By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — So, the Conway Lady Cats had six different players hit 3-pointers and, as a team[more] drilled 10 of them — six in one quarter — at Buzz Bolding Arena Tuesday night.
But they didn’t win.
The Bryant Lady Hornets withstood that barrage on their way to an exhilirating 68-60 win, which was something no previous Bryant team had done since the two schools were placed in the Central Conference together in 2002-03.
Bryant, facing a five-game gauntlet through the teams that were expected to be among the elite in the 7A/6A-Central Conference, passed the halfway point of that mountain and suddenly find themselves among the upper echelon of teams in the league with a 3-1 conference record.
Taneasha Rhode scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while Kiara Moore added 21 points including 13 in the fourth quarter and Courtney Davidson finished with 15 points and nine boards for the Lady Hornets, now 11-7 overall.
Bryant trailed only briefly in the game, the last time at 16-15 with 4:35 left in the first half. The Lady Hornets then went on a 13-2 run to gain the upper hand.
When Conway put together its 3-point spree in the third quarter, the lead dwindled to 1 but Bryant never gave it up, actually increasing their eight-point halftime lead by a point at the end of the period.
“I don’t care what level you’re playing at — you don’t see that in the NBA,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “It wasn’t like we just sat out there and let one kid hit 3’s. They had four different kids hit 3’s. They play like that the whole game and there’s nobody in the state that can beat them.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” he added. “Hopefully, all that work, we’re starting to see pay off and this will kind of spur us on to work harder in practice, prepare harder.”
That will be necessary because the Lady Hornets’ next two games are against the two teams most believe are the best in the league, Cabot (at home this Friday) and North Little Rock (on the road next Tuesday).
“We’re four games into a 14-game conference schedule,” Matthews noted. “After a great road win, our present is to play Cabot and North Little Rock the next couple of games. But it’s a great win for our kids. We’re 3-1 with two of them on the road. The one we lost, I think Russellville knew they were in a fight there in the third and fourth quarters.
“Hopefully, we’re seeing our kids kind of growing up a little bit, maturing, learning how to fight and compete,” he added. “Boy, when we start doing that — when you put that together with some execution, we’ll be all right. It’s such a tough conference, you have to go out and do it every night.”
Despite facing withering pressure defense, the Lady Hornets committed just 13 turnovers. Meanwhile, behind Rhode and Davidson, they out-rebounded the Lady Cats 45 to 32 including 17 rebounds on the offensive end.
“I felt that, from the outset, we rebounded as well as we have all year,” Matthews asserted. “I felt we looked like we were going to get it. We still had some breakdowns but — you know, the way they shoot the 3, there’s going to be some long rebounds and we knew that. I thought we defended and rebounded really well.
“I thought the key — and we talked about this for two or three days now — the way they play with pressure on offense and pressure on defense, it’s going to be a game of runs,” he said.
“I thought our kids withstood it, from a mental standpoint, and didn’t succumb to the pressure. That was the key to the game along with our defense and rebounding. It’s easy to talk about. It’s a lot harder to step up and make plays to kind of foil their run, put an end to it.
“They played more zone pressure so it wasn’t like we just clear it out for a guard but I thought we handled their pressure well as a team,” the coach continued. “To handle that kind of pressure, you have to handle it as a team.”
It was a seesaw game in the first quarter with Davidson providing a big spark for Bryant. She had 7 of the team’s 11 points. Conway led 10-9 when, with :12 left, Dezerea Duckworth hit a layup to give Bryant the edge.
The back-and-forth continued at the start of the second period with Conway taking a 16-15 lead on a free throw by Enjonae Chambers. But moments later, Moore dished to Rhode for a layup and Bryant took the lead for good.
Moore followed up with a 3-pointer then fed Rhode again on an inbounds play under the basket. Davidson added a short jumper off the glass and Bryant led 24-16.
After a timeout, Chambers drove for a bucket but Rhode scored twice off the offensive glass as Bryant’s lead grew to 10 points before a layup by Madison Foster for Conway made it 28-20 at the break.
Actually, it was Bryant’s Logan Davis who hit the first triple in the third quarter but Conway’s Claire Hobbs answered from way downtown. When McCall Wilkins hit a pair of 3’s and Foster added another, it was only a pair of baskets inside by Davidson that kept Bryant ahead as Conway closed to within 35-34.
Moore then countered with a clutch trey off a kickout from Duckworth to slow the tide. And when Chambers missed from long range, Duckworth fed Rhode for a layup. And when Davis made a steal and a driving jumper, Bryant had built the lead back up to 43-34 and Conway needed a timeout.
The Lady Cats rallied to within 44-41 with just over a minute to go in the third quarter but Haley Murphy, back in action off an injury, got the ball to Rhode for an 8-foot jumper. Moore drove for a bucket and, when Duckworth found Rhode inside again in the final seconds, the Bryant lead was 50-41, much to the Lady Cats’ frustration.
Rhode scored inside and Moore made a steal and layup as Bryant extended the margin to its zenith at 13 points. Conway needed and took another timeout with 4:52 left in the game. To that point, the Lady Cats were 0 of 6 from the field in the quarter.
A basket by Wilkins got them going again and they eventually trimmed the lead to 57-53.
Matthews called a timeout and, for the second time in the quarter, the Lady Hornets came out of the break and scored, clearing room for Moore to take it to the rack for a clutch basket.
Chambers answered and, after a pair of Bryant misses, Conway had a chance to get closer than the 4-point margin at the time. But the Lady Hornets forced a turnover and spread the floor offensively.
After a Lady Cats timeout with :36.5 left, the Lady Hornets again came out with a key bucket by Moore. This time she was fouled on the driving layup and converted the free throw to make it a 62-55 lead, a three-possession game.
Moore wound up hitting four more free throws and Rhode hit two to close out the victory.
LADY HORNETS 68, LADY CATS 60
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 17 22 18 — 68
Conway 10 10 18 19 — 60
LADY HORNETS (11-7, 3-1) 68
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Moore 7-13 5-5 0-3 3 4 21
Davis 2-9 0-0 0-2 2 1 5
Duckworth 2-6 1-2 1-4 5 0 5
Davidson 7-13 1-2 4-5 9 0 15
Meyer 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Rhode 10-19 2-4 8-8 16 3 22
Weaver 0-3 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Murphy 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0
Team 4-4 8
Total 28-63 9-13 17-28 45 9 68
LADY CATS (9-7, 1-3) 60
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Foster 6-15 2-2 4-4 8 2 17
Chambers 6-18 1-2 0-4 4 1 14
Cozzens 1-2 1-2 2-3 5 2 4
Wilkins 4-10 2-3 1-3 4 3 13
Hobbs 4-11 0-0 1-3 4 5 7
Strickland 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 0 3
Benton 0-1 0-0 0-3 3 1 0
Kelley 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Team 2-1 3
Total 22-61 6-9 10-22 32 15 60
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-9 (Moore 2-3, Davis 1-4, Duckworth 0-1, Weaver 0-1), Conway 10-30 (Wilkins 3-8, Foster 3-8, Chambers 1-9, Hobbs 1-2, Strickland 1-2, Cozzens 1-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Conway 13.