Lady Hornets win tourney title
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
MAUMELLE — When point guard Ashley Wallis was lost for the season at the start of her sophomore year for the Bryant Lady Hornets, it took the longest time for the other players on the team to adjust their roles and for the chemistry of the team to be re-defined. In fact, it might be said that the team never fully recovered, though they gamely drove to a State Tournament bid, they finished 15-14.
Two years later, an almost completely different Lady Hornets team is faced with the same prospect. Wallis is out with another knee injury and roles are changing, adjustments have to be made and team chemistry re-shaped. And it might’ve figured to be an even tougher situation. After all, two years ago, Wallis, though a starter and very talented, was a sophomore. Now, as a senior, she is, without doubt, one of the best players in the state, already headed to Arkansas Tech University.
All of that made it even more impressive that the Lady Hornets went to Central Arkansas Christian and captured the championship of the CAC Ortho Arkansas Classic.
After defeating Lake Hamilton in overtime to open the tournament on Monday (as chronicled in last week’s Times), the Lady Hornets reached the finals with a convincing 44-25 win over Lonoke on Thursday. In Saturday’s championship game against the host team, the Lady Hornets rode a strong second half to a 49-36 victory.
The wins improved the Lady Hornets to 4-0 going into Tuesday’s make-up game at Arkadelphia. They were set to travel to Paragould for the McDonald’s Shootout beginning tonight at 7 against Marion.
In the win over CAC, the Lady Hornets struggled with foul trouble in the first half. It also didn’t help that junior Joanie Robideaux, who has moved from two-guard to the point in Wallis’ stead, suffered a broken nose near the end of the first quarter.
Despite the injury, the gritty Robideaux scored 11 points in the victory. Bekka Middleton led the Lady Hornets with 12 points and a whopping 15 rebounds despite sitting out some of the first half with two fouls.
Sophomore Meagan Clancy helped Robideaux with some of the ballhandling chores and came through with 8 points, all in the second half. Senior Tiffany Kennedy came off the bench to grab nine rebounds, as well.
“I think we just got settled down and relaxed,” said head coach Carla Crowder of the Lady Hornets’ improved play in the second half. “We were all real nervous and keyed up and, you know, we had a lot of different combinations that haven’t played together. We were just trying to find something that works consistently. In the second half, we found some people that came through for us.
“We did a lot better (defensively),” she added. “I think we just started moving our feet and realized that we had to block out and get on the boards and not foul.
“I thought we worked really hard in the first half, I just thought we played a little scared,” Crowder summarized. “(The tournament) has been really good for us to try to find some chemistry and some people that can work together. I think everybody’s working real hard. I was real pleased with our effort.”
Both Middleton and senior strong forward Heather Atkins, still getting back into a groove after recovering from a hand injury, sat with two fouls in the first half and so did their replacements Shannon Amos, Kim Jacuzzi and Bree Mann, so Crowder had to shuffle things inside quite a bit along with coping with Robideaux’s situation at the point.
CAC took advantage with some strong inside play from Britnee Capshaw and Amy Howell. Capshaw scored 9 of her team-high 14 points in the half.
But the Lady Mustangs still couldn’t shake the Lady Hornets. The game was tied at 2, 4, 6 and 10 in the first quarter (which ended tied 10-10) and at 12, 14, 16 and 20 in the second quarter (which ended tied 20-20).
A 3-pointer by Robideaux after a steal by Kennedy with 1:26 left in the half snapped the 16-16 tie but Howell scored inside and, moments later, Capshaw added a basket from under the hoop to give CAC a 20-19 edge going into the final :30.
Both teams suffered turnovers before Atkins was fouled with :13 showing. She converted once to tie it up.
The Lady Hornets then stormed out of the locker room. Defensively, they held the Lady Mustangs without a point for the first three and a half minutes of the third quarter. Meanwhile, Bryant steadily built a 31-20 lead. Middleton started the run with a stickback and finished it with a post-up move. She also contributed a pair of free throws along the way. Robideaux and junior guard Candice Croy added layups off fastbreak opportunities as well.
Finally, CAC’s Kari Gosnell broke her team’s silence with a 3-pointer but it was the only field goal by the Lady Mustangs in the quarter. Free throws by Clancy and Mann helped Bryant maintain a 10-point margin at the end of the period.
A driving jumper by Caroline Herrington opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, cutting the margin to 8 and CAC had a chance to get closer only to have Arline Cory missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Free throws by Robideaux and a 15-foot jumper by Croy upped the margin to double digits again and CAC was never as close as 8 again.
The final margin matched the Lady Hornets’ largest of the game.
On Thursday, the Lady Hornets’ defense smothered the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits. Robideaux stepped up offensively with a team-high 15 points including 7 in the second quarter when the Lady Hornets took control of the game.
Atkins had 4 of her 6 points in the period and Middleton produced 7 of her 9 in the opening half.
The game was tied at 7 after the first quarter but the Lady Hornets outscored Lonoke 17-8 in the second quarter to take a 24-15 lead at the half.
By the end of the third quarter, Bryant held a 32-20 advantage.
Mann added 6 points, Croy 4 and Amos and Jacuzzi 2 each.