Clutch fourth-quarter buckets spark Lady Hornets to first league victory

For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here

Parris Atkins (10) puts up a shot over a pair of Mount St. Mary defenders. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Tierra Trotter, McKenzie Muse and Ivory Russ each made clutch baskets during a tell-tale two-minute stretch in the second half of the fourth quarter Tuesday night when the Bryant Lady Hornets hosted the 6A-Central Conference rival Mount St. Mary Belles.

With 3:39 left, Trotter took a kick-out pass from India Atkins and hit a 3 to snap a 35-35 tie.

With 2:12 to go and Bryant up by a point, Muse, off a dish from Trotter, drained a 3 from the left wing.

With 1:25 left and the Lady Hornets clinging to a 41-39 edge, Russ canned a baseline jumper off an assist from Parris Atkins.

Russ’ basket gave the Lady Hornets a two-possession lead 43-39 and started an 8-0 run that produced a 10-point lead. Though the Belles’ Catherine Althoff and Hagan Smith each hit a late 3, those clutch baskets and that late surge provided Bryant with the winning formula. The 49-45 victory was the Lady Hornets’ first in conference play.

McKenzie Muse (35) fires a 3-pointer despite the defense of Mount St. Mary’s Catherin Althoff. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

“We had to battle,” acknowledged Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “Mount St. Mary’s is a good team. They’ve got some really good guards that made some 3’s on us. Althoff is their bell cow. We had some breakdowns defensively, but you’ve got to give them credit for making shots.

“We didn’t get off to a very good start offensively,” he continued. “I think that gave them some momentum and some confidence, kind of set the tone for the entire game.

“But to our kids’ credit — it’s a game we easily could’ve lost,” the coach asserted. “You know, we’re tied with four minutes to go but we end up getting a 10-point lead to put it away in the last minute or minute and a half. So, it was a really good job by our kids. There’s a lot of things we can still work on. 

“But every conference game is going to be tough,” he stated. “Everybody knows you especially with so many kids we’ve got back from last year. It’s a battle. But that’s why we practice. That’s why we go to work every day. We’ll build on the positives from tonight. We’ll watch the film, see where our breakdowns were and try to fix them starting tomorrow.”

The Belles had the Lady Hornets on their heels early. After Trotter, who finished with a game-high 18 points, hit a 3, Mount reeled off the next 10 points including back-to-back 3’s by Katie Wilcox.

Lexie Taylor shoots over Mount’s Hagan Smith (3). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

After a timeout, the Lady Hornets rallied with Trotter driving for a basket then coming through with a four-point play when she was fouled on a made triple.

So, Bryant trailed 10-9 after a quarter.

Althoff, however, who led the Belles with 17 points, scored the first 6 points of the second period. The 16-9 advantage was Mount’s largest of the game.

Two free throws by India Atkins nearly four minutes into the quarter broke the ice for the Lady Hornets. They rallied to within 18-17 then trailed 21-19 at the half.

Muse, who had been held scoreless in the first half, hit a 3 to start the scoring in the second half, giving the Lady Hornets a one-point lead. And it was nip-and-tuck the rest of the quarter and deep into the fourth. 

After the lead went back and forth much of the third, an offensive-rebound basket by Russ tied it a 31 going into the fourth quarter.

McKeycia Baker looks for room to shoot at Katie Wilcox defends. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Altholff and Trotter traded baskets then Libby Franks and Parris Atkins did the same. When Mount called a timeout at the 4:35 mark, the game was deadlocked at 35.

When play resumed, the Belles missed a shot to snap the tie before Trotter hit her 3. Smith cut it to 1, 38-37, then had a chance to put Mount back in the lead at the free-throw line. The Belles’ only free throw of the night, the front end of a one-and-one, Smith missed with 2:45 left.

That led to Muse’s clutch triple and a 4-point lead. 

Althoff cut it to 41-39 with 1:47 left but, after a timeout, Russ hit her baseline jumper to make it a two-possession lead.

“McKenzie hit a big 3 coming out of the half to kind of get us going,” Matthews said. “Ivory made that little baseline jumper there with about a minute and a half to go. That pushed it to 4 and kind of gave us a little breathing room.”

A layup by India Atkins extended the margin. She would add a pair of free throws then so did Russ with :18.4 to go, making it 49-39.

“We made our free throws down the stretch,” mentioned Matthews. In fact, for the game, Bryant was 11 of 12 from the line. “A lot of good things happened in the fourth quarter. We’ve just got to get off to a better start, so we don’t put ourselves in a hole. 

“Mount had Cabot down at half (on Friday),” the coach said. “They beat a really, really good Marion team. They’re going to beat some people in this league. So, this was a good win for us.

“When you’re tied with four minutes to go, to be able to get that 10-point lead like we did — I think that says something about our kids.”

Now 1-1 in the league and 9-5 overall, the Lady Hornets will continue conference play this Friday at Little Rock Central.

LADY HORNETS 49, BELLES 45

Score by quarters

Mount St. Mary          10        11        10        14 — 45

BRYANT                       9          10        12        18 — 49

BELLES (6-9) 45

Smith 5-14 0-1 13, Tarini 1-2 0-0 3, Wilcox 3-12 0-0 8, Franks 2-4 0-0 4, Althoff 8-15 0-0 17, Potts 0-2 0-0 0, Schneider 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 (38%) 0-1 (0%) 45.

LADY HORNETS (9-5) 49

Trotter 6-11 3-3 18, P.Atkins 3-11 0-0 6, I.Atkins 2-6 6-6 11, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Muse 3-12 0-1 8, Le.Taylor 0-3 0-0 0, Russ 2-5 2-2 6, Baker 0-1 0-0 0, Scifres 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-50 (32%) 11-12 (92%) 49.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-21 (Trotter 3-7, Muse 2-5, I.Atkins 1-3, Le.Taylor 0-3, P.Atkins 0-2, Scifres 0-1), Mount St. Mary 7-23 (Smith 3-9, Wilcox 2-6, Althoff 1-3, Tarini 1-2, Potts 0-2, Franks 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 9, Mount St. Mary 15. Rebounds: Bryant 12-21 33 (Muse 3-4 7, P.Atkins 1-5 6, Russ 4-2 6, Trotter 1-3 4, I.Atkins 1-3 4, Le.Taylor 1-1 2, Martin 0-1 1, Scifres 0-1 1, team 0-2 2), Mount St. Mary 12-22 34 (Althoff 5-7 12, Franks 1-5 6, Tarini 0-4 4, Wilcox 2-2 4, Smith 0-1 1, Potts 1-0 1, team 3-3 6). Team fouls: Bryant 11, Mount St. Mary 16.



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