For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
On Dec. 8, 2016, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team was coming off back-to-back losses. For some of them, it was the first time they’d lost at all in junior high after going unbeaten as seventh and eighth graders. So, it was with some emotion that they lit into the Mount St. Mary Academy Mounties that night. They took out their frustrations to the tune of a 51-5 thumping.
No doubt both teams remembered that night when they had their rematch at the Bryant Middle School gym on Monday night. It was a far different ballgame.
In fact, the Mounties led the Lady Hornets 11-9 with 2:47 left in the first half. Bryant ended the second quarter and started the third with a 13-1 surge that produced their largest lead of the game. They wound up having to hang on for a 30-24 win.
“Mount’s one of those teams that, every year, gets better all the way through the season,” said Bryant head coach Nathan Castaldi. “When we played them there, we played really well. I knew they were going to come out tonight and they had a little something to prove. So, I knew it was going to be a good game.
“I thought that when we came out, we expected to just walk over them,” he acknowledged. “I think we had that last game in our head, maybe a little over-confident. So, our mental focus wasn’t where it’s supposed to be and that led to some energy problems. We didn’t have the energy we needed.”
Despite having five players out due to illness or injury, Castaldi got 12 players in the game in the first half. And it was probably in part because of some frustration regarding that energy level he saw in his starters.
The Lady Hornets managed a 4-2 lead in the first 1:30 of the game but it stayed that score for quite a while. With 2:49 left in the quarter, Ivory Russ got to the free-throw line and added a point to the advantage. Off a Mounties turnover, she drove for a basket to make it 7-2.
But when Mount St. Mary scored and got a three-point play out of it, Castaldi sent in a new five.
It didn’t slow the Mounties, who surged to a 9-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Three minutes deep into the second period, Russ scored inside but a bucket at the other end had Mount St. Mary ahead again.
That’s when Bryant’s surge occurred. Celena Martin scored inside to get things started. Tyianna Robinson made a steal and wound up at the free-throw line where she converted once in two tries. Then, to beat the buzzer that ended the half, Russ scored again to make it 14-11 at the break.
To start the third quarter, Lexi Taylor converted a free throw and, moments later, Martin scored again. A layup by Tierra Trotter off a Mounties turnover made it 19-11. Following a free throw by the Mounties, Russ converted once at the line and Martin added a basket off the offensive glass to make it 22-12.
Free-throw shooting helped keep it close. Mount made them and Bryant missed. For the game, the Mounties were 12 of 17 and Bryant was 10 of 24.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets held a 24-18 edge. Free throws allowed Mount St. Mary to trim it to 24-21 early in the fourth quarter. They had a chance to get closer after a Bryant miss but the Lady Hornets forced a held ball and Taylor was able to add a point with 3:16 left to play.
After a Mounties miss, Russ was fouled. Though the first shot of the one-and-one opportunity failed, Martin snuck inside to grab the carom and score to make it 27-21.
It was 27-23 and an offensive foul cost the Lady Hornets a possession. After a timeout, however, they forced a Mount turnover and, with 1:02 to go, Tierra Trotter hit a free throw to extend the lead to 5. After a Mounties’ miss, Russ took advantage of the spread floor and drove for a clinching hoop with :37 showing.
“I thought the second half, we did a better job getting the ball where we wanted to but we still struggled to score, struggled to convert at the free-throw line,” Castaldi observed. “But we were having better possessions than we did the first half.”
The win improved Bryant to 17-4 overall this season, 10-4 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. It was the Lady Hornets’ final regular-season home game. They’ll finish up the regular-season with three road games starting with Thursday’s trip to Russellville.
LADY HORNETS 30, MOUNTIES 24
Score by quarters
Mount St. Mary 9 2 7 6 — 24
BRYANT 7 7 10 6 — 30
Tarini 2-9 1-2 5, Altoff 1-4 2-2 4, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Elser 1-3 3-3 5, Straessle 0-0 0-0 0, Finnegan 1-2 3-4 5, Rankin 1-3 1-2 3, Obert 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 0-3 0-0 0, Wewers 0-1 2-4 2. Totals 6-25 12-17 24.
LADY HORNETS 30
T.Trotter 2-8 1-2 5, Martin 5-6 0-3 10, Robinson 0-4 1-2 1, Russ 3-10 4-9 10, Taylor 0-1 4-8 4, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, S.Trotter 0-1 0-0 0, Scifres 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Harlee 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-32 10-24 30.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 0-9 (T.Trotter 0-5, Taylor 0-1, S.Trotter 0-1, Scifres 0-1, Williams 0-1), Mount St. Mary 0-4 (Tarini 0-2, Altoff 0-1, Wewers 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, Mount St. Mary 23. Rebounds: Bryant 12-11 23 (Russ 3-1 4, T.Trotter 3-1 4, Martin 3-1 4, Robinson 2-1 3, Scott 0-2 2, S.Trotter 0-1 1, Scifres 0-1 1, team 1-3 4), Mount St. Mary 10-12 22 (Elser 2-3 5, Finnegan 4-1 5, Rankin 2-1 3, Wilson 1-2 3, Tarini 0-1 1, team 1-4 5). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Mount St. Mary 16.