Bryant girls reach Shootout finals with late push past CAC
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — Though his team is 11-0 on the season, Bryant Lady Hornets head coach Blake Condley knows it hasn’t faced the kind of competition it will contend with in the 7A-Central Conference, particularly the likes of[more] Conway and North Little Rock. So, he’s been looking forward to games against non-conference foes that he figured would push his team, test it, and, through that, making them better prepared for what’s to come.
At the Joe T. Robinson Tournament earlier this season, he had figured that Camden Fairview’s athletic squad would provide some of that push but the Lady Cardinals came into the game with two of their top players sidelined by injury.
Similarly, when Condley saw the possibility that his team might face the Central Arkansas Christian Lady Mustangs in the second round of the annual Summit Bank Spa City Shootout at Summit Arena, he was looking forward to perhaps his team’s toughest challenge to date. The Lady Mustangs came into the season boasting a well-coached veteran team that included Ole Miss signee Gracie Frizzell. But, during a pre-tournament practice, Frizzell suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Despite the loss of their star, the Lady Mustangs beat Benton 41-34 on Tuesday to advance to play the Lady Hornets in the semifinals and, as it turned out, they still proved to be a handful with Haley Hatcher, Shelby Tankersley and Falan Miller all scoring in double figures.
CAC led 39-37 with 6:45 left in the game only to have Bryant close the game out with a 15-3 run that produced their 12th win, 52-42. They’ll play for their third tournament title of the season on Thursday at 7 p.m., against Hot Springs Lakeside, a 51-38 winner over Bryant’s 7A-Central rival Mount St. Mary Academy of Little Rock.
Sophomore phenom McKenzie Adams scored 12 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter to spark the game-winning run. Sophomore Kiara Moore added 11 points, London Abernathy 6, Abbi Stearns 4 and Breanna Blundell 3. Stearns owned the boards with 13 caroms as Bryant out-rebounded CAC 38-28. She also had four blocked shots.
Condley had talked about his team creating its own winning atmosphere during its 50-30 win over Hot Springs on Tuesday, referring to the mid-week, mid-day quiet in the expanse of the Summit Arena. Asked after Wednesday’s win how the team does that, he responded, “When we’re on defense, we want to communicate with each other. We want to be very aggressive. We want the bench to be involved in the game and to be encouraging because they’re just as much a part as the girls out on the floor.
“In fact, when the game was over, I told them that I feel like the bench gave us just as much energy and intensity as the girls on the floor because they were cheering harder and louder in the fourth quarter than they were the rest of the game,” he noted. “I think the girls on the floor responded to that. They say, ‘Hey, our teammates are over there and they’re with us. They’re behind us.’
“That’s what makes a good team,” Condley remarked, emphasizing the last word. “and that’s what we’re wanting to get to. We want to be a good team and that’s all involved, all the coaching staff, all the girls on the bench, the girls on the floor — all of that. And I was proud of what we did today.”
The game was tied 10 times including 11-11 after the first quarter, 22-22 at the half and, after CAC held a 37-35 edge going into the fourth quarter, at 37-37 early in the fourth quarter when Adams and Moore combined to force a turnover that Adams cashed in with her patented drive and pull-up jay.
Tankersley gave CAC at 39-37 lead with a bucket inside at the 6:45 mark but the Lady Mustangs went the next 6:08 without scoring. Meanwhile, Bryant reeled off a 13-0 run.
Adams tied it for the last time at 39-39 with 5:40 left. After a missed 3 by Miller and a Lady Mustangs timeout, Adams fed Abernathy who canned a 15-footer to make a two-possession game. Another CAC miss followed. At 3:27, the Lady Mustangs’ defense sloughed off Adams trying to prevent one of her dribble-drives, so she popped a 15-footer to make it 45-39.
And when Hatcher’s shot inside was blocked, CAC took a timeout with 3:01 to go.
To that point, the Lady Mustangs had committed just four fouls in the half so they needed to commit three more before they could get Bryant to the line.
It’s an indication of how well the game was played that, up to that point, each team had attempted just four free throws.
It took until the 1:39 mark for CAC to get the requisite seven team fouls to send the Lady Hornets to the line but, much to the chagrin of longtime Lady Mustangs’ coach Steve Quattlebaum, it was Adams they wound up sending to the line. She converted twice and, after Larkin Hatcher misfired on a 3 for CAC, Adams was fouled after claiming the rebound.
Two more free throws pushed the lead to 10. And, moments later, Stearns blocked a 3-point try by Haley Hatcher. Blundell wound up with the ball and she was fouled with :50.4 showing. Though she connected just once and CAC’s Taylor Evans drained a 3, Abernathy closed out the victory with two free throws at the :20.9 mark.
Asked what the key to the late surge was, Condley responded, “Just maintaining our focus and intensity down the stretch. We talked at halftime about the fact that there were some loose balls in the first half that seemed to go CAC’s way. There were some rebounds that came off that we thought could’ve gone either way but ended up going their way. But I thought in the second half, we came up with some loose balls. We came up with some rebounds and that’s the key to beating a good team.
“And CAC’s a good team,” he asserted. “They’re very well coached and they execute offensively and defensively very well. I feel really bad for (Frizzell). But CAC came out with a lot of energy and intensity early. I was proud of our girls. They responded and did what we needed to down the stretch.”
The two teams traded baskets for most of the first half. CAC had an 11-9 lead going into the final minute of the opening quarter before Adams fed Stearns for a layup to knot it up.
In the second quarter, it was a stickback by Stearns that had the game tied at 16. She then blocked a shot on the defensive end and Moore slashed for a layup. Adams scored to make it 20-16. But Miller scored 4 points to help the Lady Mustangs come back to tie it going into the intermission.
Bryant gained a bit of an edge early in the third quarter when Adams and Moore hit consecutive baskets to make it 28-24.
It was still a 4-point game at 32-28 when Haley Hatcher drove for a basket and Moore answered with a triple to make it 35-30. Miller, however, responded with back-to-back 3’s to help the Lady Mustangs lead going into the fourth quarter.
LADY HORNETS 52, LADY MUSTANGS 42
Score by quarters
CAC 11 11 15 5 — 42
BRYANT 11 11 13 17 — 52
LADY MUSTANGS (7-5) 42
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
L.Hatcher 1-6 0-0 2-2 4 1 2
H.Hatcher 6-22 1-2 1-2 3 4 15
Miller 3-11 2-2 2-3 5 4 10
Tankersley 6-10 0-0 0-3 3 4 12
Camper 0-1 0-0 2-3 5 1 0
Evans 1-3 0-0 0-5 5 1 3
Saunders 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 1-2 3
Totals 17-54 3-4 8-20 28 15 42
LADY HORNETS (12-0) 52
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Moore 5-11 0-0 0-5 5 4 11
Adams 11-17 4-4 2-4 6 2 28
Abernathy 2-6 2-2 2-3 5 0 6
Stearns 2-4 0-0 3-10 13 0 4
Blundell 0-4 3-6 0-5 5 2 3
Davis 0-3 0-0 1-0 1 0 0
Davidson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Meyer 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 0 0
Team 0-1 1
Totals 20-46 9-12 9-29 38 9 52
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-12 (Adams 2-3, Moore 1-4, Abernathy 0-3, Davis 0-2), Central Arkansas Christian 5-20 (H.Hatcher 2-10, Miller 2-6, Evans 1-1, L.Hatcher 0-2, Saunders 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Central Arkansas Christian 8.