Central’s fourth-quarter comeback leaves Bryant reeling into State tourney play

By Rob Patrick

Photos by Kevin Nagle 

The Bryant Lady Hornets appeared to be in the[more] driver’s seat. With 7:06, London Abernathy had drilled her fifth 3-pointer of the second half to give them a 43-36 advantage.

Bryant's Breanna Blundell, right, fights to retain possession. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Maybe it the weariness that had to be setting in as the Lady Hornets played their fourth game in five days, or the full-contact defense that Central was playing (or some of both), but from that point on, Bryant was outscored 12-2.

The Lady Tigers rallied to stun the Lady Hornets 48-45, a win that secured for them the No. 5 seed from the 7A-Central Conference to next week’s Class 7A State Tournament at Heritage High School in Rogers. Bryant had a chance to gain that spot but, instead, will be the No. 6 seed. They’ll open play at State against Rogers at 1 p.m., on Thursday, March 3. The fresh start and the break between now and then figure to be welcome to the young Lady Hornets who have lost four of their last five games.

“Things we executed well all season long, we just didn’t down the stretch.,” said Bryant head coach Blake Condley of Friday night’s game. “We went a couple of possessions without scoring against their zone. We were up 6 so I said, ‘Hey, let’s get out and make them guard us “man”. We’ve cut everybody up all season long when they guard us ‘man.’ But we weren’t able to score against that. We made some uncharacteristic turnovers that cost us down the stretch.”

Jamie Ruffins had cut the lead to 6 with a free throw but then the Lady Hornets turned the ball over on four straight possessions. Central was unable to take advantage until, with 4:24 left, Shawnessi Arnold scored and was fouled. And when she missed the free throw, Ruffins somehow came up with the rebound and was fouled. She converted twice and suddenly Bryant’s lead was just 43-41.

Bryant's McKenzie Adams (3) and London Abernathy battle Central's Dee Dee Arline for a rebound. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Kiara Moore drove for a layup to break the dry spell for the Lady Hornets but, moments later, Arnold knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with 3:14 to go.

Bryant worked the clock down to 1:42 when Central forced a turnover. Brittney Leonard cashed it in from 18 feet and the Lady Tigers had a 46-45 lead.

Another turnover cost the Lady Hornets but, in a scramble near midcourt, it appeared the Moore had swiped the ball back only to be called for a foul, her fifth of the game.

Bryant still had fouls to give so Central inbounded the ball and Ruffins got free for a layup and a 48-45 edge.

Abbi Stearns’ drive to the basket drew plenty of contact but no call was forthcoming and her shot missed. The Lady Hornets couldn’t control the rebound but go enough of it to knock it out of bounds to Central.

Bryant's Kiara Moore, left, drives past Central's Brittney Leonard. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

After a Bryant timeout with :13 left, Arnold was fouled. And when she missed the front end of the one-and-one, the Lady Hornets had a chance to tie it with a 3. McKenzie Adams got a look from near the top of the key but the shot rimmed out and Central had held on for the win.

Condley acknowledged that it had been tough to run any offensive sets all night.

“It was, because Central plays so aggressive on defense,” he said. “They’re going to bump and hold and push. And the referees called a lot of fouls tonight (35 between the two teams) but you just can’t call them all. They just foul so much, you can’t call them all. And I thought we let that get to us a little bit down the stretch. Still, we made some cuts, had some open people, we just couldn’t make the pass we needed to at the right time.”

Abernathy paced the Lady Hornets with 19 points, 17 in the second half. Adams had 12, Breanna Blundell 5 and Moore 4.

Central wound up with four players in double figures. Arnold finished with 12, Ruffins 11, Leonard and Taylor Lewis 10 each.

Logan Davis (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The game was tight throughout. Bryant gained the upper hand initially in the first quarter when, trailing 5-3, Adams hit two free throws and Stearns drove for a basket to produce a 7-5 lead. Two free throws by Blundell added to the margin. Leonard and Adams traded free throws but when Sara Flood scored just before the buzzer, it closed the gap to 11-9.

It was 15-13 before Bryant made a bid of a push. Abernathy hit a pair of free throws and, after a Central miss, Logan Davis got behind the defense for a layup to make it 19-13.

But Central rallied to tie it at 19. It was knotted at 20 and 22 before Lewis hit a driving jumper with :15 left in the half. Adams hit a free throw with :05.6 to go making it a 24-23 game in the Lady Tigers’ favor at the half.

Abernathy, however, went off in the third quarter. She knocked down a 15-footer to start the scoring, giving the lead back to Bryant. After Leonard answered with a drive up the baseline, Abernathy connected on her first 3 of the contest. Consecutive buckets by Lewis and Ruffins had Central up 30-28 but Abernathy struck again to negate the margin.

Lewis hit a 15-footer but Abernathy bombed away again as the lead seesawed back Bryant’s way 34-32.

Lewis tied with a pair of free throws then Leonard’s bucket put the Lady Tigers ahead. Adams, however, was fouled on a 3-pointer try with 1:00 showing. She converted all three free throws to put the Lady Hornets up 37-36. And, after Leonard misfired, Abernathy beat the buzzer with her fourth 3 of the quarter, giving Bryant a 40-36 advantage.

Her 3 to open the fourth quarter produced the 7-point lead that Central would erase with the closing rush.


Score by quarters

LR Central 9 15 12 12 — 48

BRYANT 11 12 17 5 — 45

LADY TIGERS (14-11, 7-7) 48 

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Ruffins  4-7 3-4 1-3 4 3 11

Leonard 3-5 4-4 0-0 0 4 10

Arline 1-6 0-2 1-4 5 4 2

Arnold 5-12 1-8 0-4 4 1 12

Flood 1-2 1-2 3-3 6 3 3

Lewis 4-11 2-2 0-0 0 1 10

Caster 0-0   0-0 0-0 0 2 0

Nichols 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Team 1-3 4

Totals 18-43 11-22 6-17 23 18 48

LADY HORNETS (18-9, 5-9) 45

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Moore 1-2 2-2 0-0 0 5 4

Adams 1-10 10-11 1-3 4 1 12

Abernathy 5-9 2-2 1-4 5 1 19

Blundell 1-4 3-4 1-5 6 3 5

Stearns 1-6 0-0 1-7 8 4 2

Hogancamp 0-0 1-2 0-0 0 1 1

Davidson 0-0 0-0 1-1 2 2 0

Davis 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 2

Team 2-3 5

Totals 11-32 18-21 7-24 31 17 45

Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-12 (Abernathy 5-8, Adams 0-4), Little Rock Central 1-9 (Arnold 1-5, Lewis 0-3, Leonard 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Little Rock Central 7. 

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