Lady Hornets upset in CAC finals
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 — For three years, the El Dorado Lady Wildcats have been building toward this basketball season. The sophomores, including three players at or over six-feet tall, of the 1998-99 season were inserted in the starting lineup and set loose to learn on the job. They went 9-15 that year improved to 12-14 last year and now appear to be ready to jump into contention for a State Tournament bid.
And their hopes for this season received a big boost Saturday, Dec. 2, when they completed a three-game sweep to the championship of the Central Arkansas Christian Invitational Tournament, topped by a 50-48 win over the Bryant Hornets, a AAAAA-South Conference rival, in the finals.
Lady Wildcats 50,
Lady Hornets 48
Speculation after the game indicated that it may well have been the first time a Lady Wildcats team had ever beaten the Lady Hornets. (A cursory look back at the records verified that Bryant hadn’t lost to El Dorado dating back to 1987-88, at least. The two teams became conference rivals in 1981.)
It was the first loss of the season for the Lady Hornets, who opened with five wins including a 57-44 win over another AAAAA-South team, Lake Hamilton, in the CAC Invitational semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 30.
Bryant had a rough second half offensively, shooting just 27 percent from the field (8-of-30). The Lady Hornets missed all nine of their 3-point attempts in the game including one in the closing seconds by senior Joanie Robideaux that would’ve put them ahead. The shot did everything but go through the net, ringing the rim before flying out.
Even after that, the Lady Hornets forced a turnover. They got a timeout immediately with :04 left to play. But they never got a shot at tying or winning the game when play resumed. The inbounds pass was errant and El Dorado secured possession and the win.
El Dorado converted on 6 of 18 from 3-point range including 4 of 9 by Cassie Tester who led the team with 14 points. Falundrus Sims, a 6-2 center, added 11 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Forward Sara Sullivan, another six-footer, added 10 points and six boards.
The Lady Hornets were led by Robideaux with 15. Bree Mann added 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Jennifer Slack contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The smaller Lady Hornets actually out-rebounded El Dorado 42-38.
Bryant had a chance to gain the upper hand in the first quarter but converted just 1 of 7 at the free-throw line. Even at that, they had a 15-11 lead before El Dorado’s Kensel Spivey hit a 3 in the final :20 to make it a one-point game.
The lead seesawed for much of the second quarter. It was tied at 22 when the Lady Hornets got a surge together. Robideaux hit a pair of free throws (part of an 8-for-14 performance at the line in the period) then forced an El Dorado turnover.
Jacuzzi missed a pair at the line but Candice Croy forced a held ball on the rebound and the Lady Hornets retained possession. With :36 left, Robideaux cashed in with a 12-foot jumper to make it 26-22.
Sims picked up her third foul on an illegal screen and, with :23 left, Rachel Blakley hit a free throw to give the Lady Hornets their largest lead of the game at 5, going into the half.
But Tester hit a trio of 3’s in the first four minutes of the third quarter to spark a 12-2 run that gave her team the lead for good.
El Dorado led 38-33 going into the fourth quarter and eventually built a margin of as much as 11 midway through the final period.
That’s when Bryant began a furious comeback. Slack grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Mann for a basket then, after an El Dorado turnover, Croy hit two free throws. Moments later, Robideaux made a steal and a layup to make it 47-42 and force a Lady Wildcats timeout.
Again, Slack hit the offensive glass and came through with a three-point play and, after El Dorado’s April Curley missed the front end of a one-and-one, Mann drew Sims’ fifth foul on the rebound. Mann hit one free throw to make it a one-point game with 1:43 left.
An El Dorado turnover was followed by a missed 3-point attempt by Croy. Sullivan answered with a pair of free throws but Mann hit a follow shot to make it 49-48 going into the final minute of play.
El Dorado’s Kendra Stegall was fouled with :39 left and opened the door wide for Bryant by missing both shots. The ensuing play may have been the turning point. Robideaux unleashed a shot inside and collided with Stegall. One official called it a defensive foul, another an offensive foul. Had it been the former, Robideaux (5-for-5 at the line in the game) would’ve been at the line with a chance to put Bryant ahead. But the latter ruling prevailed and El Dorado was able to eat up more time with the lead.
Robideaux made a steal with about :20 left but Stegall blocked a shot by Slack. Stegall was fouled with :15 left. She converted once to make it 50-48.
Lady Hornets 53,
Lady Wolves 39
The Lady Hornets advanced to the finals with a convincing win over Lake Hamilton.
Croy scored 14 points and Mann and Slack added 12 each for the Lady Hornets.
Shara Ashtiani led Lake Hamilton with 12 points including the first basket of the game, a reverse layup.
That, as it turned out, was Lake Hamilton’s only lead. A driving jumper by Slack tied the game and started a 14-0 run for Bryant which went on to lead by as much as 24 before a late run by the Lady Wolves closed the gap.
Croy snapped the 2-2 tie with a layup. Kim Jacuzzi added a basket after hitting the offensive glass and, after a Lake Hamilton turnover, Joanie Robideaux extended the lead with a layup.
Lake Hamilton had a chance to end the drought at the line with 3:51 left in the quarter but Karami Gipson missed twice. At the other end, Jacuzzi scored inside to make it 10-2.
Mann added a bucket off a baseline drive then Robideaux capped the surge with a driving jumper with 2:25 left in the period.
A 3-pointer by Katie McLean finally got Lake Hamilton back on the board but Croy hit a pair of free throws then nailed a 3 to make it 19-5.
Bryant maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the game. It was 30-16 at the half.
Lake Hamilton was within 38-27 late in the third period when Amber Stephenson hit a pair of free throws, Slack hit the offensive boards for a three-point play then made a steal and a layup, and Croy beat the buzzer with a jumper that made it a 9-0 run to end the quarter. Bryant led 47-27.
The largest margin was 53-29 when Mann hit a jumper with 4:44 left in the game.