Lady Billies rebound from tough road loss

Save for a hiccup at Jacksonville in their second game, Monticello’s Lady Billies would be undefeated. The squad that set a new school record for wins last season with 30, though, may be well on the way to duplicating—or betting—that feat.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving (because of early holiday deadlines, the Adcance-Monticellonian was unable to report on that contest), Monticello fell victim to the one two three-pointers the Lady Red Devils made all night in a 71-65 loss on the road.
However, the Lady Billies quickly got their swagger back with a 66-20 blowout of Parkers Chapel Saturday in the first round of the FBT Bank and Mortgage Tournament at Fordyce. Monticello followed that up with a 62-33 demolition of Smackover Tuesday night in its home opener at Dan Coston Field House.
The Monticello-Smackover contest was also the Lady Billies’ first taste of conference play in 2017-18. Because of the Arkansas Activities Association’s experience with “blended conference,” now in it last year—at least for a while—Monticello, Crossett, Hamburg and Warren for the old Class 4A, District 8 joined 8-3A for the regular season.
The classes will revert back to their pre-“blended conference” formation for the postseason, though. Monticello breezed through 12-3A4A undefeated a year ago and, if Tuesday night was any indication, just might do so this winter. It’s not the 20-game win streak the Lady Billies enjoyed in 2016-17, but these two consecutive wins give Monticello a good start in that direction.
Today, the Lady Billies are playing Lake Village Lakeside in the championship semifinals of the FBT Tournament in Fordyce at 4 p.m., then will host the Ladybugs in a 12-3A4A game at 5 p.m. Friday. Monticello will then play in either the third-place or championship game of the Fordyce tournament Saturday before visiting Drew Central next Tuesday for the first round of the “Showdown in M-Town” series.
Against Smackover Tuesday night, a 51-22 first half helped Monticello coast to the win after intermission. Taylor Donald and Ajhane Simpson led the Lady Billies with 13 points each, while the season’s leading scorer, Shania Smith, chipped in with 10.
Second-year girls’ head basketball coach Bobby Lewallen had said after the loss at Jacksonville that his club had to to a “better job on defense,” and he had to be pleased with Monticello’s effort in the last two games.
Except for a 10-point second quarter Saturday by Parkers Chapel and a 13-point first period by Smackover, the Lady Billies held their opposition in single digits in every eight-minute span the last two times they took the court.
Smith scored 21 points to lead the assault over Parkers Chapel and Chaney Scott added 15. Against Jacksonville, Monticello had three players in double figures—Smith and Mariah Austin with 13 apiece, and Donald chipped in with 11.
“We actually took a six-point lead in the fourth quarter but Jacksonville hit back-to-back threes,” Lewallen said. “Our help-side defense was awful. I never saw so many layups in one game. We didn’t have anyone step up on defense. And they killed us on the boards, too.”
After the last two games, though, the Lady Billies seemingly have returned to the form that helped them go 18-0 in 12-3A4A, 6-0 against fellow 8-4A teams and 30-6 overall a year ago.

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