SPORTS >> Lady Bears repeat as league champs
Sylvan Hills wrapped up its second-consecutive 5A-Southeast Conference title on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over North Pulaski.
The Lady Falcons (8-2 conference) took the first game 25-23 backed by the strong net play of junior hitter Shala Clemons. But the Lady Bears (15-5, 10-0) found a way to contain her dynamics to win the second game 25-18 and tie the match.
North Pulaski turned the tables again in the third game for a 25-18 victory, but Sylvan Hills held on to its unbeaten league mark with a 25-19 victory in Game 4 and a 15-10 victory in the deciding fifth game.
“It was our toughest match of the season by far,” Lady Bears assistant coach Laura Allred said. “I commend North Pulaski — they came out ready to play. They were definitely ready to play before we were. We had some good matches with them last year, but I think they’ve stepped up their program even more this year in my opinion.”
Junior Ashley Johnson led the Lady Bears with 10 kills and 11 blocks and classmate Toyletha Lewis had eight kills and 10 blocks. Sophomore hitter Mallory Rushin had a career night for Sylvan Hills with eight kills.
In all, the Lady Bears amassed 36 kills and 27 blocks.
It was the second straight year for Sylvan Hills to go unbeaten in conference. Mills handed the Lady Bears two on-court losses last year, but eventually had to forfeit those because of an ineligible player.
“We went undefeated last year, but this season has been more special because it was outright,” said Allred, who filled in for head coach Harold Treadway most of the year while he was serving in Iraq and continues to lead the team.
“We knew what we needed to do if they would have won, but we wanted to go undefeated so we didn’t have to worry about the title,” Allred said.
Treadway completed his third tour of Iraq in late September, but opted to keep the reins in Allred’s hands throughout the remainder of the regular season.
“This season has been kind of a mixed bag for me,” Treadway said. “I really appreciate the outstanding job coach Allred has done with the varsity and the junior varsity bunch. They didn’t give her any assistants while I was gone, and she’s a parent and a teacher too, so she’s really had a lot on her plate.
“From the coaching part, it’s been hard for me to sit back at times. I’ve told her things that I’ve seen, and she told me to speak up to the girls when I had something to point out. Yesterday against North Pulaski, I think I was just as hoarse as she was after the game.”
The Lady Bears have been knocked out of the state playoffs in the first round the past two seasons, but Treadway said the confidence of this team should make a difference once it takes to the court at Siloam Springs on Oct. 27 in the first round of the playoffs.
“The last two years, I’ve scheduled non-conference games after our conference schedule was over just to keep us practicing,” Treadway said. “But we won conference titles, and then lost non-conference games after that, so we were going into the tournament on kind of a letdown.
“So we decided not to do that this year; we want to go in on an up note. The other teams were very good, but I think that sometimes there was some doubt. This bunch is fearless; they have the mindset that if they do the right things, they can compete with anybody.”
Sylvan Hills will play its first-round game against the 5A-West’s No. 4 seed.