By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Forsyth Lady Panthers defeated the Reeds Spring Lady Wolves, 65-56, to win the championship of the Galena Lady Bear Classic on Friday night. The Panthers used a strong second half to put Reeds Spring away and secure the victory.
The first quarter was a seesaw affair, as the lead changed hands several times, with Forsyth holding a one point lead after the first quarter, 21-20. In the second quarter there were several runs of four or five points for both sides as they exchanged punches like two prize fighters. Reeds Spring would be ahead, 38-36, at the half. Neither side had gained momentum in the first half and went to the locker room still looking for the advantage.
Thanks to good defense by Forsyth and poor shooting by Reeds Spring, in the third quarter the momentum began to swing Forsyth’s way. Forsyth outscored Reeds Spring 11-5 in the quarter, giving them a precarious 47-43 lead.
The first two minutes of the fourth quarter were sloppy, with both teams playing out of control. With less than four minutes to go, Forsyth obtained their largest lead of the night when Kaylee Henning made a layup, putting the score 58-49. Still trailing by nine, Reeds Spring senior Shelby Strailey fouled out of the game at the 3:25 mark. This was a big moment in the game because Strailey is one of the Wolves’ main scorers. At 2:30, Reeds Spring junior Brooke Davis knocked down a three but Forsyth was quick to answer when sophomore Scarlett Texeira hit a transition layup, putting the Panthers back up nine. Reeds Spring could not get any closer as Forsyth maintained the lead for the last two minutes of the game.
This win marked the first tournament championship in two years for the Lady Panthers.
“It was a good win for us,” said Forsyth coach Mandy Rogers. “I don’t think this team was expected to win any tournaments, we’re still a little young in spots. We responded very well tonight. I’m super proud of every one of our kids; they all contributed in one way or another. We knocked down some shots; there were times I thought maybe we were settling for shots, early, but when we finally started taking good shots, we knocked them down. Our transition buckets were huge. That made a difference.”
The Reeds Spring Wolves had not played in a championship game in a few years and were the number four seed coming into this tournament.
“It’s always tough with Forsyth,” said Reeds Spring coach Lesley Reeves-Eakins. “We lost a handle on the ball a few times, kind of forced some passes, but when we play a team with a strong post, we struggle. We weren’t afraid of her, we just struggle getting done what we want to get done. We came in the tournament seeded fourth, came out with second, so it’s an improvement. It’s showing that we don’t give up, we fought the whole game. We are working on doing a lot of passing, a lot of moving, and this tournament has shown that we can do that. We want a win from the inside and out and where we’re struggling is inside, especially when we go against a tall post. We’ve got to be able to figure out how to do that.”
Contributing to the Panthers with eight points was senior Hannah Sullenger. Sullenger is one of the two seniors on the squad and sees her role as that of a leader.
“This win means a lot, makes me really happy,” said Sullenger. “We won a tournament a couple years ago but this feels really good, being my last year with all these girls. We tried not to think about winning a whole lot coming in, just thinking basketball, straight basketball. I love these girls and I really wanted it for them. I want them to look up to me and know that they can do anything that they want to do.”
Forsyth junior Emily Shipman was proud of the way her team moved the ball and transitioned up and down the floor.
“Tonight’s game was intense,” said Shipman. “We worked well as a team, we had very good ball movement, and nobody played for themselves, we played for each other. We all just try to do our part and chip in where we can. We have a couple big girls and size definitely helped us tonight. Our guards on defense also helped us out.”
Rogers stated that three games in three nights was hard but the girls showed that they had it in them.
“Reeds Spring is a good team; I knew it was going to be a barn burner and they just kept coming back,” said Rogers. “We got off to a good start but we know that team is never going to go away. We’ve had them down by a lot before and we never get comfortable against them. It was tough and I thought our kids responded well; each and every time they made those runs we answered back. We settled down defensively in the second half and we got some good stops when we needed to and we got some big boards when we needed to; some big blocked shots, too, absolutely. It took everybody and that’s what our team is all about; any given night we can have a different leading scorer, different leading rebounder, different kid pick up assists or steals. When they all play together like that you just never know who is going to have the big minutes. It was a heck of a tournament.”
With no rest for the victors, the Panthers will lace them up again for the Mansfield Tournament starting Monday.
Forsyth—Hannah Sullenger-8, Kaylee Henning-12, Emily Shipman-9, Scarlett Texeira-16, Triniti Sullenger-4, Calley Matthews-10, Emmalea Cook-6
Reeds Spring—Jade Watson-9, Shelby Strailey-9, Ashley Nolan-2, Kalena Asbill-22, Brooke Davis-5, Brynn Hogan-2, Skylar Scott-7
Forsyth 21 15 11 18 65
Reeds Spring 20 18 5 13 56