There should be a few alums on hand for tonight’s 6A-Central Conference showdown at the Hornets’ Nest. Rival Cabot will be in town and, in the girls’ game at 6, it will be the final time that Lady Panthers’ head coach Carla Crowder will lead a team into her old stomping grounds in Bryant.
She will be retiring at the end of this season, her 16thcampaign in Cabot, where she won a State title in 2012. Her 38-year coaching career began in Atkins.
Crowder coached the Lady Hornets for 16 years with a 408-108 record and led them to three State championships, three State runner-up finishes and, from 1988-90, led the team to 63 consecutive wins. She was inducted into the Bryant Athletic Hall of Honor as part of the first class in 2015.
“The Bryant Athletic Department would like to honor Coach Crowder for her contributions to our athletic department, district and community,” said Bryant athletic director Mike Lee. “We would like to invite all former players and friends to a drop-in reception during the boys’ game.”
Beyond that, tonight’s games are big for both teams at both schools. Crowder’s Lady Panthers loom a game ahead of Bryant’s Lady Hornets in the conference standings with a 3-1 mark to Bryant’s 2-2. The difference was the game each played against Little Rock Central. Both fell behind in the first half, but Cabot was able to rally and win while the Lady Hornets also rallied but fell a basket short.
Cabot is 12-3 while Bryant is 11-4 behind head coach Brad Matthews, who is trying to build the program back to the standards that were set during Crowder’s time at BHS.
The Lady Hornets bounced back from their loss to Central with a convincing victory at Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday.
Bryant’s girls had lost eight in row to the Lady Panthers before beating them in overtime last February.
The boys’ game also figures to be a dogfight. Cabot, behind new head coach Chris Meseke, built a 12-1 record in non-conference play this season. The Panthers won their first two league games but lost their last two to Little Rock Central and league-leading Conway.
Bryant lost its conference opener to Fort Smith Northside but has since won three in a row to improve to 12-4 overall and 3-1 against the league. Those conference victories include a 59-45 win over Central a week ago.
Both teams have claimed wins over Little Rock Catholic and Fort Smith Southside.
The last two seasons, the Hornets and Panthers have split their home-and-home meetings with the road team prevailing each time.
Their rivalry reached a new level when they met in the State Tournament semifinals in Cabot on March 5, 2016. The Panthers eked out an overtime victory on the way to capturing the State title.