Lady Bulldogs win 14th straight game, first state title
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
HOT SPRINGS — Before his first season as head coach of the Earle Lady Bulldogs, Corey Garrett said that he wanted to have his team competing on the state’s largest stage by his third season. Mission accomplished. Garrett’s third edition of Earle Lady Bulldog basketball won its 14th consecutive game at Bank of the Ozarks Arena last night, defeating Hector 63-41 in front of 2,963 fans for the school’s first basketball title, in its initial appearance. So, did Garrett feel vindicated after arriving on schedule at Earle? “Very much so. That was the plan all along,” explained Garrett. “We knew it would take time to get the system in place, get our ladies playing the way that I wanted them to play and I always felt like in three years, we’d be able to compete on this level and hopefully do this year-in, and year-out.” Earle freshman Roshala Scott was named the Class 2A state tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring a game-high 19 points and tallying up six rebounds. Perhaps more impressively is the fact that Earle hasn’t lost a game since Scott was added to the varsity roster. Scott played her entire freshman season on Earle’s 24-1 junior high district championship team. “Since the season is over, I want to come back stronger next year,” Scott said after the game. Earle bolted out to a quick 9-2 lead, but Hector hung tough. The Lady Wildcats battled back to lead 13-11 after the first quarter, and Hector had dominated the boards 15-8 in the early going. Then Hector forward Laken Stanek went down with a leg injury early in the second quarter. The senior would be forced to leave the game before returning late in the half. Stanek’s absence allowed Earle to dominate the second quarter 22-6 as the Lady Bulldogs forced five Hector turnovers in the stanza, while hitting a robust nine of 17 from the field in that quarter, many of which were lay-ups. In fact, Earle didn’t score a point outside of the painted area until a Scott three-pointer with 36.8 seconds left in the half gave Earle a 33-19 advantage that would double as the half-time score. “We felt like we’d be able to pressure them, turn them over, get out and run,” says Garrett of his team’s defense in the second quarter. “We prefer to get the easy buckets rather than playing half-court and having to work for it.” “They made a good run there,” said Hector head coach Walt Davis. “They did a good job of getting it to 14 at half-time. We’ve dealt with adversity all year and you’ve gotta credit Earle. Good teams take advantage of opportunities during games, and they did that.” Earle didn’t let up in the third quarter. The Lady Bulldogs pushed their lead to 20 points when senior postwoman Takila Baker split a pair of free throws for a 39-19 lead with 5:15 remaining the third. Shortly thereafter, Andrea Allen hit lay-ups on consecutive possessions for a 43-22 advantage. Earle led 45-27 after three. In the fourth, Earle senior guard Laderyca Childs hit three three-pointers, the last of which gave her team a 58-35 lead. Those players, plus forward Janae Bowers, have played three years for Garrett and are the coaches’ first true senior class that he had for three years on the court. “It’s definitely a group that I’ll remember,” said Garrett with a laugh. “More than anything, it kind of started with them. Just watching them, even before I got the job, I felt like we could do something special if they’d get in the gym and work, and they put in a lot of work.” Hector (25-11 overall) got 18 points from Stanek and 10 from Alyssa Millsaps while Paige Lee posted a team-high 11 boards and Stanek added nine. Earle was led by Scott’s 19 points, while Childs added 16, and Baker notched a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds. Childs also had eight rebounds.