By Rob Patrick
VAN BUREN — The Bryant Lady Hornets had apparently[more] turned a corner. After three straight losses in conference play, they absorbed a fourth against defending State champion North Little Rock but pushed unbeaten Lady Charging Wildcats to the end. Then they got back on track with a win at Little Rock Central that marked the return of the team’s sense of urgency, a requirement for battling in the rugged 7A/6A-Central Conference.
But a series of poorly timed snow storms left the Lady Hornets waiting 10 days before they played again. And when they finally did get back on the court against a league rival, it was part of a long, rushed trip to Van Buren. The layoff, as it turned out, took its toll. Too, it didn’t help that starting post Breanna Blundell was unable to play due to illness.
Van Buren pinned a stunning 52-48 loss on the Lady Hornets.
“We’ve got lots of excuses we could make but the bottom line is, if you want to be successful, if you want to be a good team, you’ve got to find a way to win no matter what,” stated a perturbed Bryant coach Blake Condley. “It’s not that you have to try to blow somebody out. You just find a way to win. By one point. That’s all you’ve got to do.
“You go after a loose ball, you get a rebound here and there, you get a steal,” he continued. “I thought we got out-hustled for every loose ball tonight. I thought we got out-executed. We didn’t do things we’ve been talking about, things we’ve been working on and have been trying to do against their zone. We just weren’t doing it. And when you don’t, you’re not going to be able to win.”
Upon reflection, he added, “I felt like we were starting to get it. I thought we were starting to know and understand the energy we had to bring every night but I feel like we took a huge step backwards tonight.
“We’ll see if we can get ourselves going in the right direction again,” the coach concluded, referring to this Friday’s home game against Russellville, the team that started their four-game skid earlier this season.
After trailing much of the first half, Bryant had surged to a 39-33 lead early in the fourth quarter. A baseline jumper by Abbi Stearns to start the period set that score. But then the Lady Hornets went without for over four minutes.
Sparked by Keri Arnold, the Lady Pointers had erased the lead and built a 43-39 edge — a 10-0 run — before McKenzie Adams hit two free throws to close the gap to 2.
The teams traded turnovers before Arnold made a steal and fed Britney Campbell for a layup. After a timeout, Stearns drained a 3 and Bryant was within 45-44.
But the Lady Hornets just couldn’t get the lead back. Kirbey Blake delivered twice at the free-throw line for Van Buren and, after a Bryant miss, Arnold made a circus shot high of the glass to make it 49-44. With 1:01 left, Adams hit a free throw. She missed the second shot but the subsequent play provided more frustration for the Lady Hornets. The ball came off the rim, off two or three pair of hands and rolled from under the basket all the way out to the free-throw line before someone claimed it. Campbell picked the ball up and was fouled with :45.7 showing.
Bryant got a break when Campbell missed both shots so when London Abernathy got an open look in the corner and buried a 3 with :38.9 left, the Lady Hornets were once again within a point at 49-48.
Condley quickly called timeout but, when play resumed, Van Buren’s Mallory Brown was fouled. With :26.9 to go, she converted both shots. But it was still a one-possession game if the Lady Hornets could get a 3 to go. They worked it to Abernathy in the same spot where she’d connected moments before but, this time, her shot refused to fall. Arnold rebounded and, with :18.1 left, made it a two-possession game by knocking down one of her free throws, setting what turned out to be the final score.
Arnold finished with a game-high 22 points including four 3-pointers. Campbell had 11, Blake 8. Adams led Bryant with 20. Abernathy added 14. Stearns and Kiara Moore had 7 each and no one else scored for the Lady Hornets.
Bryant led early on layups from Adams and Abernathy but Van Buren then ran off 8 straight points. Moore connected on a 3 and, after Paige Beckner hit a jumper in the lane, Adams added a free throw to make it 10-8 going into the second period.
Adams tied it with a drive to the rack but Arnold trumped that with a 3. Adams added a free throw but a three-point play by Campbell had Van Buren up 16-11.
Moore drove for a layup and Abernathy splashed a trey to tie it with 4:06 left in the half. Later, it was deadlocked at 18 but Arnold, taking advantage of what appeared to be moving screens out high from Brown, drained two more treys and added a pair of free throws to push the Van Buren lead back to 26-21. A buzzer-beating bucket by Adams had Bryant within 3 at the half, not only stemming the tide that the Lady Pointers were riding but swinging the momentum the Lady Hornets’ way a bit.
To start the second half, they pushed into the lead. Moore scored inside and, after Blake answered for Van Buren, Abernathy connected on a jumper in the lane off a nice feed from Moore. And, after a turnover, Abernathy drove for a layup that gave Bryant a 29-28 lead.
A steal by Adams gave them a chance to extend the margin but Abernathy’s shot rimmed out. Whitney Meyer rebounded but Moore’s 3-point try was off the rim.
Blake’s two free throws put Van Buren back up briefly. Adams countered with a three-point play and, after Beckner hit a free throw, Stearns scored off the offensive glass to extend the lead to 34-31. Beckner scored again but a three-point play by Adams had the Lady Hornets ahead 37-33 going into the fourth quarter.
After Stearns extended the lead to Bryant’s largest at 6, Arnold went to work again. A layup cut into the Lady Hornets’ advantage. Van Buren forced a Bryant turnover but Arnold’s 3-point try failed. Moore and Beckner traded misses before Arnold cashed in a Lady Hornets miscue with her fourth 3 of the game, putting her team back up 40-39.
Bryant missed two chances to regain the advantage before Blake scored off a lob into the post. Arnold added a trio of free throws over two trips to the line and Van Buren had the lead that led to the frustrating finish for the Lady Hornets.
LADY POINTERS 52, LADY HORNETS 48
Score by quarter
BRYANT 8 15 14 11 — 48
Van Buren 10 16 7 19 — 52
LADY HORNETS (15-5, 2-5) 48
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Adams 5-15 10-14 2-2 4 2 20
Moore 3-9 0-2 0-3 3 5 7
Abernathy 6-15 0-0 0-1 1 2 14
Stearns 3-4 0-0 3-7 10 3 7
Davidson 0-0 0-0 1-2 3 1 0
Hogancamp 0-0 0-0 1-0 1 2 0
Meyer 0-0 0-0 1-1 2 0 0
Davis 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 3 0
Team 0-3 3
Totals 17-43 10-16 8-20 28 18 48
LADY POINTERS (11-11, 2-6) 52
Player fg-fga ft-fga reb fls pts
Arnold 6-14 6-10 0-5 5 0 22
Campbell 5-8 1-4 1-3 4 2 11
Blake 2-6 4-4 1-4 5 2 8
Brown 0-3 4-4 1-4 5 4 4
Beckner 3-7 1-2 2-4 6 4 7
Harris 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Team 1-2 3
Totals 16-38 16-24 6-22 28 13 52
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-19 (Abernathy 2-9, Moore 1-4, Stearns 1-2, Adams 0-4), Van Buren 4-15 (Arnold 4-10, Brown 0-3, Blake 0-1, Campbell 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Van Buren 17.
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