Playing Melbourne once helped in preparation, but the disadvantage for them is we won’t play the same way as last time. We know what we must do to win.”
Quitman’s team average almost mirror Melbourne. The Lady Bulldogs average 60 points and held their opponents to 38 points.
Hooten said one of the keys for Quitman will be how effective it can make outside shots.
“We must have a good outside shooting game,” he said. “They are so big inside, but we are going have to score some on the inside. If we do that, it will help keep the game closer and puts us in position to win.”
Teague agreed that the game will be determined the outcome of Quitman’s speed against Melbourne’s size.
“We must protect the ball and not turn it over against Quitman’s fullcourt press,” he said. “We also must limited Quitman to one shot. We need to slow them down and not let them overwhelm us with their speed.”
Quitman won two championships in other sports last year, and Hooten hopes it carries over to the school’s second basketball title.
“These girls work to win in every sport,” he said. “We won the state cross country championship and the last two softball titles. Winning can become a habit. They know what it takes to win.”
CLASS 2A SENIOR GIRLS STATE CHAMPIONSHIP CAPSULE
QUITMAN (30-3) VS MELBOURNE (33-2)WHEN: 6 p.m. tonight
WHERE: at Bank OZK Arena in Hot SpringsTELEVISION: PBS (Statewide over the air, cable). Pregame 5:57 p.m. Tipoff 6:05 p.m.
RADIO: KABZ 103.7 "The Buzz: (Statewide). Listen Live LinkMELBOURNE BEARKATZ
STATE TITLES (2): 1973, 2019
COACH: Eric Teague
PROBABLE STARTERS: Guard Kenley McCarn (5-9, Sophomore), Guard Kiley Webb (5-3, Junior), Guard Josie Roark (5-6, Junior), Guard Halle Weaver (5-6, Junior) Forward Dani Hardaway (5-7, Senior) and/or Post Jenna Lawrence (6-2, Freshman)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Melbourne downed Fordyce (67-27), Bigelow (54-38) and Des Arc (68-54) at 2A state tournament in Quitman to advance to finals
BEARKATZ NOTES: Melbourne is the defending 2A state champion and on a 23-game winning streak ... Lost three key players off last season's championship team in seniors Halle Cooper and Shelby Morris, and 2019 state title game most valuable player Reagan Rapert, who transferred to Union, Missouri, for her junior season ... Melbourne defeated Quitman, 59-43, in the semifinals of the Clinton First Service Bank Tournament on November 21. The Bearkatz would defeat 6A Springdale Har-Ber for the title ... Melbourne's only losses this season were at Bentonville (55-31) on December 21 and to Oklahoma City Classen SAS (62-40) on December 28 on a neutral floor ... The Bearkatz are 90-13 over the past three season (87.4 percent) and 39-2 in conference play over that same period ... Melbourne competes in 3A for football and 2A for other sports ... Melbourne also won the state overall title in 1973 (until that tournament was discontinued in 1992) ... Melbourne won both the 2A-3 conference and district titles ... has only two seniors on roster.
QUITMAN BULLDOGSSTATE TITLES (1): 2017
COACH: Tim Hooten
PROBABLE STARTERS: Guard Halle Bennett (5-4, Senior), Guard Autumn Johnson (5-4, Senior), Guard Taylor Hooten (5-3, Sophomore), Post Lucy Holland (5-8, Senior) and Post Carson Rackley (5-8, Senior)
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Quitman defeated Hector (84-45), Marmaduke (71-37) and Earle (40-28) to punch ticket to today's title game.
BULLDOG NOTES: Quitman is on a nine-game winning streak ... The Bulldogs only losses this season are at Mount Vernon-Enola (57-51) on February 11 to Mountain View (54-24) on November 22 and to Melbourne (59-43) on November 21 ... Quitman has eight seniors on the roster ... Quitman defeated Earle, 49-44, in the semifinals on its way to claiming the 2017 state title while the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the finals this season with a 40-28 win on Saturday, both of those wins came at Quitman ... Over the past five seasons, Quitman has won 88.8 percent of the games it has played. The Bulldogs have a record of 155-20 over that stretch, an average of 31 wins per season. They have also have a record of 61-2 in conference play over that same stretch, and won five district and five regional championships. On the biggest stage, the state tournament, Quitman is 12-3 in the state tournament with a state title in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2018 ... The track team has also won a state championship in 2017, the cross country team has state titles in three consecutive seasons while the softball team is coming off back-to-back state titles ... Quitman competes in the 2A-5 North conference ... The Bulldogs are 2A members of all sports.
To say the Quitman girls basketball program is experiencing a run of success would be an understatement.
Over the past five seasons, Quitman has won an eye-popping 88.8 percent of the games it has played. The Bulldogs have a record of 155-20 over that stretch, an average of 31 wins per season.
They have also have a record of 61-2 in conference play over that stretch, and won five district and five regional championships. On the biggest stage, the state tournament, Quitman is 12-3 in the state tournament with a state title in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2018.
The track team has also won a state championship in 2017, the cross country team has state titles in three consecutive seasons while the softball team is coming off back-to-back state titles.
“Six-years ago Quitman wasn’t even on the map as an athletic school,” Quitman coach Tim Hooten said. “Right now I think we are really making huge strides.
“In cross country, we have won three championships in the past three years. We are going back to the finals and hopefully be in the position to bring home another basketball, but Melbourne will have a lot to say about that.”
Hooten says that the championships build off each other.
“Our girls program is at the top level right now,” Hooten said.
EARLE: Quitman has faced Earle in the state tournament the past four seasons with the teams splitting four games. Last season, Earle ended Quitman’s season last year with a 70-58 setback in the 2A quarterfinals at Carlisle and prevented the Bulldogs from repeating as state champions in 2018 with a 48-43 decision in the finals.
Quitman defeated Earle, 49-44, in the semifinals on its way to claiming the 2017 state title while the Bulldogs punched their ticket to the finals this season with a 40-28 win on Saturday. Both of those wins came at Quitman.
“We knocked them out when we won it,” Hooten said on Saturday. “They got us the last two years. We had a lot to prove here to get back at them. We really wanted to redeem ourselves because we played horrible last year. We didn’t get shots we should have. Our defense was not as good as it was tonight. To hold Earle to 28 points, that’s a defensie accomplishment.”
RUBBER MATCH: Melbourne handed Quitman its first loss of the season back on November 21 with a 59-43 decision at the First Service Bank Classic in Clinton. Quitman would defeat the host in the third-place game while Melbourne would go on to beat 6A Springdale Har-Ber for the tournament title. “I think we are a totally different team now,” Hooten said.
PATH TO THE TITLE GAME: Quitman defeated Hector (84-45), Marmaduke (71-37) and Earle (40-28) in the semifinals while Melbourne downed Fordyce (67-27), Bigelow (54-38) and Des Arc (68-54) to punch its ticket to Hot Springs.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TICKETS: Fans may purchase tickets for the Class 2A girls’ state basketball tournament until 1 p.m. Thursday at Quitman High School. Quitman will play defending state champion Melbourne at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Cost is $8. Doors will open at 5 p.m.
COMMUNITY PEP RALLY/SEND-OFF: A community pep rally will start at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in the old gym. The team will leave for Hot Springs around 3:15, according to the school’s Facebook page They will start at First Baptist Church and make their way through town around 3:15 p.m.
QUITMAN – Four Quitman seniors joined teammates on the practice floor at the Bulldog Complex Monday in preparation for Thursday’s Class 2A girls’ basketball tournament championship game.
The Lady Bulldogs (30-3) earned their third appearance during the past four years in the state final.
Quitman, which defeated Earle in the Saturday’s semifinals, will play at 6 p.m. Thursday against defending state champion Melbourne (33-2) at the Hot Springs Convention Center.
The four senior starters — Autumn Johnson, Halle Bennett, Carson Rackley and Lucy Holland — watched the 2017 championship when the Lady Bulldogs defeated Hector. Quitman lost to Earle in the 2018 championship game.
The senior players recalled those games, but they said the focus will be on Melbourne.
“We were on the 2017 team, but this will be a different experience,” Johnson said. “We want to win a title for the team by playing. I’m proud how far the team has come this season. We are focused and ready to play.”
Johnson said doubts remained throughout the season up to the state tournament if Quitman would reach the championship game again. She said one of the team’s goals was to prove that it could.
“We proved that we could get back to the championship game and that was something big to this team,” Johnson said. “We made the 2017 starters work hard in practice. The older players made us work hard, too. The seniors played together since the third grade, and we have amazing team chemistry.”
Holland said the Lady Bulldogs won three tough games last week, but the goal is to win one more game.
“We have three days to get ready,” she said. “We know what we need to do. Some people thought we might not make it, but our coach (Tim Hooten) believed in us and players believed in each other.”
Holland said previous championship experience will help, but Thursday’s game will be different.
“The experience will help us because we know what it is like to win it and know how it feels not to win,” Holland said. “The nerves will still be there, but we know what it will take to win.”
Rackley, like the other three seniors, realizes win or lose Thursday’s game will be the final time to step on the court together.
“Most seniors don’t experience this as their final game,” she said. “I will never forget the regional championship game when we trailed until scoring with 15 seconds left in the game and won. The older players always pushed us when we were younger. It helped to make us better players.”
Bennett also voiced confidence that the team will do well against Melbourne.
“We know what to expect and how to deal with the atmosphere,” she said. “We are excited about Thursday’s game.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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