CONWAY — With :05.1 showing on the clock, Meagan Chism hit a free throw to tie the game then another to provide the winning margin as the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team rallied to a 30-29 win over the Conway Blue Lady Cats at Buzz Bolding Arena.
Conway Blue got a show away from 25 feet at the buzzer but it rimmed out and the Lady Hornets had their first Central Arkansas Junior High Conference victory. And it came against a team that came in 3-1 in league play, just behind co-leaders Lake Hamilton and North Little Rock, who both improved to 4-0 on Thursday night.
The seeds of the victory may have been planted on Monday despite losing to North Little Rock.
“I thought we played extremely hard on Monday (both rebounding and on defense),” said Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “We just could not get shots to fall. We talked in practice about how if we continued to play that way on defense and rebound like we did then good things will happen. Hopefully, we can continue that as we finish the season.”
The Lady Hornets play again on Monday at Mount St. Mary in Little Rock then at Lake Hamilton in a make-up game on Tuesday. They then finish the season with three consecutive home games.
On Thursday, the Lady Hornets led going into the fourth quarter but Conway Blue, which beat them 31-16 in December, rallied and led by as much as 25-20 with 1:46 left to go.
The Lady Cats had a chance to add to that lead but Lauren Burnett made a steal and fed Mary Catherine Selig for a basket that started a Bryant comeback.
After an exchange of free throws, Chism and the Lady Hornets thought they had a chance to tie it when she made a steal, drove to the basket was fouled and got a shot to go. But the official ruled that the foul came before the shot so Chism went to the line with only a chance to cut the lead to 1.
She converted both ends of the one-and-one to make it 26-25 with 1:03 to go.
Kyja Wiseman added a free throw to the lead for Conway Blue. She missed the second shot but the carom went out of bounds off Bryant hands.
The Lady Hornets fouled on the inbounds play and, with :51.1 showing, Conway’s Tamia Chatman, who led her team with 13 points, sank both free throws to make it a two-possession game, 29-25.
But with :37.7 to go, Bryant’s Allie Dugan drilled a 3-pointer, her only basket of the game and just her second shot attempt, and the Lady Hornets were back with 1. The Lady Hornets fouled with :31.6 to go and the door was open for them when the Conway Blue shooter missed both shots. The carom off the missed second shot bounced tantalizingly off the hands of players from both teams then rolled out of bounds through the legs of three players.
Bryant gained possession but point guard Kalia Walker’s shot in the lane wouldn’t fall and there was no foul called despite considerable contact.
At the other end, however, Wiseman was called for an offensive foul giving the Lady Hornets another chance. With time running out, Chism got a shot away from the baseline but it came off the iron. But she was there to follow and was fouled, setting up her winning free throws.
Selig led the Lady Hornets with 12 points and 13 rebounds with Chism finishing with 7 points, Walker 6. Dugan had her 3, which was the only one of the night for either team, and Tenise Robinson had a basket.
“I thought we rushed some things on offense throughout the game but what I was really proud of was that, down the stretch when we really needed to have good possessions and get good shots, we did,” Castaldi said. “When we fell behind, the girls could have panicked and started to play in a hurry but they didn’t.
“We talked in a timeout that we had lots of time and we did not have to come down and shoot rushed threes,” he noted. “We did not do that — Allie’s came after three or four passes — and continued to attack the basket, which paid off with Meagan’s free throws at the end.”
Bryant actually had the upper hand most of the game. Both teams struggled to score in the opening quarter but, with the game tied 2-2 going into the last 1:30 of the period, Selig had a stickback and a layup off a feed from Dugan to take a 6-2 lead into the second quarter.
Another stickback from Selig added to the margin. After Chatman ended a dry spell for Conway, Walker hit a free throw. Selig rebounded the missed second shot and eventually got it back, scoring off a nice dish from Megan Lee, making it 11-4.
Conway, however, scored the final 6 points of the half, which ended with Bryant clinging to an 11-10 lead.
A free throw by Chatman tied it to open the third quarter but the Lady Hornets scored the next 7 points. Walker had a three-point play then Chism and Selig knocked down shots.
With Burnett playing strong defense on Chatman with help from Selig or Allison Steen doubling down in the post, the Lady Cats’ leader didn’t score again until early in the fourth quarter.
Bryant led 20-15 with Robinson capping the scoring in the third quarter with a 15-footer off an assist from Chism.
With Burnett in foul trouble and on the bench, Chatman sparked Conway Blue’s 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Bryant didn’t score in the period until the 1:28 mark with Selig getting the feed from Burnett, who had returned. That set up the dramatic finish.