Bryant busts Beebe, set for tourney title game against Riverview tonight

BEEBE — The Bryant Lady Hornets will play for the championship of the Beebe First Security Bank/Rep. Jeremy Gillam Holiday Tournament tonight at 7 p.m., against the Riverview Lady Raiders after spoiling the host Beebe Lady Badgers’ hopes of winning their own tourney, 47-36, on Monday.

Riverview defeated Harding Academy 53-20 in Monday’s other semifinal.

The Lady Hornets, who have now won 7 of their last 8 games, overcame a 17-14 deficit midway through the second quarter and never trailed again though there wasn’t much breathing room until the final three minutes of the contest.

Lauren Carroll scored 17 points and Jakeria Otey 13 for Bryant. Raija Todd added 7 with Rachel Miller and Emily Ridgell pitching in 4 each and Maddie Baxter scoring 2.

And Baxter’s was a key bucket.

When Beebe’s Taylor McGraw drilled her third 3-pointer of the game with 6:22 to go, it cut the Bryant lead to 33-31. The Lady Badgers had a chance to tie or take the lead after a Lady Hornet miss but Baxter took a charge as Beebe’s Ashley Johnson was bringing the ball up the floor.

At the other end, Baxter found herself on the right wing with a path to the basket. She drove and scored to bump the lead to 4 with 5:05 to go.

Neither team could score again until, with 2:47 left, Carroll tenaciously followed her own miss, scored and was fouled. He three-point play made it 38-31, matching Bryant’s largest lead of the game.

After a Beebe timeout, Natalie Hendry was fouled and cut a point off the Lady Hornets’ lead. Bryant head coach Brad Matthews had his team spread the floor to work the clock and get to the free-throw line at that point. Beebe chased, using a half-court trap but Otey got around the defense and to the basket for a layup that made it 40-32 at the 1:40 mark.

With Carroll frustrating McGraw defensively, the Lady Badgers went inside but couldn’t get a shot in over Miller. Over the final 1:11 Bryant converted 7 of 10 free throws including 4 of 6 by Otey.

The lead ballooned to as much as 12.

The win came despite Bryant shooting just 31 percent from the floor including 0 for 6 from 3-point range against Beebe’s packed-in 2-3 zone. The Lady Hornets turned it over 12 times but forced 18 Lady Badger miscues and out-rebounded Beebe, 38-28, led by Carroll with 10 boards, Miller with eight and Otey with seven.

“They did a good job in their zone,” Matthews said of Beebe. “I didn’t think we ever got into an offensive rhythm. Sometimes when you’re not in a very good rhythm, it doesn’t look very good.

“It was good that we extended the lead toward the end and it didn’t come down to a free throw here and a free throw there,” he mentioned. “The kids fought hard. We’ve just got to find a way to make the ball go in the bucket a little bit more. I think we got the ball sort of where we wanted it, just didn’t finish. I thought we had too many nonsensical turnovers. But credit to them. They didn’t let us get in a rhythm.

“Regardless, we came to Beebe and beat Beebe in their own tournament,” the coach concluded. “That’s a good accomplishment. We’re playing for a trophy and that’s good; that’s good for our kids to get that chance. Riverview’s really, really good, really talented. But it’s a challenge we need. I look forward to playing them. They’ll be very aggressive, very athletic, really skilled. It’ll be a great challenge.”

Beebe led the game 9-8 after the first quarter. Ridgell had hit two free throws to snap a 6-6 tie but a 3 at the buzzer gave the Lady Badgers the lead.

It was tied at 9 and 11 early in the second quarter. Beebe built the lead to 17-14 before Bryant surged to the front, sparked by Carroll’s drive to the rack. Miller scored inside then Todd knocked down a driving jumper to make it 20-17.

Beebe cut it to 1 and had a chance at the line with :17.5 left to tie or take the lead back but missed twice. The carom off the second free throw went out of bounds to Beebe but the Lady Hornets forced the first of three five-second calls on the inbound play and earned a chance to get the final shot. Ridgell hit a running jumper that beat the buzzer to make it 22-19 at the half.

Otey and Todd scored the first two baskets of the second half on either side of a blocked shot by Miller. That gave Bryant its largest lead to that point, 26-19.

But McGraw sparked Beebe’s rally, cutting it to 28-27 with 3:45 left in the period.

But the Lady Badgers didn’t score again in the quarter. Otey drove for a bucket and Todd canned a free throw to make it 31-27 going into the final eight minutes.

After a Beebe free throw, Carroll drove for a deuce before McGraw’s 3-pointer, which made it a two-point game and led to Baxter’s clutch basket.

The Lady Hornets are now 7-4 on the season.

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