Photographs by Stephen B. Thornton
Hector’s Evelyn Riley (left) and Quitman’s Rieley Hooten (right) battle for a rebound during the Lady Bulldogs’ 45-22 victory in the Class 2A state tournament at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs on Saturday. More photos available at arkansasonline.com/galleries.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
HOT SPRINGS -- Quitman Coach Tim Hooten had seen enough of Hector over the past 15 months to know what to expect in Saturday's Class 2A girls final, but even he didn't anticipate how dominant his team would be in rolling to its first state championship.
The Lady Bulldogs got huge performances from senior forward Reagan Rackley and junior guard Rieley Hooten to blow past the Lady Wildcats 45-22 in front of 4,522 at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
"These girls had worked for four years to get here, and to finish this is special," Tim Hooten said. "We thought we'd be here last season, but we got knocked out in the semifinals by the team we just beat. So for us, this caps an absolutely fantastic season."
Rackley, named the tournament's MVP, scored a game-high 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for Quitman, which won its final 13 games and 23 of its last 24. Hooten added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
"It's an indescribable feeling right now," Rackley said. "You grow up playing basketball, and you hear about teams winning, but it's so surreal now because we made it here and we won it."
There was nothing bizarre about how overpowering the Lady Bulldogs were Saturday.
Quitman (33-3), which had won two of the three meetings with Hector last season and beat the Lady Wildcats by an average of 33 points in their two matchups this year, didn't allow a point in the first quarter and got good looks out of its offensive sets. The Lady Bulldogs didn't shoot particularly well, finishing just 17 of 46 (37 percent), and held a slim 38-33 rebounding advantage, but they were able to dictate the tempo and never allowed Hector a chance to mount any type of comeback after building a 13-0 first-quarter lead.
"We didn't score in the first, so I think there were some nerves there for us," Hector Coach Hunter Sims said. "We ran our same stuff offensively, and we were trying a couple of new things defensively because the first two times we played them certainly didn't work out very well.
"But when you tweak things, you kind of get out of your comfort zone. And that's more on me than it is them, but no one can deny that these girls gave it everything they had, played as hard as they could. We just came up a little short."
Paige Lee had 6 points and 6 rebounds for Hector, which went 8 of 43 from the floor, including 0 of 6 in the scoreless first quarter. The Lady Wildcats' 22 points broke the state finals record for the fewest by a team in a game. The previous mark was set by Ashdown, which was mauled 75-24 by Central Arkansas Christian in the Class AAA title game in 2006.
Hector (23-13) got on the board when Cassidy Haley knocked down a 12-footer at the 7:09 mark of the second quarter. The Lady Wildcats managed to get to within 15-6 on Whitney Bell's putback, but Rieley Hooten's jumper before the buzzer sent the Lady Bulldogs into halftime with a 17-6 lead.
The Lady Bulldogs used a 10-2 run at the start of the third quarter, led by back-to-back jumpers from Nicki Hooten, to open up a 27-8 cushion.
Quitman held a 31-12 advantage early in the fourth and never was threatened. Hector got within 37-22 after a Lee free throw with 1:56 left in the game, but Rackley's 8-footer on the ensuing possession locked up the Lady Bulldogs' first state title.
"We were a little jittery, with it being the first time ever being here," Tim Hooten said. "But the leadership that these girls showed was simply unbelievable. This is what they've been building for and to do it is truly special."
The senior center finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs. She made 8 of 14 shots and 5 of 6 at the free-throw line. Rackley also had 2 steals, 2 blocked shots and 1 assist.
Quitman won its first state championship. … Hector scored a state-final low 22 points. The previous record was 24 set by Ashdown in the 2006 AAA final against Central Arkansas Christian. … The Lady Bulldogs shut out the Lady Wildcats 13-0 in the first quarter and allowed six points in the first half en route to a 17-6 halftime lead.
— Jeremy Muck
“Everyone, at some point in this tournament, could have very easily been named MVP because every one of them had a very special game throughout this tournament.”
Quitman Coach Tim Hooten on his four seniors
Sports on 03/12/2017
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