Lady Hornets step up in conference opener
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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Tuesday, Dec. 16, had the makings of a rough day for the Bryant Lady Hornets and their first-year head coach Rhonda Hall. First, former head coach Carla Crowder was featured on the front page of the sports section of the state paper because her new team, the Cabot Lady Panthers were off to such a great start. The article was, no doubt, deserved but the 8-1 record for Cabot stood in stark contrast to the 4-5 mark the Lady Hornets sported, particularly for those that didn’t realize or failed to mention the injury problems that have plagued the team.
To top that off, the Lady Hornets were set to open their AAAAA-Central Conference season that night at, of all places, North Little Rock.
Now, it’s not unusual that the Lady Hornets were on the road. After all, through 10 games they’d only played at home once and, because Hall had to scramble to fill out the schedule when she got the job, they play only eight home games all season.
The thing was, in North Little Rock, the Lady Hornets were facing their former junior high coach Stacy Mallett, who became the new head coach at her alma mater after Hall was selected over Mallett to lead the Bryant program, a move that ended in hard feelings in a number of places.
Beyond on that, the Lady Hornets were coming into the game trying to get their feet under them after three losses in four games. Though it was a game they figured to win, there was little certainty about it going in.
There was, however, quite a bit of certainty about the end result. The Lady Hornets raced to a season-high offensive output with a dominating 74-39 rout of the Lady Charging Wildcats.
Hall said the seeds of the victory were planted the previous week at the WalMart Supercenter Shootout in Benton, a tournament the Lady Hornets badly wanted to win. A poor shooting night undermined a tremendous defensive effort in the second round of the tournament and they suffered a bitter 37-33 loss to Rogers. Let down, they came back the next day and absorbed a one-point loss to a Sheridan team they had beaten by 27 in their season opener.
But even against Sheridan, the defense came together and it proved to be the catalyst for the turnaround.
“We tried to bring the defensive effort we had last weekend,” Hall stated. “And I thought we played really good defense. We tried to use some of the things that we’ve found we did good on defense to our advantage.”
And this time, the offense came together.
“We did a much better job rebounding and getting down the floor offensively,” added the coach. “We played a lot more heads up on moving the ball down the floor. I thought that was a real key in getting some early baskets.”
A 21-point outburst in the first quarter set the tone. Amanda Grappe, on her way to 26 points in the game, had 12 in the early going, not only posting up but by running the floor as the Lady Hornets forced nine turnovers.
It was also key that, when North Little Rock collapsed back into a zone to try to slow down Grappe, Dani Sutton came in off the bench and knocked down a 3. It would not be her only one.
By halftime, the Lady Hornets’ lead was 39-24. In the third quarter, North Little Rock was held to 6 points and the game became a blowout when Sutton got on a roll, nailing a trio of 3-pointers.
It was 56-30 going into the fourth quarter and before it was over, the mercy rule was instated as the Lady Hornets’ lead grew to 30-plus.
Fourteen Lady Hornets played and 12 of them scored. Keisha Stickley, Tania Darby and Jessie Sutton contributed to the scoring in the closing minutes off the bench.
The win evened Bryant’s record overall but, beyond that, got them off to a 1-0 start in league play.