CABOT — It ended up a 17-point difference but, with three minutes left in the game, the Bryant Lady Hornets were just trailing the Cabot Lady Panthers 37-30 and had a chance to cut it further with two shots at the free-throw line. But those two shots wouldn’t fall, just as eight others in the final period refused to drop.
The Lady Hornets jumped into a press to try to force some turnovers and get some easy baskets but Cabot proved to be too solid against the pressure to fall into that and ultimately pulled away, winning 49-32.
It was the first loss for the Lady Hornets who had won its first three games of the season. In fact, it was the first time they’d trailed that late in a game thus far.
Cabot, vying for the championship of its own Pre-Holiday Tournament, moved on to the title game against Vilonia on Monday night. Bryant is set to play in the consolation game against Harding Academy at 4 p.m.
The Lady Hornets did a good job of getting to the free-throw line against Cabot’s Lady Panthers, attempting 29 charity tosses. But, unlike previous outings, they struggled to convert, making just 14. They managed that despite playing against the Lady Panthers’ tough zone defense, the first consistent zone the Lady Hornets had seen.
“Our zone offense is not as sharp as it will be,” stated Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews, who noted the team had been practicing the zone offense but hadn’t had occasion to use it much in the heat of a game much. “We were trying to run some stuff we hadn’t run before. (Cabot) does a good job in their zone but I think the next time we see zone it’ll be sharper.
“Even saying that, I thought we got some good looks,” he added. “I thought we got the ball in the lane and we got to the free-throw line a lot. We’ve just got to convert more of those. You know, when you don’t convert free throws, it’s just empty.
“It was really about a 10-point game,” the coach related. “We had it to 5 in transition. We had it to 7 in transition. We turn it over and they go down and score. We can’t press them but what are you going to do? Lose by 7 or take a few chances at the risk of losing by more? It doesn’t matter anyway.
“Cabot does a great job in transition,” he said. “I thought we did a good job until the last two or three minutes when we tried to extend the defense, they beat us in transition. But that’s the first time we’ve been in that situation so we’ve got to make sure we learn from it and make sure that next time we handle it a little bit better.”
Jayla Anderson led Bryant with 9 points. Jakeria Otey and Aubree Allen had 8 each. All three were held below their averages to date. Post Erica Smith had 6. Maddie Baxter scored 1.
Matthews praised Smith for her work on the boards, calling it her best game this season in that regard. “I don’t have the stats right here but she may have had nine or 10 rebounds,” he said.
“I thought we had some kids competing,” the coach added, mentioning Anderson and Peyton Weaver, in particular.
Five different Bryant players scored in the first quarter as the Lady Hornets stayed within 14-10 but only after they got down 8-2 in the opening stages of the game. But the Lady Hornets were limited to four free throws in seven attempts without a field goal in the second period.
“We weren’t very sharp coming out,” Matthews said. “But I was proud of our kids for competing. I thought we hung in there and fought and competed and that’s something to build on.”
Cabot wasn’t able to run out and hide at that point, however, as Bryant’s defense stayed pretty solid. It was 23-14 at the half. It was 31-20 going into the fourth quarter before the Lady Hornets started a rally that had them within 5 midway through the final stanza. But they could get no closer. Allen, the team’s leading scorer on the season, fouled out right after that.
“We just have to be sharper on offense,” Matthews stated. “I’ve got to do a better job getting us good shots. The kids are trying to make them. It’s not like they’re intentionally trying to miss them.
“We’ll go back and practice, work on it and get better,” he asserted. “There’s some things I think we can show them on film to improve our execution.”
CABOT PRE-HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT
At Panther Arena, Cabot
Tuesday, Dec. 10
Game 1 — Harding Academy 57, Searcy 53
Wednesday, Dec. 11
Game 6 — Bryant 54, Watson Chapel 41
Game 8 — Vilonia 54, Benton 50
Thursday, Dec. 12
Game 10 — Searcy 43, Benton 41
Game 12 — Vilonia 44, Harding Academy 38
Saturday, Dec. 14
Game 13 — Jacksonville vs. Watson Chapel, 1 p.m.
Game 15 — Cabot 49, Bryant 32
Monday, Dec. 16
Game 19 — Harding Academy vs. Bryant, 4 p.m.
Game 21 — Vilonia vs. Cabot, 7 p.m.