GREENWOOD — After winning the last two state championships, the Greenwood Lady Bulldogs have lost more games than they’ve won this year.
Yet, Maddie Goodner remains the eternal optimist as far as her look back on the season thus far.
"I wouldn’t say difficult, I would say more challenging," Goodner said.
Veteran head coach Clay Reeves, too, has remained optimistic as his team heads into the Class 6A state tournament.
"We’re sitting right where from the first game of the season we wanted to be, and that’s in the state tournament," Reeve said. "Right now, anything can happen when it gets there."
Greenwood opens play in the Class 6A state tournament at Russellville on today at 7 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs play Sheridan, the fourth seed out of the 6A-South, in the first round.
Reeves placed a lot on his senior leader this season, the only holdover with any varsity playing experience from the last two years’ championship teams.
"She played a ton of minutes for us last year," Reeves said. "She was out there most of every game. We expected a lot out of her, and she’s been able to produce this year."
Goodner leads the team in scoring this season with 11.7 points per game, including 10.9 points per game in conference play.
"She’s had to make sacrifices just like other players have to make sacrifices at other time to make our team successful," Reeves said. "She’s handled the ball really well and shot the ball really well. It’s been different for her from what it has been, and she’s kept her head up and responded and worked hard. When it’s come down to the games where she has to get it done, she’s got it done. We expected great things from her.
Goodner would be scoring more but has handled the point guard duties for the team all season.
"She’s had to make sacrifices just like other players have to make sacrifices at other times to make our team successful," Reeves said. "She’s handled the ball really well and shot the ball really well. It’s been different for her from what it has been, and she’s kept her head up and responded and worked hard. When it’s come down to the games where she has to get it done, she’s got it done. We expected great things from her."
Goodner was forced to full-time point guard when a player moved out of state.
Goodner has taken to the position very well, averaging 4.0 assists per game in addition to her scoring. She also is averaging 3.9 steals per game, making her valuable on defense.
"She got a lot of experience, handling the ball, shooting the ball, and she’s one of our better defenders," Reeves said. "She’s worked hard to get where she’s at. She’s earned everything she’s gotten. She’s been a great leader and player for us."
Goodner also became acclimated to being the most experienced player on the team and being the focal point of other team’s defensive efforts after being a role player the last two years with stars all around her.
"I do like being the noticeable player, I think every athlete wants to, but having the other athletes with me is a buildup," Reeve said. "This year, it’s my job to build up the other players. That’s been cool for everybody to see that and know that that’s the leader and somebody who builds up the others. That’s how we get through the season."
She’s also been positive about taking on her new role.
"I think that’s a good thing to learn," Goodner said. "I think it’s been a good year, showing different aspects of the game."
Goodner knew during the summer that the point guard role would probably fall solely on her, handling the ball, distributing the ball and breaking presses against the talented teams in the 7A/6A-Central.
"In the summer right after the seniors left, I did know at that point," Goodner said. "I knew I was going to handle the ball most of the time."
She also knew that she probably wouldn’t come off the court much with her backup being a freshman.
"I don’t mind that," Goodner said. "I like being on the court for 32 minutes straight. I was on two to three travel teams all summer. I worked really hard because I knew I was going to have to step up this year and play most of the game. I did a lot of extra stuff outside of this and it’s really paid off."
In November, Goodner signed to play collegiately at the University of Central Arkansas. This season has helped prepare her for that next step.
"It has definitely prepared me for college, knowing how much harder I had to work to keep the intensity up on this team, and knowing that I have to play 32 minutes," Goodner said.
Greenwood’s tough nonconference schedule and playing in a conference with two of the best Class 7A teams in the state in Conway and Van Buren hasn’t helped the Lady Bulldogs won-lost record. Greenwood also played Northside and Little Rock Parkview in nonconference play. It also hasn’t dampened Goodner’s expectations of adding one more state championship to make it three in a row in her high school career.
"We know what it takes to win," Goodner said. "I know we can work hard and win another state title."