Lady Hornets bounce back, top Pulaski Academy to take third
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
There’s a theory among some that the best thing for a team that has suffered a disappointing loss is to get right back out on the court as soon as possible so they can work out their frustrations.
If that’s so, perhaps it helped the Bryant Lady Hornets that, after the 50-38 loss to second-ranked Fort Smith Southside which eliminated them from contention for the championship of their Bryant Holiday Classic Tuesday night, they were back on the court in the third-place game on Wednesday morning. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak but Wednesday, the Lady Hornets got right back on track with a 71-59 win over the Pulaski Academy Lady Bruins.
Pulaski Academy attempted to duplicate the defensive strategy that had worked so well for Southside by surrounding Bryant’s junior post player Bekka Middleton inside and dogging junior guard Ashley Wallis outside, forcing the other Lady Hornets to beat them.
And Middleton was held to just 2 points in the first quarter while Wallis didn’t score until late in the period. Yet, Bryant forged a lead.
Senior Emily Hantz hit a jumper from the wing, junior forward Heather Atkins sank a jay from the baseline and sophomore guard Joanie Robideaux not only grabbed an offensive rebound and scored but, later, nailed a 3-pointer as Bryant took an 11-7 lead.
Robideaux’s 3 started a 12-1 run that enabled the Lady Hornets to seize the early momentum as well as opening things up for Middleton and Wallis.
Middleton followed the 3-pointer with a steal that led to a layup for Hantz that became a three-point play. Wallis then swiped a pass and drove for a layup and, after another PA turnover, hit a driving jumper at the buzzer to give the Lady Hornets an 18-7 lead going into the second quarter.
After Pulaski Academy’s Amy Tucker hit a free throw, Bryant’s Tiffany Kennedy drained a 12-foot jumper to make it 20-8.
After that, Middleton, Wallis and Hantz did much of the damage offensively. Middleton finished out with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Hantz scored a season-high 16 and Wallis added 15. Robideaux added 9.
“We worked really hard and it was a tough loss (Tuesday) night, but we fought our way back,” Middleton said afterwards. “We knew we had to do it.”
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 11-3 on the season as they prepare to return to AAAAA-South Conference play. They travel to Sheridan to take on the defending conference champions this Friday.
The Lady Bruins didn’t go quietly, however. Despite trailing 33-21 at the half, they revved up their offense in the third quarter, primarily with 3-point bombs. PA connected on its first six shots of the period. The Lady Bruins drained six 3-pointers in seven attempts during the quarter and hit 10-of-14 shots overall to get back into the ballgame.
Guard Laure Nofe went 5-for-5 from beyond the arc during the period on her way to nailing seven 3-pointers in the game.
But with Hantz scoring 8 of her points in the period, the Lady Hornets stayed ahead. When Nofe flushed her fifth trey with :07 left in the quarter, however, the margin was just 49-47.
And the Lady Hornets failed to add to the lead to start the fourth quarter. The Lady Bruins took advantage as Tucker hit a 3 to give her team its first lead of the game at 50-49.
Another Bryant miss and PA’s Mollie Richardson scored inside to make it a three-point edge.
But Atkins got Bryant back on track with a baseline jumper. The Lady Hornets forced a turnover and Atkins fed Middleton nicely for what turned into a three-point play and a new lead for Bryant, 54-52.
Working in a man-to-man defense to try to keep better track of Nofe (with Hantz), the Lady Hornets forced a miss by the Pulaski Academy guard and, in turn, Wallis swished a jumper from the baseline.
April Miller scored off a drive for PA to make it a 2-point game (56-54), but when Middleton scored off an offensive rebound with 5:15 left to play, the Lady Bruins were never to be as close again.
Baskets by Wallis and Middleton and a free throw by Hantz created a nine-point cushion before the Lady Bruins were able to get back on the board.
“I was really proud of the way the team came back,” said Middleton, who sat out much of the third quarter with foul trouble. “We worked really hard for it.”
“Emily Hantz came through and played really, really good for us,” commented Lady Hornets coach Carla Crowder. “She only missed one field goal, she got a lot of offensive rebounds and I thought that was a big key.”
Hantz hit a free throw with 2:24 left to play then Middleton rebounded her missed second shot and scored to give the Lady Hornets a double-digit lead again at 66-56.
The two teams traded free throws in the final 1:30 with Wallis putting the finishing touches on the win with :31 left.