Conway survives Lady Hornets’ comeback bid

Photos courtesy of Paul Dotson

Parris Atkins gets around Conway’s 6-3 Savannah Scott (42) to get a shot away. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dotson)

CONWAY — Chloe Clardy of the Conway Lady Wampus Cats may be the best girls basketball player in Arkansas. On Friday night, she scored 35 points and seven rebounds against the Bryant Lady Hornets.

Chloe Clardy is a freshman.

And the Lady Cats have another ninth grader, Savannah Scott, a sturdy 6-3 post who added 8 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots against the Lady Hornets before she went out with an ankle sprain midway through the fourth quarter.

Led by that duo, along with senior guard Jadah Pickens, who had 15 points, the Lady Cats built a lead that reached its peak of 18 points early in the third quarter.

Gamely, however, the Lady Hornets, scrapped and clawed to come back, whittling the lead to 8, 54-46, with 3:46 left in the game.

But they could get no closer. A three-point play by Pickens put the Lady Cats back up by double digits as they held on for a 63-50 win at Buzz Bolding Arena.

“We came on the road and played the number two team in the state, had it to single digits with three or four minutes to go,” noted Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “But their spurt halfway through the first quarter and halfway through the second quarter just got us.”

“They’ve got a freshman out there that’s unbelievable,” he added. “They’ve got another freshman post kid who’s unbelievable. They’re very difficult for everyone, not just us.”

India Atkins (11) fires up a running jumper as teammate McKenzie Muse tries to get into position for a rebound. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dotson)

The win improved the Lady Cats to 17-4 this season, 6-1 in the 6A-Central Conference, trailing only defending State champ, Fort Smith Northside, which accounted for Conway’s lone league loss.

The Lady Hornets are now 12-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference, in fourth place in the league, going into the second half of the round-robin schedule. They’ll have next Tuesday off and host Northside next Friday.

Actually, Bryant kept pace with Conway on the boards, 33-34. But, working against Conway’s tough half-court zone trap, they suffered 16 turnovers in the first half, 25 in the game.

“We were over-dribbling a little bit against their zone,” Matthews said of the first-half struggles. “It led to some turnovers, led to a lot of transition baskets for them. Once we got them in the halfcourt — Coach (Joanna) Scott (Matthews’ assistant) came up with a great game plan — our kids did a good job. 

Celena Martin, right, whips a pass outside after driving on Conway’s Jadah Pickens (4). (Photo courtesy of Paul Dotson)

“They’re so difficult to guard,” the coach said of Conway. “They put four kids out there that shoot the 3 so well.”

Regarding the Conway defense, he added, “Their length in that zone gives us trouble. For the most part, in the second half, we passed the ball much better. 

“It wasn’t a lack of effort. But against good teams, playing hard’s not good enough,” Matthews asserted. “You’ve got to play hard and execute. In the second half, we did that. That’s when we made our run. When you score, you get back better, you rebound better, you defend better.”

Bryant was led by Tierra Trotter with 15 points. McKenzie Muse added 14, Lexie Taylor 9 and India Atkins 8.

After falling behind 8-3, the Lady Hornets cut it to 8-6 on a drive by Trotter and a free throw by Parris Atkins. But the 5-9 Clardy popped back-to-back 3’s to extend the lead again. Muse fed India Atkins for a basket to make it 14-8 but, from there, Conway surged to a 16-point lead late in the first half.

It was 20-10 going into the second quarter then 30-14 with 3:05 left in the half. Trotter made a steal and fed Muse for a basket then Clardy and Muse traded 3’s. But Conway held a 35-19 lead at the half.

When Clardy opened the second half with a layup, the lead had reached its apex, 37-19.

Off an offensive rebound by Parris Atkins, Trotter canned a 3 but Clardy pumped in her fifth from distance to make it 40-22.

The Lady Hornets started their comeback after a timeout. Trotter had a layup then drove for another basket. Celena Martin made a steal that led to a trip to the line for India Atkins, who converted both shots.

With 5:30 left in the third quarter, the lead was down to 12, 40-28.

But Conway surged again and held a 49-35 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Muse opened the final period with a 3 and the margin was 11. In two trips to the free-throw line, Conway came up with one point so when Taylor popped a 3 with 6:51 to go, the margin was under 10, 50-41.

Baskets by Scott and Clardy pushed the margin back to 13. After Trotter hit a free throw, her second attempt went out of bounds off the Lady Cats. On an inbound play, Trotter scored again to made it a 10-point game with 4:27 to go.

After Scott went down with her ankle injury and Clardy picked up her fourth foul, Muse converted twice at the line to make it 54-46 at the 3:46 mark.

That’s when Pickens attacked the basket for a three-point play. A free throw by Parris Atkins with 2:34 left, had Bryant down 10 but that was as close as the Lady Hornets could get down the stretch.


Score by quarters

BRYANT           10        9          16        15 — 50

Conway           20        13        16        14 — 63

LADY HORNETS (12-7, 4-3) 50

Trotter 6-11 1-2 15, P.Atkins 0-10 4-6 4, I.Atkins 2-4 4-4 8, Martin 0-2 0-0 0, Muse 5-10 2-2 14, Taylor 3-7 0-0 9, Russ 0-3 0-2 0. Totals 16-47 (34%) 11-16 (69%) 50.

LADY CATS (17-4, 6-1) 63

York 0-6 0-0 0, Pickens 5-12 4-5 15, Clardy 12-27 6-8 35, Rector 0-2 3-6 3, Scott 4-5 0-0 8, King 0-1 0-0 0, Malcum 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-54 (41%) 13-19 (68%) 63.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 7-21 (Taylor 3-7, Muse 2-6, Trotter 2-4, Martin 0-2, I.Atkins 0-1, P.Atkins 0-1), Conway 6-21 (Clardy 5-10, Pickens 1-3, York 0-6, Rector 0-1, King 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 25, Conway 16. Rebounds: Bryant 9-24 33 (Muse 1-7 8, P.Atkins 4-2 6, Martin 0-6 6, Trotter 1-4 5, Russ 2-1 3, I.Atkins 1-1 2, Taylor 0-2 2, team 0-1 1), Conway 9-25 34 (Scott 0-9 9, Clardy 4-3 7, York 1-3 4, Pickens 1-2 3, Rector 0-3 3, King 1-2 3, Malcum 1-2 3, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 18, Conway 14.

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