Lady Hornets win 2 of 3 at annual CAC Tournament
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 — When a coach gets everybody on the bench into a basketball game, it can be a sign of good news or bad. His team is either winning decisively or losing convincingly.
So, for first-year head coach Blake Condley and his Bryant Lady Hornets, it was bad news and good news at the annual Ortho-Arkansas/Central Arkansas Christian Invitational Tournament over the weekend of Nov. 28 through Dec. 2.
The bad news wasn’t really so bad actually. The Lady Hornets became one of a long list of teams that have absorbed (and will absorb) a lopsided loss to the CAC Lady Mustangs. Led by University of Arkansas-signee Whitney Zachariason, the Lady Mustangs have won back-to-back Class AAA State championships and are favored to win another.
Against Bryant, Zachariason scored 16 points all in the first quarter as CAC blew out to a 29-9 lead, then hardly played after that in a 71-35 win. To their credit, however, the Lady Hornets came back to win the consolation bracket of the tournament, edging Clarksville 52-48 in a thriller on Friday, Dec. 1, then routing Sylvan Hills, 55-33, on Saturday.
The Lady Hornets improved to 3-2 going into their Tuesday, Dec. 5, home game against Hot Springs.
“Our effort as a team has been good all week,” Condley said when the event was over. “I feel like the girls are starting to pick up on what we’re wanting to do, what I feel we need to do to have some success. I felt like we did it all three games in the tournament. (CAC) was just so good, they took advantage of any mistake we made and just ran with it. I didn’t think we played terrible against them but I thought we played well the last two games, close games for the most part, and I thought we made plays when we needed to. Then our defense stepped up and really helped us.”
Defense was key in the two victories. Against Clarksville, the Lady Hornets held the Lady Panthers scoreless over the final 3:39 to rally from a 6-point deficit for the win. A 3-pointer by Jasmine Carter with 1:03 to go put Bryant on top and a pair of free throws by Brittany Mills in the final seconds sealed it after the Lady Hornets had forced a five-second call on a Clarksville inbounds play.
“The last couple of possessions, I told the girls, let’s start switching on all the screens, and let’s try to do some different things,” Condley related. “And (Clarksville) had trouble even getting the ball inbounds on the side. It’s a credit to the girls. They’re doing what they need to.”
On Saturday, the Lady Hornets used a press to force 24 turnovers then knocked down seven 3-pointers — four by Mills on her way to a career-high 19 points and three by Sydney Simpson on her way to 13 — to subdue the Lady Bears.
“I like to press a little bit just to try to get us going, getting us playing aggressive, trying to get after them,” Condley commented. “I thought (Sylvan Hills) might turn it over a few times if we did. They were short a guard that’s a pretty good one and I thought maybe we could take advantage of that. And we were able to, especially late.”
Regarding the offensive outburst, he added, “That’s been part of what our game-plan is. It’s the quality of the shots we want to take. We don’t want to make the one pass and fling it. We want to try to execute, try to do the little things to get the quality shot. The girls are doing that and I think it’s paying off. Our shooting percentage is going up.”
Sylvan Hills 33
The Lady Hornets never trailed after Mills’ first 3 erased a 2-0 deficit. Consecutive baskets by Amber Gibbs made it 7-2.
Simpson hit her first two treys in the final two minutes of the first quarter to help the Lady Hornets hold on for a 15-8 edge at the first break.
Simpson’s 18-footer to start the second quarter bumped the lead to 9 and a little later, she combined with Carter on a steal that led to a layup and a 19-8 advantage.
It was 24-13 with 1:20 to go but Sylvan Hills put a run together to trim the lead to 24-20 by the half.
Mills set the tone again to start the third quarter, canning her third triple. Offensive-rebound baskets by Carter and sophomore Anna Simpson got the lead to 11. Anna Simpson, the younger sister of Sydney, fed Gibbs for a layup and, after Gibbs absorbed a charge, the younger Simpson scored to give Bryant a commanding 35-20 lead.
Again, the Lady Bears rallied, whittling the margin to 35-27 just before the end of the quarter but a buzzer-beater by Caitlin Cato made it a 10-point margin going into the final eight minutes.
Sylvan Hills’ Kierra Johnson scored first in the fourth but Bryant responded with a game-breaking 18-4 blitz to end it. The run began with a free throw and a 3-pointer by Mills. Anna Simpson’s stickback was followed by a driving layup by Mills, who also grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to make it 47-31 with just under five minutes to play.
Sydney Simpson dropped a trey and before long the Condley was working to get everyone in the game. Sophomore Courtney Mosley contributed the final basket.
The Lady Hornets opened up an 8-0 lead, keyed by 3-pointers by Mills and Sydney Simpson but Clarksville countered with a 21-5 stretch then held the lead much of the way.
A 3-pointer by Clarksville’s Kelsey Mefford with 3:39 left in the game had the Lady Panthers ahead 48-42 but that was the last they would score. A free throw by Carter started the winning run by the Lady Hornets. Anna Simpson added back-to-back hoops inside to cut the margin to 48-47 before Carter’s clutch 3 with 1:03 gave Bryant the lead.
Clarksville missed a 3 and after Brittney Grant rebounded for the Lady Hornets, Condley called a timeout with :38.4 showing.
Bryant worked the ball until, with :17.6 to go, Anna Simpson was fouled. She missed the front end of the one-and-one and with :14.5 showing, Clarksville called timeout.
When play resumed, the Lady Panthers, trying to inbound from the side, couldn’t get the ball in and the five-second call returned possession to the Lady Hornets. With :11.9 to go, Mills was fouled. She converted both shots to put the game out of reach.
Carter, came off the bench to lead Bryant with 15 points. Anna Simpson added 13 and Mills had 11.
Clarksville led the game 19-13 after one quarter, just 27-26 at the half thanks to a 7-0 run to end it by the Lady Hornets. Carter scored then Amber Westbrook added a pair of free throws and Mills, off a nice feed from Grant, buried a 3.
To start the fourth quarter, Anna Simpson made a steal and layup to give Bryant its first lead since midway through the first period. Moments later, Carter took advantage of a Clarksville turnover to score, making it 30-27.
The Lady Panthers battled back to take a 32-30 lead before Westbrook hit two more free throws, Grant fed Carter for an easy deuce and Anna Simpson hit the offensive glass for another bucket to give Bryant a 36-32 advantage.
But, before the third quarter was over, Clarksville had surged to a 40-36 lead.
CAC 71, Bryant 35
Zachariason did it all in the early going. At 6-2, she played inside and out and, at times, pointed up the Lady Mustang’s fullcourt press which made it very difficult for the Lady Hornets to even inbound the ball after a CAC basket. Zachariason’s 16 first-quarter points included a pair of 3-pointers as well.
It was 11-2 before consecutive baskets by Anna Simpson cut the margin to 5. But, then, the Lady Mustangs not only put on the pressure but starting shooting the lights out. They were 11 of 13 from the field in the first quarter including 3 of 3 on triples.
CAC led 43-13 at the half, 56-27 going into the fourth quarter. Fourteen Lady Mustangs played and 13 of them scored.
The Lady Hornets were able to put together a 16-6 run at one point late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. Sydney Simpson and Mills contributed 3’s. Lindsey Cason hit a short jumper, as did Grant. Randi Whittaker made a nice drive for a bucket and Mosley hit a jumper in the lane to cap it off.
But that only whittled the lead down to 57-33. Over the final five minutes, Bryant’s only basket was contributed by sophomore Taylor Hughes.