Lady Tigers' small squad advances past Harding Academy 54-39
JESSIEVILLE -- The Green Forest Lady Tiger nine-member squad showed Harding Academy it's not how many girls are on the team that counts Thursday at the Class 3A State Basketball Tournament.
Green Forest (21-8) rolled to a solid 54-39 win to advance to Friday's quarterfinal matchup with the Parker's Chapel Lady Trojans.
Team defense and hot shooting from sophomore Nikki Mullen, who scored 29 points, and a solid bench were the keys to the win.
"It's the most fun I've had in a long time," Tiger coach Kyle Farrar said. "I'm happy for the school and the kids.
"I'm also proud of the students who supported us and the administration for bringing a pep bus. They get us going and that really helps."
Vs. Harding Academy
11-4, 21-14, 41-36, 54-39
Sophomore Tara Mullen scored the first two points off of free throws at 5:03 of the first quarter, then senior Carley Arnold canned two threes, Nikki Mullen scored on a putback, and the Lady Tigers led 11-4 after one, holding the Lady Wildcats to four free throws.
"That's the kind of start you want. It got us feeling good," Farrar said.
Sophomore Nikki Mullen went to work the second quarter, canning two threes and a basket for 10 first half points, while twin sister Tara roamed for rebounds, cleaning the boards.
Harding Academy's Anna Bangs had seven points at the half and Megan Pack five, with Bangs finishing the night with 15 and Molly Koch 11.
"I'm real proud of the way we played defense as a team," Farrar said. "They had three monsters, compared to our little kids, and Megan Barinsky and Kayleigh Evans did a great, great job on their bigs."
Nikki started the second half with a deuce, then a three, followed by a three from Arnold and two from the Wildcats to make it 29-19.
Although just nine girls strong, the bench of freshmen twins Kaitlin and Kodee Powell and sophomore Kaleigh Evans allowed starters to rest or avoid fouls while the subs playing with seamless interaction.
"Our bench was huge, especially the second half," Farrar said. "We were up seven when they went in the third quarter and they doubled our lead. We didn't lose anything."
Nikki racked up 14 third quarter points, including 3 threes, 2 deuces and a free throw to keep Harding Academy down.
She scored 29, causing Farrar to say, "She's capable of scoring that much. State is a big stage to be able to perform, especially your first game there. Nikki had the ball in her hand and knocked down the shots they gave her."
Kaitlin Powell scored a two and was fouled, making the free throw and score 37-26 near the end of the third, with Nikki hitting a huge three over a lunging defense, just as the buzzer sounded, off an assist by Kodee, good for a 41-36 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Good offside defense by Nikki and Tara kept the Lady Wildcats from going inside as they tipped lobs away repeatedly from Harding Academy's big girls.
Kara Heads started Green Forest off right in the fourth, scoring two off an assist from Kaitlin at 6:56. Heads hit two free throws at 5:59 as the Lady Wildcats began to chase and foul, with Green Forest making 10 of 15 free pitches in the fourth, 15 of 22 for the game.
With 3:55 to play Green Forest took its biggest lead at 48-30 after Nikki made two free throws, giving her 4 of 6 in the fourth.
The Lady Wildcats made a run in the final quarter with Molly Koch hitting a three and deuce and Bangs scoring twice inside, but they were only 2 of 5 at the line.
Green Forest wrapped up their first round win with Makynna Jorgensen taking the floor for the first time since knee surgery earlier this year and Kodee making 2 of 2 at the line,
Scoring- GF- N.Mullen- 29, 5 3s, 5/8 Fts, 3/4 FG, 3/4 3pt; Arnold- 11, 3 3s, 2/4 Fts, 3/4 FG, 3/4 3pt; T.Mullins- 5, 3/4 Fts, 1/3 FG; Heads- 4, 2/3 Fts, 1/6 FG, 0/3 3pt; Kaitlin Powell- 3, 1/1 Fts, 1/3 FG; Kodee Powell- 2, 2/2 Fts, 0/2 FG, 0/1 3 pt. HA- Bangs- 15, 3/5 Fts; Koch- 11, 2 3s, 3/4 Fts; Pack- 8, 2/5 Fts; 2's- Karli Blickenstaff, ARiel English; Lindsey Farley- 1.