Lady Hornets lose heartbreaker in final
By ROB PATRICK
Junior Candice Croy hit clutch shots at the end of the third quarter and twice in the final minutes of the game. Her outside shooting was about the only thing the Bryant Lady Hornets had going to keep the Siloam Springs Lady Panthers from just completely surrounding Bekka Middleton inside.
With :11 to go, Croy nailed a pressure-packed baseline jumper to tie the championship game of the Bryant Holiday Classic. Moments before, she had canned a jay from the corner to get the Lady Hornets within one, 42-41.
The Lady Hornets had been playing catch-up since a layup by the Lady Panthers’ Brandi Lewis with :58 left gave her team its first lead since early in the second half.
With a frenzied effort, the Lady Hornets kept it close. After Croy had cut it to 1 with :25 to go, Lewis made one of two shots with :20 showing to make it 43-41. But her miss on the second shot left the door open for the Lady Hornets and their sharp-shooting guard.
And it looked as though Croy’s clutch bucket would send it into overtime. Siloam Springs inbounded the ball and, under pressure from Croy and Joanie Robideaux, Lewis tried to weave her way upcourt for a last-ditch attempt for a win in regulation. But the Lady Hornets were called for a foul while trying to get in Lewis’ way. Ironically, it was whistled on Croy.
With :04.3 left, Lewis, who was named the most valuable player of the tournament, converted both shots to give her team a 45-43 victory and the title. The Lady Panthers, the defending Class AAAA State champions, had been the runner-up of the tournament last season, losing to Fort Smith Southside in the final.
The heartbreaking loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Lady Hornets (8-5) who return to action Tuesday at Cabot, their final non-conference contest of the season.
Middleton, who recorded double-doubles in all three of Bryant’s games in the Classic, finished the finale with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Croy had 12 points and no other Lady Hornet player managed more than 4. Joanie Robideaux, Bryant’s gritty point guard, and defensive whiz Tiffany Kennedy joined Middleton on the all-tournament team.
Siloam’s Paige Cox, Sarah Gray and Terri Franks joined Lewis on the all-tourney squad. Lewis scored 14 points against Bryant. Cox added 11.
Bryant had reached the final with wins over Morrilton and Van Buren. Siloam had bested Heber Springs and Watson Chapel.
The Lady Hornets got off to a fast start against the Lady Panthers, scoring the first 7 points of the game. But 3-pointers by Cox and Lewis helped Siloam Springs get back into it and Bryant led just 9-6 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Hornets never trailed except for just briefly early in the third quarter and in the final minute of the game. They led by as much as 8 in the second period. Croy hit a 15-footer with 4:06 left in the half to make it 17-11 and a minute later, Middleton, who was almost unstoppable when the Lady Hornets were able to get her the ball, posted up for a bucket to make it 19-11.
Siloam Springs closed with a bit of a run to make it a 21-17 game at the half.
Free throws and a backdoor layup by Gray early in the second half tied the game at 21. The Lady Panthers forced a held ball and regained possession. Lewis took advantage by nailing a 3 to put her team ahead for the first time with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
But Bryant responded with an 8-0 started by a stickback by Middleton. Bree Mann added a jumper in the lane and Robideaux hit a layup off a feed from Meagan Clancy before Croy capped the run with a corner jumper.
Siloam rallied to within 29-28 going into the final seconds of the quarter. Robideaux took a charge on a drive by Gray setting up a last-second jumper by Croy that gave Bryant a 31-28 edge.
Kim Jacuzzi hit the first bucket of the fourth quarter for Bryant, taking a nice feed from Middleton at the high post.
But the 5-point spread disappeared in a hurry as Courtney Walters drilled a 3, one of six in the game by the Lady Panthers, and Cox drove for a layup to tie it at 33.
A stickback by Middleton put Bryant back up and, after Candace Bowling missed a pair of free throws for Siloam, Middleton hit a turnaround jumper to make it 37-33 with 4:23 left.
Bryant appeared to have the momentum when Clancy fed Middleton for a layup to make it 39-34 with 3:04 left but, out of a timeout, Cox nailed a 3 and the Lady Hornets went over two minutes without a point.
A free throw by Bowling cut it to one with 2:04 left then neither team scored until Lewis layup off a Bryant turnover with :58 left that gave the Lady Panthers the lead again.
Another turnover forced the Lady Hornets into a fouling situation. Lewis made two with :39 left before Croy ended the Lady Hornets drought with the corner jumper that set up the final scenario.
Bryant 55, Van Buren 40
The Lady Hornets reached the finals with a win that featured its inside game. Middleton provided much of the inside punch offensively and on the boards with 22 points and 14 boards while Jacuzzi and Heather Atkins spear-headed the defensive effort that held Van Buren’s tough post player Ashley Jones to just 10 points and 3 rebounds.
Melissa Thompson led Van Buren with 17 points including four 3-pointers on 17 attempts.
Jacuzzi added 9 points to Bryant’s offense.
The game was close most of the first half. Bryant led just 19-18 with 2:51 left in the second quarter when Atkins took a feed from Clancy and nailed an eight-foot jumper to begin a half-ending 10-0 run.
Atkins and Middleton worked the high-low post for a bucket with 2:09 left that forced a Van Buren timeout. But the Lady Hornets countered by forcing a Pointerette turnover when play resumed. Clancy canned a 12-foot jumper to keep the run alive.
A steal and layup by Joanie Robideaux made it 27-18 and, after another Van Buren turnover, Clancy drove for a layup to complete the run.
When Middleton hit a pair of free throws to start the second half, Bryant held a 13-point edge.
Van Buren cut it to 9 but when Kennedy hit a free throw, Jacuzzi added an offensive-rebound basket and Croy hit from the corner to finish the quarter, Bryant had a double-digit lead that it would maintain the rest of the way.
The lead grew to as much as 23 midway through the final period before both teams began to substitute. Thompson scored 7 points in the final three minutes as Van Buren whittled it back to the final margin.
Bryant 68, Morrilton 30
The Lady Hornets got out on the Lady Devil Dogs early in their opener Tuesday morning. Middleton played less than three quarters and piled up 26 points and 11 rebounds. She scored Bryant’s first 10 points as part of a 15-2 opening blitz that also included a 3-pointer by Robideaux and a jumper from the corner by Croy.
The Lady Hornets’ starting five ran it out to 17-4 then gave way to another quintet. A three-point play by Clancy and a 12-foot jumper by Jamie Stephens made it 22-4.
Morrilton’s Amber Fullerton ended the first quarter with a 3-pointer then the Lady Devil Dogs scored the first basket of the second period to make it 22-9 but Bryant responded with a 13-0 run.
Croy, who scored all 7 of her points in the first half, contributed a basket and a 3-pointer and Middleton provided bookends to the run. She hit the offensive glass for the opening bucket then scoring off a nice feed from Clancy to finish it with 2:42 left in the half, making it 35-9.
Bryant led 37-20 at the half as Morrilton put together a late surge but the Lady Hornets re-established their dominance in the third quarter. Bryant outscored the Lady Dogs 25-2 over the third quarter and the first 1:30 of the fourth.
By the time it was over, 12 of the 14 Lady Hornets that played had scored. Clancy finished with 10 to join Middleton in double figures.
Morrilton finished with 25 turnovers.