Photos by Kevin Nagle
Though it’s been a fine line between winning and losing for the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team, lately they’d shown a knack for making the plays to come out on top. They’d won by a point over Cabot Red and Conway Blue, won by 9 over Mount St. Mary Academy and 5 over Russellville as they entered their final regular-season game Thursday night against Conway White with four wins in their last five games.
But, like the only loss in that stretch — a 22-21 setback at Lake Hamilton — they came up on the short end of their finale, 21-20.
The loss left the Lady Hornets 4-5 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference, seeded seventh in the league’s post-season tournament. They’ll face a rematch with Lake Hamilton, the second seed, on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 7:45 p.m., in Russellville.
A disputed call in the final seconds gave Lake Hamilton a chance to beat the Lady Hornets in the final seconds of that setback. This time, the Lady Hornets gave themselves three chances to win in the closing moments of the game.
Bryant’s Mary Catherine Selig had hit a free throw to tie it at 20 with 1:22 left to play but Conway hit a free throw with :36.9 showing to gain the lead.
At the other end, Kalia Walker got an open look for a 3 but it rimmed out. Allie Dugan, however, rebounded and, with :18.5 left, head coach Nathan Castaldi called a timeout to set up a play.
When the game resumed, Dugan got a shot away from near the free-throw line but it too refused to go in. Again, however, the Lady Hornets retained possession as Tenise Robinson rebounded. Castaldi called another timeout with :04.5 showing. When the Lady Hornets were set to inbound the ball on the side, Conway White called a timeout to reset the defense.
On the inbound play, Meagan Chism found room up the baseline for a drive but she ran into a pair of defenders and her last-season shot rimmed out as Conway White held on for the victory.
Free-throw shooting hurt the Lady Hornets who were 3 of 9 from the line. They struggled to score after the first quarter when they ran out to an 11-2 lead. Conway White scored first but then Bryant shut them out the rest of the opening quarter. Chism drilled a jumper from the corner and, after Lauren Burnett blocked a shot at the other end, Chism canned a running jumper to put the Lady Hornets ahead. Moments later, she got loose on a fast break as Bryant beat the Conway White press. Her layup made it 6-2.
Selig added a free throw and, after Conway White missed, Robinson fed Walker for a layup. Walker followed up with a pull-up jumper with :03 left in the quarter to make it 11-2.
The prosperity of the first quarter did not continue in the second quarter, however. Conway White outscored the Lady Hornets 10-0 to take a 12-11 lead at the half.
In fact, it took until the 3:18 mark for Bryant to break the spell. Walker finally hit a free throw that cut into an 18-11 lead.
Selig scored off the offensive glass with 1:59 left in the third quarter to make it 18-14, a score that held until the end of the period. Bryant missed a pair of free throws during the stretch.
Both teams struggled to score in the fourth quarter until Robinson fired in a 3 and, after Conway White missed five shots in one possession, Selig knocked down a short jumper with 2:54 to go, giving Bryant a 19-18 lead.
It took until the 1:48 mark for Conway White to answer. But the Lady Cats took a 20-19 lead. That led to Selig’s tying free throw at 1:22 and the frustrating finish for the Lady Hornets.
Chism and Selig finished with 6 points each. Walker had 5 and Robinson 3.