Class 2A No. 2 ranked Quitman dealt Mount Vernon-Enola two losses by a combined 50 points entering Friday’s contest at Mount Vernon. The Lady Warhawks battled to the buzzer on senior night, but the Lady Bulldogs proved too strong, withstanding MVE’s valiant effort to pull out a 44-41 victory.
MVE jumped ahead 17-12 after one quarter of play before Quitman drilled a trio of three’s in the second quarter to take a 26-22 lead. The Lady Bulldogs extended their lead to 38-29 heading to the fourth quarter and held off the Lady Warhawks, who missed potential game-tying three in the closing seconds.
“I thought we shot really poorly and we didn’t handle the ball very well,” said Quitman head coach Tim Hooten. “Once we took a lead we held it, but we’ve got to do better.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who drubbed Calico Rock by 30 points the night before on senior night, enter their final two regular season games with a 24-3 record including 12-2 in 1A/2A District 7 games.
With all five starters and key reserves returning from last year’s Final Four team, Quitman appears poised to make another run as hosts of this year’s state tournament. Although Hooten would have liked to see his team play better, it was good to get a close road win in preparation for the fast approaching postseason.
“It was most definitely good for us,” said Hooten. “You want good teams from here on out because blowouts don’t help you. I feel really good [about the team.] We really upped our schedule this year. We beat Rose Bud twice, beat Nemo [Vista], Mount Vernon three times, we played Valley Springs, so we’ve really upped our schedule.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who also cruised past 4A Heber Springs, fell behind in the first quarter with MVE post player Kyndal Hardy controlling the paint. Quitman closed the gap on a three from guard Nicki Hooten followed by Lou Ella Garza’s fast break bucket off a steal and assist from versatile forward Reagan Rackley. But Hardy responded with two straight baskets inside to push the Lady Warhawks’ lead to 17-12 entering the second stanza.
Quitman guard Aspen Johnson found Nicki Hooten cutting backside for a layup, then forward Rieley Hooten drilled a three to knot it up early in the second before Hardy struck again with a stick back.
Johnson and Nicki Hooten buried-to-back three’s and Nicki Hooten added 3-of-3 free throws to propel to a 26-22 halftime advantage.
Clinging to a 29-26 lead midway through the third quarter, the Lady Bulldogs gained some separation with a 7-0 surge sparked by Rackley’s bucket off an assist from point guard Maggie Webb.
Rackley added three more points including a turnaround jumper and Rieley Hooten scored in transition, forcing MVE to call for timeout. The Lady Warhawks immediately went back to Hardy, who produced a bucket from the block. Rackley answered with a mid-range jumper but Hardy sank a free throw to cut Quitman’s lead to 38-29 entering the final eight minutes of play.
The Lady Warhawks began to chip away when Hardy used a drop step to get free for a basket, then guard Kenzie Woodruff rattled home a three and senior forward Kelsee McEntire, playing relentless defense in her final home game, converted a steal into a three.
Suddenly only leading by one, Quitman got the ball to Nicki Hooten, who drove baseline and finished in traffic. MVE’s Gracie Raby canned a pair of free throws to cut it back to one and McEntire came away with another steal but the Lady Warhawks missed out on a prime open floor opportunity.
Nicki Hooten drove the lane and dished to Rackley for a layup and MVE missed a three but Quitman failed to score on a prime opportunity, leaving the door open for the Lady Warhawks.
MVE missed its second potential game-tying three in the final minute, Webb secured the rebound and dribbled out the final two seconds as Quitman escaped the Lady Warhawks’ upset bid.
Hardy led all scorers with 18 points for MVE, which dropped to 24-8 overall and 11-5 in district games. Raby and McEntire each chipped in seven and Woodruff had five, while reserve forward Alaina Ellis and starting senior guard Dixie Sherill each scored two points.
Nicki Hooten nailed four three’s while scoring 17 points to pace Quitman. She made three of her four three’s in the first half. Rackley followed with eight, Rieley Hooten added seven and Johnson scored five. Webb and Garza each contributed a basket for the Lady Bulldogs, who host the district tournament next week.