(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
POPLAR BLUFF -- The Portageville Lady Bulldogs will clash against the Greenville Lady Bears in Class 3 sectional action Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Poplar Bluff.
This meeting will mark the first time in 20 years that the Lady Bulldogs have reached Missouri's sweet sixteen after beating the Kelly Lady Hawks 53-34 in an emotional District 1 final.
"It was a big emotional win and a big win for our program," said Portageville coach Eric Ellerbrook. "But more importantly, we just got to focus on the next game at hand which is Greenville. They are a very tough well-coached team."
For Greenville, this will be the third time school history that the Lady Bears have contended in the state playoffs after edging out the Twin River Lady Royals 66-61 in the championship game of District 2.
While these two teams may be wading in the recently unchartered waters of sectional play, neither has been short of success this season.
Portageville has earned the ranking of No. 2 in Class 3 this year while achieving a record of 25-3 while Greenville is close behind with a 21-4 record to go along with a No. 5 ranking in Class 3.
The Lady Bears will be lead by senior guard Sara Woodgeard, an all-state selection from a year ago. Woodgeard carries the bulk of Greenville's scoring and likes to take the ball inside.
When she's not driving to the basket, the senior guard will try to feed the ball down-low to their 6-1 sophomore Tara Porter.
"They have a very good ball player in Sara Woodgeard," said Ellerbrook. "She can drive to the basket and is probably their leading scorer. Then Tara Porter is very good in the post and rebounds the ball extremely well for them.
"They also have some good players off the bench who like to attack the basket and get after it just as much as anybody else," he added. "They push the ball up the court and play extremely hard. They're just a good ball club."
Along with Woodgeard and Porter, the Lady Bears will have several other players to keep an eye out for as Lindsay Henson, Kaylin Becker, Megan Montgomery and Miranda Stewart will all see significant minutes and are capable of finding the basket.
Portageville's starting five will consist of Mallory Bidewell and Mary Hannah Fisher at the guard positions, Kellye Penn and Jeleea Drake in the post, and Brittney Walker at the forward position.
Bidewell and Fisher each average around two points and two rebounds per game but do an excellent job of controlling the tempo and managing the offense for the Lady Bulldogs. Drake contributes 10 points and eight rebounds per game while Penn delivers with a solid 16 points and seven rebounds each outing. Both players will be key for the white-and-blue in the paint. Walker also gets in on the action with 16 points, six rebounds and five steals per game and is a huge catalyst for the Lady Dogs in transition.
Portageville will look for a spark from Courtney Chamberlain, Anna Long, and Talisa Walker who combine for 18 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
"I am extremely proud of each and every one of my girls this year," said Ellerbrook. "They have done an excellent job in fulfilling their roles and playing together as a team."
As a team the Lady Bulldogs have averaged 67 points per game this year while holding their opponents to only 43 points per game.
Greenville and Portageville have yet to face each other this season and expectations are high for both state-ranked squads.
"I just think it s going to be a really good match up against two very good teams," said Ellerbrook. "It's a fun time of the year, there are only 16 teams left in the state and you know every game is gonna be tough. I just hope we come out, stay focused and play well as a team."