HASKELL -- The Harmony Grove Lady Cardinals (3-11 1-4) entered Friday night’s 5-3A conference game in dire need of a victory of any kind. After losing nine straight contests, the Lady Cardinals welcomed Little Rock Episcopal into town for Homecoming and walked away with an exciting 53-39 victory. The win snapped the losing streak and beat the Lady Wildcats for the fifth straight time under Head Coach John White.
“We are just really happy to get a win,” White said. “We had a big losing streak and we are really glad that it’s over. I think Homecoming might have been a little bit of a distraction early in the game. We had some easy chances to score early, but we didn’t score. We finally settled in and were patient and got ourselves back in it and did a really good job.”
Harmony Grove began the game nearly as cold as a team could, shooting. Episcopal jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead to begin the first quarter. Sophomore Morgan Efrid finally got the Lady Cardinals on the board with a free throw, but Episcopal continued to shut down Harmony Grove’s offensive attack, taking a 13-1 lead at the end of one. Cassie Dixon drained a second Harmony Grove free throw with 7:21 left in the first half.
Down 14-2 with just over six minutes left in the half, the Lady Cardinals’ Kristen Dempsey started to heat up a bit from outside, knocking down a long ball to pull her team within 14-5 at the 6:27 mark. Haley Henderson matched Dempsey’s deep threat with a 3-pointer of her own to put Episcopal up 17-5.
Harmony Grove continued to battle back, going on a 7-0 run, five coming from Dempsey, to pull the score to 17-12 with under 2:30 left until halftime. Dempsey added a third 3-pointer moments later, getting the Lady Cardinals within four. The Lady Wildcats added two late buckets in the half to take a 21-18 halftime lead.
Harmony Grove shot 15 percent (4-26) from the field in the first half. Dempsey led the Lady Cardinals with 11, knocking down 3 of 7 shots from downtown.
“We were looking for some way to score after that first quarter and Dempsey stepped up and hit some big threes and got us going,” White said. She had a big night.”
With the momentum still in Episcopal’s favor to start the third quarter, Homecoming Queen Katie Wright got the scoring started with a short bucket, pulling the score to 23-20 Lady Cats.
Micaylah Thomas put up back-to-back jumpers to move her team to a 27-20 lead with half the quarter left to play. After four straight free throws from Harmony Grove, the Lady Cardinals were down just three before Sarah Jackson’s layup to draw Harmony Grove within one with 1:40 on the clock. With Episcopal looking for a score, Cassie Dixon swiped the ball away before laying it in and giving the Lady Cardinals their first lead of the night, 28-27, with 1:20 left in the third.
The lead was short-lived, however, after Thomas knocked down a short jumper seconds later. Dempsey drained another 3-pointer with 35 seconds left followed by a free throw from Wright with four seconds still on the clock. Dempsey pulled down the offensive board on the backend miss, putting it back up to beat the buzzer giving Harmony Grove the 34-31 advantage after three.
Harmony Grove never looked back in the fourth quarter, going on a 10-2 run to begin the final period. Up 44-33 with four minutes left, Harmony Grove continued to dominate on both ends of the floor, outscoring the Lady Wildcats 19-8 in the final quarter on its way to victory.
Harmony Grove shot 37.5 percent (9-24) from the field in the second half of its comeback after shooting horribly in the opening half.
Dempsey finished with a team-high 20 points, draining all of the Lady Cardinals’ 3-pointers (4 for 13). Wright followed with 13 points with nine coming from the free-throw line (9 of 16). Jackson also finished in double digits with 10.
Harmony Grove won the rebound battle 34-22, bringing down 13 on the offensive end. Jackson grabbed five offensive boards in the win.
“Sarah really worked hard on the glass,” White said. “Those second-chance points are huge and she worked hard and got us several of them. She created a couple of plays that put a little separation in the score.”
Thomas led all scorers with 21 on the night, but Episcopal coughed up the ball 30 times in the loss.
Harmony Grove will host eStem on Tuesday with tip set for 6 p.m.
“We are going to try and build on this by working hard,” White said. “I feel like we forgot how to win. We have had some games where we have had some chance to win and we just gave it away. [Friday] we hung in there and got the first stepping stone on something to build on.”