Lady Hornets overcome challenge from Greenbrier
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 — It’s someone different every time out for the Bryant Lady Hornets.
A year ago, if the Lady Hornets didn’t get scoring from Bree Mann or Jennifer Slack, they were going to have to get it from an unexpected source to get a win. This year, it seems, any number of players, including Slack and some of those players that struggled to score last season, can hurt an opponent with their offense.
On Tuesday, Dec. 3, against the Greenbrier Lady Panthers in the first round of the CAC/OrthoArkansas Invitational Tournament at Central Arkansas Christian High School, the Lady Hornets got a big lift from sophomore Ashley Grappe who scored a season-high 20 points to lead the team to a 71-48 win that was much closer than the final might indicate.
The win improved Bryant to 4-0 going into the winners bracket semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 5, against Lonoke.
Greenbrier is coached by former Benton Lady Panthers head coach Rhonda Hall who, over the years, has had many a duel with Bryant head coach Carla Crowder including one year in the finals of the Class AAAA State Tournament in West Memphis. Hall’s Greenbrier Lady Panthers gave the Lady Hornets all they wanted in the first half, forcing 16 turnovers. Somehow, Bryant still led most of the way, gaining the upper hand when center Yousra Elhagemoussa hit a short jumper with 3:12 left in the first quarter to snap an 8-8 tie.
Elhagemoussa would go on to score 10 points and grab a game-high nine rebounds.
Bryant led 16-11 at the end of the quarter but only managed one basket over the first four minutes of the second period. Greenbrier closed the gap to 18-14 then 20-17 after Elhagemoussa broke the drought with a couple of free throws.
That’s when Ashley Grappe started to attack the Greenbrier press and get into the teeth of its halfcourt defense.
Still, Greenbrier was within 25-23 when Tara Hoover hit two free throws with 1:30 left in the half. After that, however, Bryant got two freebies from Starr Crow and 3-of-4 at the line from Ashley Grappe to make it 30-23 at the half.
“I give Greenbrier a lot of credit,” stated Bryant assistant coach Mark Scarlett. “They’re a good, solid, well-coached ballclub and they gave us a lot of match-up problems. They weren’t as big as some of the teams we’ve played so far. They played very aggressive man-to-man defense and they got after it.
“But I’m proud of our kids,” Scarlett added. “We had people like Starr Crow step up. She played well whenever other people weren’t. We’re proud of the kids. We scored 71 points again tonight and we got point production across the board.
“That was our goal at the beginning of the year,” he noted. “We want teams when they scout us to literally say everybody has the potential to score 20 on you. They have to spend so much time concentrating their man defense on their player, they can’t help out, double team or anything or else somebody else is going to roast them. We know we’ve got 13 kids on that bench that can go this year.”
In the third quarter, Elhagemoussa and sophomore guard Amie Hubbard worked a nice screen and roll for an opening bucket. And when Ashley Grappe hit a 12-foot jumper, Bryant’s lead was in double digits for the first time at 34-23.
Greenbrier’s Jayla Johnston hit a 3 but Hubbard made a steal and layup then Rachel Blakley buried an 18-footer and the lead was never single digits again.
Still, Greenbrier didn’t let things get away until late. Bryant led 49-34 at the end of the third quarter and the margin was still 15 with 5:50 to go. That’s when the Lady Hornets started to put pull away.
Amanda Grappe, who scored 16 points and had eight rebounds in the game, hit a pair of free throws, Slack drove for a layup and so did Ashley Grappe to open it up to 62-41 with 4:24 to go.
Greenbrier called a timeout and both teams started to turn to reserves. It wasn’t until a 7-0 run in the final minute that the game really blew up. Jeanne Randall scored 4 of those points and Elizabeth Farish contributed a steal and a free throw.
“It’s early in the year,” Scarlett mentioned, “and hopefully we’ll be a whole lot better as the year goes on because we need to be. But it’s nice that we scored 71 points and know we really didn’t play that well.”