CABOT — On the heels of reaching the finals of the annual Kameron Hale Invitational Tournament at Lake Hamilton last week, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman basketball team returned to regular-season action on Monday at Cabot South.
Though they battled to a 9-7 lead at the half, the Lady Hornets were outscored 20-12 in the second half and suffered a 27-21 loss.
At Lake Hamilton, Bryant opened with a 33-19 win over White Hall then bounced Benton, 26-11. In the championship game against the host team, the Lady Hornets fell short 32-24.
Now 5-8, Bryant has one more non-conference game before opening play in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. They head to Conway to play White on Thursday then play their league debut at home against Benton on Monday, Jan. 11.
At Cabot, Kalia Walker led the Lady Hornets with 11 points. Meagan Chism had 6, Mary Catherine Selig 3 and Lauren Burnett 1.
Bryant led 5-3 after a quarter and 9-7 at the half. Cabot South’s Lady Panthers surged to a 19-17 edge going into the fourth quarter then held the Lady Hornets to 4 points down the stretch.
“I’m very proud of our defensive effort,” Bryant coach Nathan Castaldi said about the game. “We really made them work for baskets. The problem was for about four minutes during the third quarter, Cabot did not have to play offense because they scored off of turnovers.
“I thought we had good possessions on offense we just struggled to finish,” he added. “We also struggled at the free throw line, which kept us from extending the lead in the first half.”
In the tournament final on Wednesday, Dec. 30, Walker, who was named to the all-tournament team, scored 13 points. Chism had 8 and Selig 3.
The Lady Wolves jumped out to a 9-3 lead by the end of the first quarter and held a 15-8 advantage at the half. It was just 21-17 by the end of the third.
“I’m very proud of our effort in the finals,” Castaldi related. “We did not have great energy the first half but responded with a good second half. Lake Hamilton’s lead stayed at 4 for much of the fourth quarter until the end when we had to foul. We did a much better job of handling their pressure this time around, which led to some easy transition baskets for us.”
In the semifinals on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the Lady Hornets led Benton just 4-3 after a quarter but expanded the margin to 12-5 by halftime. The lead after three periods was 18-10.
“I thought we played one of our most complete games of the year,” Castaldi commented. “We did a better job of trying to get out in transition to get some easy scoring opportunities. When we could not get out in transition, I thought we did a good job of running our offense and getting good shots.
“Defensively, we made Benton work for everything,” he noted. “Allie Dugan (voted player of the game) defended Benton’s best player much of the first half when we were able to get the lead and did a great job. Allison Steen defended her a lot of the second half and picked up right were Allie left off. Their defensive effort really set the tone for our team.”
Walker scored 13 points for Bryant. Chism and Selig added 4 each with Rachel Studdard and Steen finishing with 2 apiece. Ashlyn Thompson hit a free throw.
Walker was the Player of the Game in the win over White Hall as she scored 15 points. Dugan pitched in with 7. Dulce Hernandez stepped up with 4 points while Studdard, Lexi Helton and Tenise Robinson scored 2 each. Chism added 1.
Bryant led 7-6 after a quarter but surged to a 17-12 lead by the half. The lead ballooned to 24-14 by the start of the fourth quarter. The Lady Hornets outscored the Lady Bulldogs 16-7 in the second half.
“I thought it took the first half to shake off the dust from the long lay off,” Castaldi said, referring to his team’s break from competition since Dec. 14. “While we shot the ball pretty well the first half, I did not think we had great ball movement against their zone. I also thought we did not play real well defensively the first half. We got beat off the dribble too much and allowed them to get some easy buckets.
“The second half we had better possessions on offense and played much better team defense,” he said. “Kalia did a good job of attacking on the offensive side of the basket against their zone. Allie and Dulce made a couple of outside shots to loosen up their zone in the second half.”