Bryant wins rematch at Benton tournament
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
BENTON — Just three days after playing each other in the finals of the CAC/OrthoArkansas Invitational Tournament, the Bryant Lady Hornets and Hot Springs Lady Trojans met again in the opening round of the Wal-Mart Supercenter Shootout.
No big thing, usually, except that after Bryant’s 47-31 win had Hot Springs head coach Jim Elser steaming. Primarily, it bothered him that his front line of Allison Morgan, Kristian Mohammed and Cequitta Graham all fouled out in a game in which he felt Bryant’s defenders were able to play too physically. (Actually, Bryant was whistled for more fouls than Hot Springs, but the Lady Hornets are far deeper in talent.)
Plus, the Lady Hornets jumped into a press late in the game and forced Elser’s team to speed up its usually methodical offense, breaking open the game against the discombobulated Lady Trojans.
So, even though the Lady Hornets never led by any more than the final margin of 16, Elser took out his frustrations on Bryant head coach Carla Crowder, cornering her in the dressing room hallway after the game complaining that the Bryant reserves didn’t enter the game soon enough.
Crowder, of course, remembered all too well the Lady Hornets’ game against Cabot in the Benton tournament last season. Bryant led by 24 and Crowder pulled her starters with just over two minutes to go and wound up having to return her starters to the floor to preserve a 54-43 win.
Still, Crowder was gracious enough to try to talk to the Hot Springs coach instead of just walking away but there may have been a little tension when the two teams met again three days later in Benton.
The outcome changed little, however.
At CAC, as long as the Lady Trojans made it a halfcourt game, they was able to keep it close. But at Benton, even that didn’t prove effective.
Despite the fact that they made the Lady Hornets play defense for extended chunks of time, the defense stayed solid and Hot Springs managed just 4 points in the first half on 1-of-14 from the field and 2-for-2 at the line.
The energy spent on defense may have affected the Lady Hornets on offense to a certain extent but it wasn’t enough to keep them from establishing a solid lead that carried them to a 46-28 victory.
Again, Elser complained to the officials that the game was too physical but, this time, he came out in the second half and exhorted his team to play rougher and more aggressive, going to a fullcourt press. Unfazed, the Lady Hornets rolled to victory with Jennifer Slack and Amanda Grappe each scoring 15 points.
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 7-0 on the season with a challenge awaiting in the second round of the tournament. On Friday, Dec. 13, at 9 p.m., they’re set to play a highly-regarded Fort Smith Southside team for a berth in the tourney finals.
At one stretch in the first half of Tuesday’s game, Bryant played defense for a stretch of about three minutes. Hot Springs worked and worked for a point blank shot and never got it. After all of that work, the Lady Trojans turned the ball over.
Mohammed posted up for Hot Springs’ only first-half field goal with 5:29 left in the first quarter, cutting Bryant’s lead to 4-2. The Lady Trojans didn’t score again until there were 32 seconds left in the half. Morgan hit two free throws to trim
Bryant’s lead to 12-4.
Slack beat the buzzer with a short jumper off a splendid feed from Jeanne Randall to give Bryant a 14-4 halftime advantage.
Slack then opened the second-half scoring with a 3-pointer. After a Hot Springs turnover, Grappe hit the offensive glass for a bucket to make it 19-4.
The Lady Trojans finally got their second field goal of the game when guard Brooklyn Burks hit a layup a minute deep into the third quarter.
But Hot Springs would never get the lead back into single digits. Bryant led by as much as 19 during the third quarter. It was 33-16 going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Trojans put together one last push early in the final period. When Morgan hit a jumper in the lane with 4:34 left, they were within 11, 35-24.
But Amanda Grappe hit a jumper and, after Mohammed hit a free throw, Slack drove for a layup.
Robyn Greenwood hit a 3 with 1:48 left to make it 39-28 but that was the last Hot Springs score.
Slack, Rachel Blakley and Amanda Grappe combined to go 7-for-8 from the free throw line after that to extend the margin once again.