Lady Hornets make it a sweep of Benton
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 — In two previous meetings this season, Benton’s Caroline Starr had scored 57 of her team’s 93 points against the Bryant Lady Hornets. Though her team had won both games, Bryant head coach Rhonda Hall decided to change things up a little for the third match at the Benton Sports Arena on Friday, Dec. 17.
Utilizing a box-and-one defense with senior Amie Hubbard, back from a recent bout of the flu, (with some relief from junior Bridgette McPeak) held Starr to just 14 points this time out. With the help of a season-high 29-point performance from Amanda Grappe and some clutch free throws from Ashley Grappe at the end, the Lady Hornets made it a season-sweep over Benton, 62-59, to improve to 10-0 overall going into the Christmas break.
“We were just looking to do something different simply because we’ve already played them twice and they’ve been to see us play besides that,” Hall mentioned. “And, defensively, I thought we did a really good job on Caroline. She’s a great player but I think our kids stepped up and did a good job.
“Amie’s just got a toughness about her,” added the coach. “She finds a way to get things done. She’s competitive and willing to do whatever it takes. If that means fighting over a screen, fighting under a screen, whatever. I just felt that she was the one mentally and foot-speed-wise that could cover Caroline. We tried to give her a rest with Bridgette some and I think they both did a really good job. She got very few good looks and the ones she got were ones she created because she’s a good player, not because she we did a poor job.
“We wanted to make someone else have to be a factor in the game other than just (Starr),” Hall explained. “Benton’s other players played extremely well. They took the big shots, they were much more confident.”
Indeed, in the previous meetings, Benton only had one other player score in double figures. This time, three others came through with Grace Parker matching Starr’s 14 and Jodie Hamilton and Jo Jo Grant adding 10 each.
But the Lady Panthers couldn’t handle Bryant’s strong inside game with Amanda Grappe returning from an ankle injury and Kalin Dreher coming through with a season-high 11 points and five rebounds.
Ashley Grappe added 15 points, Allison Grappe 5 and Hubbard 2.
“I felt inside was the place we needed to go,” said Hall. “I don’t think there’s many people that have post players better than our two. I have a lot of confidence in them. I also thought if we scored inside that would give Al, Ashley and Amie better shots on the outside. And each time (Benton) did sag in, we made them pay.
“I thought Kalin and Amanda both did a really good job squaring up to the basket tonight, using the backboard, doing some little things that they haven’t been doing inside,” she continued. “I was glad to see that. Kalin, offensively, probably played her best game of the year so far, much better, much more relaxed, taking the shots that she’s good at.”
Though the Lady Hornets never trailed in the second half, Benton made a bid at the upset whittling a 7-point deficit down to 1 in the final minute. Two free throws by Starr with :24.9 to go trimmed Bryant’s lead to 60-58. With :22.2 left, Amanda Grappe had a chance to get those back but couldn’t get either of her free throws to fall. So, with 11.8 showing, Benton’s Stephanie Asbury was fouled and had a chance to tie it. She made the first shot then Hall called a timeout. When the players returned to the floor, Asbury missed the second attempt and Allison Grappe rebounded for Bryant. Ashley Grappe, a 90 percent free-throw shooter this season, was fouled with :03.6 to go and converted both shots to seal the victory.
The fired-up Benton team had jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the first quarter with Starr only accounting for 1 point along the way. Hamilton and Grant each hit 3’s and Parker had a basket.
A free throw by Dreher and a three-point play by Amanda Grappe in the final 45 seconds, however, got Bryant on track.
When Starr hit a 3 with 6:09 left in the half, the Lady Panthers still led 18-15. But over the next four minutes, Bryant scored 8 unanswered to wrest the lead away. The run included a layup by Ashley Grappe, a 3-pointer by Allison Grappe and, after a steal by Amanda Grappe, a 15-foot jumper by Dreher that made it 23-15.
Bryant led 30-23 at the half.
Early in the third quarter, the lead was as much as 10. The Lady Hornets held a 43-37 edge going into the fourth quarter. Benton managed to tie it 45-45 on a 3-pointer by Kate Hendrix with 6:37 to go but free throws by Dreher and Amanda Grappe kept Bryant on top.
It was just 52-51, however, with 3:56 left. Amanda Grappe then scored 6 unanswered points to build the lead up to 7 before Benton’s late surge.