Lady Bulldogs blow through Caddo Hills
The semifinal round victory for Earle sets up a grudge match against Quitman with a state championship on the line
Last Saturday with a 6427 domination of Caddo Hills in the semifinal round of the 2018 Arkansas 2A Girls Basketball State Tournament, the Earle Lady Bulldogs earned the right to play one more game this season, a state championship contest against the Quitman Bulldogs in Hot Springs this Thursday.
The game carries even more than a chance for a second state title in two years for Earle, however.
The contest against Quitman (35-3 overall) brings with it a chance for revenge for Earle (29-5) after falling to Quitman in the semifinal round of last season’s state tournament 49-44.
“The girls are very motivated, looking for redemption and are heading back to Hot Springs with a chance to do that,” said Earle head coach Corey Garrett. “But, like I’ve said all along, the only goal is to win state. That’s the only goal, anything less will be a disappointment.
We’re one step away, one game away… (But), we’ve got some unfinished business.”
Earle’s lead scorer and junior guard RoShala Scott, who led the Lady Bulldogs on the scoreboard last season in the loss to Quitman, is ready for the rematch.
“It feels great,” Scott said. “I feel like we can go back and get revenge on Quitman. I’m happy we’re playing Quitman because they got us last time… We’re in it to win it. We’re going all the way. I’m determined to win and we’re going all the way.”
That determination from Scott showed itself in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of this season’s state tournament, as the Earle junior averaged 18.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in the first two contest, including 21 points and eight boards over Caddo Hills (23-11) last Saturday.
“She was kind of a little too aggressive, but you never want to take that aggression away from her,” Garrett said of Scott’s performance in the semifinal round. “Ro (Scott) did what she does. She came out, played and set the tone for us right off the bat.
With Ro, you know what you’re going to get. She did what she does. She got a couple of fouls, but she was able to settle down and play the game the way we expect her to play.”
Contributing nine points, two rebounds, a steal and a block in the opening stanza, Scott certainly did help the Lady Bulldogs establish control over Caddo Hill as Earle jetted out to a 19-8 lead after the opening quarter.
But also pitching in for the Lady Bulldogs early on was guard Elaijha Brown.
The Earle sophomore pushed through six points while grabbing three offensive boards and recording two steals in the first frame. Brown finished the night with Earle’s only double-double performance, 11 points and 10 rebounds. Then again, Garrett expects nothing less.
“She’s just been playing the way she’s capable of playing,” Garrett said.
“She’s been playing with a lot of energy, aggressive and playing with confidence. So, Elaijha’s doing what I expect her to do.
She’s doing what I expect her to do because she has the ability to do that.”
After giving up 11 points in the second stanza, the Lady Bulldogs defensive effort came back from the locker rooms even sharper in the third, once again limiting Caddo Hill to just eight points, in order to carry a 54-27 lead into the final quarter.
“We knew that they had one, maybe two, solid ball handlers,” Garrett said.
“Everybody else was kind of suspect. So, we just wanted to hound them, hound them, hound those ball handlers. Wear them out and run players at them.”
With 5:54 remaining in the contest, Scott dished a pass to Earle freshman Colbi Maples, who finished the night with 17 points and eight rebounds, to induce the 30-point mercy rule and give the Lady Bulldogs a 58-27 lead.
Earle heads into this Thursday’s state title game after blowing through the state tournament, winning both state tournament games so far by an average of 32 points.
“We feel pretty good,” Garrett said. “We’re playing at a high level right now. We’re playing the way you want to be playing this time of year. The defense has been outstanding. So, I mean we feel pretty good. We feel confident in what we can do and what we feel like doing.”
What the Lady Bulldogs feel like doing is taking back to Earle a state championship, but first Garrett’s team will need to knock off a Quitman squad that heads into this Thursday’s contest 61.1 points per game while allowing an average of just 39. The Lady Bulldogs, meanwhile, average 64 points per contest while limiting opponents to average of 33.9.
The 2A girls state championship will be determined this Thursday at the convention center in Hot Springs, Arkansas with tipoff slated for 6:00 p.m.
By Collins Peeples