By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
Earle’s first possession last night featured three missed lay-ups, followed by three offensive rebounds before the fourth shot finally rang true. The opening sequence was more or less a precursor for how the game would go for each team. Earle won 67-42, avenging an earlier loss to Riverside that the Lady Bulldogs led until late in the game, before poor execution cost them down the stretch. “We felt like we gave one away when we went there,” explained third-year Earle head coach Corey Garrett. “We had a number of miscues on our part, missed lay-ups and other things.” So Earle (16-6 overall, 7-4 2A-3) set out to set the tone early on against their visitors from Searcy. The Lady Bulldogs dominated the Lady Rebels on the glass 45-27, including a decisive 12-1 edge in the first quarter and Earle would lead 18-8 after that period. Earle pushed ahead 33-14 at halftime as they forced 10 Riverside turnovers in the opening 16 minutes. In addition, Earle hit 15 of their 28 field goals, many of which came inside the painted area as the Lady Bulldogs stayed aggressive and attacked the rim. In the second period, Riverside was only able to notched a single field goal make in nine attempts. “We did feel like we could dominate the lane and we wanted to get out and run since they only had seven or eight players,” Garrett explained. “Anytime we grabbed a rebound, we wanted to get out and make them chase us a little bit.” Earle opened up a 30-point lead (48-18) on an Aundrea Allen lay-up from a fast break. Allen would lead all scorers with 15 points. Allen was just one of four double-digit scorers for Earle. Tekelia Baker hit for 13, while Cadonnia Childs and Michelle Smith pumped in 10 apiece. Riverside got 14 points from Haven Robertson and 12 from Bailey Asher. Though Garrett’s strategy was to wear down the Lady Rebels, Riverside responded well into the fourth quarter as the visitors had their best shooting quarter of the night, hitting seven of their 17 shots, but perhaps more importantly, losing no turnovers. “I think we kind of lost focus out here a bit, and to be honest, it kinda ticked me off a little bit,” Garrett said. “That’s something I got on them about in the locker room. It was one of the only areas I could really get on them tonight.” The win moved Earle into a third-place tie with Riverside with three games remaining in the conference race. If the teams finish with the same record, the Lady Bulldogs would take the tiebreaker thanks to margin of victory. Since losing to Marmaduke in early January, Earle hasn’t lost and the Lady Bulldogs have a key league date left, on the road against defending Class 2A state champion Marmaduke. “I feel like we’re playing pretty well right now. It’s the right time of the year to playing well and we may be playing as well as anybody in our classification,” Garrett said of his team. “Our goal is to finish in the top two of the league, because that guarantees us a trip to the regional.” Earle lost to Buffalo Island Central in the quarterfinals of the district tournament, missing the regional completely. The Lady Bulldogs are at home tonight against Cross County at approximately 6 p.m.