Lady Hornets earn second tourney title
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 — After an exhilarating victory over a highly-regarded Fort Smith Southside team in the semifinals of the WalMart Supercenter Shootout at Benton High School, it might’ve been understandable if the Bryant Lady Hornets had let down in the finals against the Hope Lady Bobcats.
But it didn’t happen.
With tournament MVP Amanda Grappe scoring 20 points, the Lady Hornets breezed to a 58-33 victory and their second tourney title in as many weeks. (They won the CAC/OrthoArkansas Invitational on Saturday, Dec. 7.)
Two down, two to go. Bryant will play in the Hot Springs Invitational between Christmas and New Year’s. The only other tournament they might play in this season would be the Class AAAAA State.
Hopes are high.
Ashley Grappe and Jennifer Slack were also named to the all-tournament team.
The win, Bryant’s ninth in as many games this season, came despite the tenacious efforts of Hope guard Ebony Walker who took 27 shots and scored 26 of her team’s 33 points.
Take away Walker’s 12-of-27 shooting in the game and the rest of the Lady Cats were 2-for-21 from the field.
Defense, after all, is a hallmark of Lady Hornets basketball and this group is developing into one of the best in years in that regard.
Hope, which knocked off Benton on a last-second shot in the semifinals, never led against Bryant after Yousra Elhagemoussa (9 points, 10 rebounds) hit the offensive glass for the first bucket of the game. A pair of baskets by Amanda Grappe — one a driving layup off a spin move — and a 3-pointer by Rachel Blakley pushed it out to a 9-2 lead.
Hope managed a couple of baskets around a layup by Ashley Grappe but, when Kalin Dreher, in off the bench, drained a 3 with :03 to go in the quarter, Bryant led 14-6.
A stickback by Amanda Grappe made it a double-digit lead for the first time as the second quarter unfolded. It was 18-9, moments later, after a free throw by Hope’s Jasmine McClendon but Ashley Grappe connected on a 15-foot jumper and the lead was never less than 10 again.
Repeatedly, the Lady Hornets burned the Hope press with Amanda Grappe finishing off the breaks. Her layup with :58 left in the second quarter bumped Bryant’s lead to 18.
The Lady Hornets settled for a 30-16 halftime advantage.
Before the third quarter was over, the lead had reached 20. Walker’s jumper with 2:55 left had Hope down 36-20. A three-point play by Elhagemoussa was followed up by a basket from Megan Kennedy that made it 43-20.
The largest margin was 26 early in the fourth quarter. Walker had finished the third period with a pair of buckets to cut the lead to 43-24 but Slack’s basket off the offensive boards to start the fourth period was followed up by a steal by Ashley Grappe and a short jumper by Amanda Grappe then a 3-pointer by Slack to make it 50-24.
Down the stretch, Kalin Dreher, Starr Crow and Kaci Melhorn scored to preserve the margin.