Bryant girls edge Hot Springs despite loss of leading scorer
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 — When she was a freshman, Bridgette McPeak would, time after time, beat a defender (or two) off the dribble or tenaciously stay after an offensive rebound and find her way to the free-throw line. Unfortunately, when she got there, there was no telling whether she’d make her free throws or not. There were times, she would really struggle.
That has changed, however. Now in her junior year, McPeak is money at the line.
Coming into the semifinals of the Wal-Mart Supercenter Shootout against the Hot Springs Lady Trojans, McPeak had hit 8 in a row and 15 of 18 this season. So, when the Lady Trojans sent McPeak to the line with 32 seconds left in the game and the Bryant Lady Hornets clinging to a 24-23 lead, they weren’t doing themselves any favors.
And despite the fact that the trip to the line was a one-and-one opportunity — it should have been two shots plus possession after a Hot Springs defender fouled McPeak with a two-handed shove — she converted both shots to give Bryant a 3-point edge that held up for the victory and a spot in the tournament finals.
The Lady Hornets used some full-court pressure and a hustling one-on-one halfcourt D, to slow down Hot Springs’ subsequent push up the floor for an attempt at tying the game. A forced 3-point try was off the mark.
But Hot Springs had made it interesting with a deliberate offense that not only shortened the game but made the Lady Hornets a little anxious once they got the ball.
And it didn’t help that Bryant’s leading scorer Amanda Grappe wasn’t available down the stretch. Grappe, after making a steal with 2:51 left in the third quarter, went down in a wrestling match for the ball with Hot Springs’ Kayla Jones and wrenched an ankle.
Bryant led 20-14 at the time. And, initially, the Lady Hornets were unfazed. McPeak got a nice inbounds pass from Ashley Grappe for a basket to make it 22-14. And, after Hot Springs ate up time before missing a shot, Ashley Grappe fed Robin Speake for a bucket to give the Lady Hornets a 24-14 edge going into the fourth quarter.
But that wound up being Bryant’s last field goal in the game. In fact, it was the Lady Hornets’ last points until McPeak’s crucial free throws.
Still, Hot Springs only managed to creep back within a point. An offensive-rebound basket by Ruby Underwood with 1:09 left made it 24-23.
Bryant had led most of the game, though never by much. Hot Springs’ lone lead was 6-4 at the end of the first quarter thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Mieaca Black.
A three-point play by Speake to open the second quarter put the Lady Hornets on top to stay. But it was just 14-8 at the half.
Kalin Dreher scored all 6 of her points for the Lady Hornets in the third quarter as the lead expanded from 14-10 to 20-14 leading up to Amanda Grappe’s injury.
It was the second win of the season for the Lady Hornets over Hot Springs. On their way to the OrthoArkansas/CAC Invitational Tournament title, the Lady Hornets pinned a 60-47 loss on the Lady Trojans.