2nd half blitz helps Bryant roll to win
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
Callie Woods was not having the best of luck against the Bryant Lady Panthers. After converting just 1 of 10 shots from the field in the Bryant Lady Hornets’ 51-36 loss at Benton on Nov. 22, she managed to get just one of her first six shots to go in when the two teams met again at Bryant’s gym on Friday, Dec. 16.
But, like any good shooter, she kept firing. And when Woods scored 9 points in a row for the Lady Hornets late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, it sparked her team to break open a close game and surge to an exhilarating 59-42 victory.
The Lady Hornets outscored their rivals 24-10 in the fourth quarter to blow the game open. Woods finished with 11 points altogether. Senior Bridgette McPeak had 14 including 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Sophomore Jasmine Carter added 10 points and 11 rebounds and seniors Kayla Pitts and Jessie Sutton pitched in with 9 and 8 points, respectively. Sutton had 10 boards and Amber Gibbs 9 to go with 5 points.
“In the second half, we were much more intense,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Rhonda Hall. “We played with a little fire. The first half, we were kind of sluggish, slow getting back down the floor. We got into early foul trouble. In the fourth quarter, we were more assertive, more aggressive, we had strong blockouts. You know, we really cleaned the boards in the fourth quarter.”
In fact, the Lady Hornets outrebounded Benton 47-40 overall and, in the fourth quarter, 14-5.
“I think we just realized we needed to step it up or we were going to lose, so we did it,” said Sutton of the fourth-quarter barrage. “We know that we can do good, it’s just that we’ve got to come out and we’ve got to play hard every game. We played good as a team tonight and we didn’t turn the ball over as much as we have been. We just really wanted to win and I think we just all came together and we pulled it out.”
Bryant was coming off a game in which they’d turned the ball over 29 times and lost by 2 points at Sheridan. They cut that total in half against Benton.
It was,basically, among the best halves of basketball the Lady Hornets, now 5-5, have played this season.
“I see this team sometimes, we just don’t see them often enough,” Hall acknowledged. “They’re capable of playing the way they did in the fourth quarter but we just haven’t found a way to get it out of them for a whole game yet. The biggest thing is that they’ve got to have confidence in themselves, that they can play like that night in and night out. When that point comes, they’ll be a good basketball team.”
Neither team led by more than 4 points in the first half and they were trading baskets in the third quarter until Bryant began to turn it up defensively. Benton without a basket for the final 4:48 of the third quarter and nearly two minutes into the fourth.
The Lady Panthers led 32-29 when they drought began. The Lady Hornets turned the ball over following the basket by Benton’s Grace Parker but, at the other end, Gibbs blocked consecutive shots to thwart the Lady Panthers. A layup by Carter cut the lead to 1.
It stayed that way for over two minutes before Sutton was fouled and converted one free throw to tie it.
After the two teams traded misses, Woods faked a shot outside and drove past the Benton defender down the baseline for a scoop shot that dropped in despite a foul. When she converted the free throw, Bryant had a 35-32 lead that held to the end of the quarter.
And when Woods’ 3-pointer fell for the first hoop of the fourth, the Lady Hornets were up 6.
Benton’s Jo Jo Grant hit an answering 3 to end her team’s dryspell only to have Woods nail another from long range to make it 41-35.
After a timeout, Parker missed on a 3-point try but teammate Taylor Christian rebounded. Carter, however, came up with a steal that led to a trip to the free-throw line for Gibbs. She converted her first shot and missed the second. The rebound passed through a couple of hands and came out long, enabling Gibbs to track it down near the sideline. She got the ball to McPeak who whipped a pass inside to Carter for a bucket that made it 44-35.
Moments later, Carter grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. Her three-point play bumped the lead into double digits and had the boisterous Bryant crowd on their feet.
And they went into Hornet Heaven when McPeak followed with a steal and a drive for a layup that went in despite an intentional foul that garnered two free throws. McPeak converted to make it a four-point play and a 51-35 bulge with 3:25 to play.
Benton trimmed the lead to 13 in the late going but free throws by Sutton and McPeak iced it away.
Bryant had had the advantage in the first quarter of the game. Sparked by the 3-point shooting of Pitts, who hit 3 along the way, they built a 14-10 lead. A late basket by Leah Holland, who led Benton with 15 points, cut it to 2 and sparked the Lady Panthers to a 26-22 halftime edge.
The Lady Hornets were set to return to action in the Spa City Classic at the Summit Arena in Hot Springs on Wednesday, Dec. 28. Fountain Lake is their first-round opponent at 1 p.m.