The Harmony Grove Cardinals basketball teams kicked off their portion of the Bill Gibbs Memorial Tournament in Haskell last night against the Woodlawn Bears and Lady Bears. With the girls looking to move their record to 3-1 on the year and the boys looking for their first win, Harmony Grove stormed through round one of the tournament, sweeping Woodlawn with back-to-back wins. The Lady Cardinals won 49-30 while the boys made it out with a 50-39 showing.
The Lady Cardinals took a big advantage early on, jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the first quarter, thanks to a quick 3-pointer to open the game followed by a field goal bucket.
The lead would not last long as Woodlawn stormed back to take the lead at 10-9 with 2:10 left in the first. The Lady Cardinals found themselves back on top just moments later with an 11-10 lead after a big bucket by guard Laura Britt.
With seconds ticking off, the Lady Cardinals broke the press and and found Britt at the top of the key for a last second 3-pointer to put the Lady Cardinals up 14-10 at the end of one.
The second quarter started out as a slugfest with both teams exchanging buckets early. Harmony Grove jumped on top first with a bucket from senior guard Macy Coffee, who was in bad foul trouble for most of the night, to put her team up 16-10. After making 6-8 free throws, the Lady Bears found themselves within two midway through the second at 18-16. The Lady Cardinals went on a 7-0 run right after that, moving the score to 25-16 to end the first half.
With four starters in bad foul trouble, head coach John White was forced to sit his best players in the second half.
That would not play a factor in the game as the bench was able to continue the success of the starters and hold off the Lady Bears.
“Just like our last ball game at Ouachita, we had some girls come in off of the bench and get quality minutes for us,” White said. “When asked to step up, they stepped up.”
Harmony Grove pulled out to a staggering 39-23 lead in the fourth quarter after only allowing seven points in the third. The Lady Cardinals’ defense allowed six in the second quarter. With the Lady Cardinals were hitting shots and working on offense, Woodlawn was struggling to get its tempo down and to score, ending with the Lady Cardinals moving on in victory with a 49-30 win.
The Lady Cardinals held Woodlawn to single digits scoring in the last three quarters, allowing six once and seven twice.
“We have been focusing on trying to pressure the ball a little bit and trying to make it hard for them to get into their offense and we did a really good job of that tonight.”
Britt led all scorers with 17 points. That showing had White all smiles after the game.
“She has really stepped up and done a really good job handling the basketball for us,” White said. “She is a good kid and we are really glad to have her.”
Torie Simmons added 11 on the night.
The Lady Cardinals have an off night tonight, but take to the floor against Mt. Vernon on Thursday with tip set for 7 p.m.
“We have got to take care of the ball a little better and be more aware of our surroundings,” White said. “If we do that, then we will be just fine.”
The second game of the night was much like the first, a win for Harmony Grove.
Unlike their first three games, the Cardinals jumped out to a big lead in the first, ending the quarter with an 11-2 lead. The second was much tighter but still ended with the Cardinals leading by double digits at 28-18 heading into the half. Gabe Richard led the Cardinals with 12 first half points . The Cardinals also went 6-8 from the free throw line.
“The game plan was to pressure the ball early,” head coach Richard Moore said. “But, we got in foul trouble and played into their game which forced us to sag off.”
Leading big at the half would not hold Woodlawn down as they came out firing on all cylinders to pull within two late in the third at 32-30.
The Cardinals would cushion their lead to end the quarter 38-32. With the Cardinals not getting any foul calls and with Woodlawn in the bonus since the early third quarter, the Cardinals were still able to play smart defense and pull the game out to a big lead in their favor at 46-34 late in the fourth. Aaron Jackson played the final quarter with four fouls, but did not change his game a bit as he still battled for inside position. Jackson added six big points for the Cardinals in the fourth as their defense held Woodlawn to four points in the final quarter. They allowed only two in the first.
Richard led the game with 19 points.
For Moore, this win could not have come at a better time.
“These guys are great kids and they work their butt off,” Moore said. “This win is good for them to get it off of their chest and relax but still go out and work hard. That is what I like about this bunch. I see improvement every day.”
The Cardinals will take the floor against Mt. Vernon on Thursday with opening tip set for 8:30 p.m.