Bryant impresses with win over highly-regarded FS Southside
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 — The facet of this season’s Bryant Lady Hornets basketball team that seems to indicate special things are afoot isn’t so much the obvious talent. Lots of teams have two or three good players. No, it’s the depth of talent, the fact that in any given game, any number of players is capable of stepping into the fray and coming out with a game-turning contribution. Up and down the Lady Hornets’ roster, there are players that have, at one time or another, performed in the pinch — and the season isn’t even 10 games old yet.
On Thursday, Dec. 12, in a semifinal game that most folks figured was for the championship of the Wal-Mart Supercenter Shootout at Benton High School — with apologies to the Hope Lady Bobcats — the Lady Hornets got point production from the usual places, super sophomores Amanda and Ashley Grappe and senior star Jennifer Slack. But when the game was on the line, it was junior Megan Kennedy’s time to shine.
Kennedy, who was one of a group of players that helped subdue Fort Smith Southside’s gunner guard Miranda Morton, hit a key free throw with :12 left to play, giving her team a 52-49 lead.
Moments later, however, Morton, who would hit 11 3-pointers against Benton on Saturday, was fouled on a 3-point attempt with :01.2 showing on the clock. After a timeout, Morton hit the first of three free throws. But she missed the second. Another timeout was followed by Morton’s attempt at purposefully misfiring. Her team’s only chance to get the game into overtime was to rebound the miss and score. Morton’s attempt banged hard off the backboard and caught just enough rim to keep it in play.
And who came out of the fray with the basketball? The first one into it — Megan Kennedy, securing with it a thrilling 52-50 victory for the Lady Hornets in a doozy of a game between two of the storied girls basketball programs in the state.
The Lady Hornets improved to 8-0 on the season with the victory and advanced to take on Hope in the finals on Saturday (see related story) and a chance at their second tourney championship in as many weeks.
Bryant coaches Carla Crowder and Mark Scarlett welcomed the challenge of playing Southside as a chance to see just how good their team stood up against the caliber of team that will, no doubt, reach the Class AAAAA State Tournament.
And they had their hands full. Though they were able to keep the clamps on Morton, it was a different story with 6-1 center Katy Schrodt. On her way to 23 points and seven rebounds, Schrodt only played in the post occasionally. The Lady Rebels often used a spread offense and a passing game that brought Schrodt out on the floor where she showed she was quick enough to drive to the basket and accurate enough to pop a 3-pointer.
It was a tough match-up for Bryant junior Yousra Elhagemoussa, more of a classic post player. So, Crowder turned to Amanda Grappe or Slack to work against Schrodt much of the game.
It’s that kind of flexibility that the quality depth on his Bryant team provides that holds so much promise this season. The Lady Hornets can match up against smaller, perimeter-oriented teams or go big effectively against teams with inside strength — or something in between.
But, without Elhagemoussa the team’s leading rebounder in the game, Southside held an advantage inside initially, out-boarding the Lady Hornets 23-12 in the first half. (After adjusting, Bryant battled to a draw on the boards in the second half.)
The Lady Rebs started out fast, building a lead of as much as 18-6 early on. A three-point play off an offensive rebound by Slack got the Lady Hornets’ righted. And when Amanda Grappe turned in a three-point play with :20 left in the quarter, Bryant trailed just 19-18.
A driving jumper by Ashley Grappe gave Bryant a brief lead as the second period unfolded. It didn’t last long as Schrodt canned a pair of 3’s to lead a Southside resurgence that produced a 31-26 halftime edge.
With Amanda Grappe scoring 10 of her points and Rachel Blakley drilling a 3-pointer, the Lady Hornets kept it close in the third quarter. Slack’s driving jumper in the lane with :05 left, trimmed Southside’s lead to 43-41 going into the fourth quarter.
And when Blakley fed Amanda Grappe for a layup to start the final period, the game was even at 43.
It stayed that way for almost two minutes before Ashley Grappe made a steal and layup to give the Lady Hornets the upper hand.
Baskets by Morton and Schrodt pulled Southside back in front as the game headed into crunch time. Amanda Grappe tied it with a pair of free throws with 4:33 left then neither team could score until, with 1:52 to go, Ashley Grappe was fouled. She converted in the clutch then Blakley and Kennedy combined to force a turnover.
But the Lady Hornets were unable to take advantage. Southside forced a miscue and Lindsey Rupe got a layup out of it, knotting the game at 49 going into the final minute.
Slack’s drive to the hoop regained the edge for Bryant then, under pressure, Morton misfired from long range. Blakley was fouled with :23.8 showing on the clock. She missed the front end of the bonus but Slack somehow came out of the fray with the rebound.
Bryant worked the clock until Kennedy was fouled with :12 to go, setting up the game’s climactic final seconds.