HASKELL - The Harmony Grove Lady Cardinals have had a tough go at the conference season thus far in 2012, dropping the first two 5-3A contests this year. After losing to Perryville in a 67-44 blowout, Mayflower came to town and sent the Lady Cardinals into a 0-2 hole with a 33-28 win.
On Tuesday, the Lady Cardinals welcomed the Fountain Lake Lady Cobras, a team they lost to twice last year, into the Daniel Henley Fieldhouse in hopes of breaking out in conference play. After shooting 23 percent in the first half and trailing 22-10 at the break, the Lady Cardinals outscored Fountain Lake 27-14 in the second half for the 37-36 victory.
“We were on a little losing streak,” Head Coach John White said. “To get a big win over a good team to end a losing streak is really big.”
Senior Laura Britt found a wide open Lexa Carpenter under the basket for the eventual game-winner with 10.1 seconds left in the game.
Both teams had a tough time shooting against each other’s defensive pressure. Harmony Grove got just nine shots off in the first quarter. Fueled behind 3-pointers from Lauren Dempsey and Sarah Jackson, the Lady Cardinals found themselves in a close chase at the end of the first, trailing 9-6.
Shooting-wise, Harmony Grove struggled tremendously in the first half Tuesday. In the second quarter alone, the Lady Cardinals missed 6 of 8 attempted shots. To start the quarter, Harmony Grove fell behind 18-6 before Michelle Eckhoff put the Lady Cardinals on the board and stalled the Lady Cobras’ scoring threat.
The Lady Cardinals looked all but finished at the break, trailing big at 22-10. Harmony Grove hit just 4 of 17 shots in the first half. Fountain Lake didn’t shoot much better, knocking down 5 of 20 from the field. Most of the Lady Cobras’ scoring came from the foul line. Fountain Lake hit 11 of 16 free throws in the opening 16 minutes. Harmony Grove attempted just two, missing both of them.
The second half was a whole new ballgame. With two new-look clubs on the court, the scoring got better while the contest became interesting fast.
Trailing by 12 at the break, Carpenter quickly cut the Lady Cobras’ lead to 10 with a short bucket. Still up by 10 with just over three minutes left in the quarter, Fountain Lake was not giving in at all. Carpenter hit a late bucket to cut the score to 30-22 still with a quarter to play.
After three quarters of clawing back, the Lady Cardinals hunkered down and played Harmony Grove basketball. After yet another made free throw by Fountain Lake, Carpenter scored once again to cut the Lady Cobras’ lead to 31-24, still with plenty of time on the clock.
Needing a run of their own, the Lady Cardinals cut their deficit to 31-28 with 5:13 left in the game after a made bucket by Britt. Moments later and the Lady Cardinals were within one at 33-32 with 2:28 left on the clock. Fountain Lake’s Katie Lampo hit the front end of two foul shots to tie the game at 33-33 late in the fourth quarter.
Playing well, Harmony Grove pushed the ball down the floor and stole back the lead at 35-33 after another successful bucket from Britt. But the game was far from over. With 38.1 seconds left, Rochelle Martin hit a layup and drew the foul, making the free shot to give Fountain Lake the one-point advantage at 36-35. With a must-score possession in the wings, the Lady Cardinals pushed up the floor once again, setting Britt up for an assist as she found Carpenter wide open in the paint for the go-ahead score.
The Lady Cardinals executed great defense and did not allow Fountain Lake to get a shot off in the final 10.1, stealing a much-needed win, 37-36.
The win breaks a three-game losing streak by the Lady Cardinals and gives them their first conference victory of the year.
“This game was huge,” White said. “Sitting at 0-3, you don’t really feel like you are in the (conference) race. At 1-2 and coming off of a big win and with another chance to win on Friday, you feel like you are back in it.”
The Lady Cardinals visit Episcopal on Friday, a team they beat twice last season.
Britt led Harmony Grove with 14 points on the night. Carpenter followed suit with 10, including the game-winner. Dempsey put up six in the win.
“Carpenter did a really good job attacking the basket in the second half,” White said. “When [Fountain Lake] spread its zone out, there were big holes in it and Carpenter got in around the basket and finished late.”
One of the strangest stats of the night was the foul shot ratio. Fountain Lake shot 31 foul shots, hitting 19, while Harmony Grove missed all three of its attempts.
Lampo led all scorers with 16 on the night. She hit 10 of 15 from the foul line.
Harmony Grove finished its night shooting 34 percent from the field. With the win, the Lady Cardinals get back to 5-5 on the year.
The Lady Cardinals play next at Episcopal. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m. Friday in Little Rock.