Lady Hornets stop Sheridan for 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
BENTON — In three games at the Walmart Supercenter Shootout at the Benton High School Arena, Bryant Lady Hornets senior Bree Mann scored 46 points and gathered 31 rebounds, averaging a double-double. But, in the end, it was the defense that she and her teammates applied to the AAAAA-South Conference rival Sheridan Lady Jackets that earned the Lady Hornets the championship of the Shootout.
Mann was named the tournament’s most valuable player after Bryant edged Sheridan 34-30 in the championship game on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 8.
Mann, usually a forward or center, was given the task of slowing down Sheridan’s two-time all-state guard Brandy Taylor, already signed to play for the UALR Lady Trojans next year. Taylor who has been her team’s leading scorer ever since she was a seventh grader playing on the Sheridan ninth grade team, managed just 6 points in Saturday’s final two days after she had drilled six 3-pointers and scored 27 points in a win over Benton in the semifinals.
“Basically, I just tried to stay on her and keep her from shooting 3’s,” Mann said afterwards. “She’s a really good shooter, so I just tried to stay on her real tight.”
Taylor missed her first six 3-point attempts and, as a team, the Lady Jackets missed 17 times from beyond the arc before Tinley Treadway connected late in the third quarter. As a team, Sheridan had hit 11 against Benton. Against Bryant, the Lady Jackets were 2 of 21 on 3’s. They shot just 24 percent from the field.
Frustrated by her lack of success outside, Taylor began to drive to the hoop. She was oh-fer there as well. Once, Mann even swatted her shot away.
“I’ve played against her ever since I was in like third grade,” Mann said of Taylor. “I’ve seen how she plays and I pretty much just prepared for it.”
Mann was joined on the all-tournament team by junior guard Rachel Blakley, junior swing player Jennifer Slack and sophomore center Yousra Elhagemoussa.
Blakley’s selection was a tribute to her ball-hawking defense and ball-handling at the point. She scored just 5 points in the tournament but her performance against Sheridan was typical as she shutdown and flustered the Lady Jackets’ Samantha Anglin, the team’s second-leading scorer. Anglin scored just 4 points, going 2-for-11 from the field, 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
Six-foot center Misti Vance led Sheridan with 10 points but she never shot from beyond five-feet away from the hoop and went 5-for-13, a tribute to Elhagemoussa’s work defensively.
Slack, Bryant’s top scorer for the season, had a tough night from the field (2-for-13) but her defense and a game-high 15 rebounds proved key. She also came through at crunch time, converting two free throws with :06 left to seal the victory after Sheridan had rallied within 2.
It was a breathlessly-contested war that resulted in just the second loss in 10 games for Sheridan, the defending AAAAA-South Conference champion. Bryant improved to 8-1.
“It was very important for us,” Mann said of the victory, “because they’re what we figure to be our competition in conference and this pretty much showed them that we can handle them, that we can beat them and we’re going to take conference.”
Mann finished with 14 points and nine rebounds with 9 points and five of the rebounds coming in the fourth quarter. Elhagemoussa added 8 points and gathered 12 caroms as the Lady Hornets out-boarded the Lady Jackets 52-32.
As the number of rebounds indicates, neither team shot well. Bryant shot 30 percent from the field and converted only 8-of-19 free throws including just 6-of-14 in the fourth quarter which enabled Sheridan to hang close despite its own struggles.
Turnovers continued to plague Bryant. They had 21.
Incredibly, the score was just 4-2 after the first quarter. Bryant led by virtue of an eight-foot jumper by Mann with 3:22 left in the period. The rest was scoreless.
With Anglin hitting her only two baskets of the game early in the second quarter, Sheridan managed its only lead at 6-4. Jamie Stephens hit a jumper from the corner to tie it and the game was knotted at 8 before Bryant took the lead for good on a follow shot by Mann with 3:57 left in the half.
Still, it was just 13-10 at the break.
Sheridan was unable to score for the first 5:15 of the third quarter. Though unable to take great advantage, the Lady Hornets did build their largest lead at 18-10.
Sheridan rallied after Treadway’s 3-pointer and when Taylor scored inside in the final minute, Bryant’s lead was just 20-19.
Slack fed Mann for a basket to start the fourth quarter and the Lady Hornets maintained the advantage. It was 23-22 before they put some distance between them and the Lady Jackets, however. Stephens missed the front end of a one-and-one but Mann out-hustled everyone for the rebound and scored. At the other end, Taylor tried to drive on Mann and got her shot blocked. In turn, the Bryant senior canned a 12-foot jumper and suddenly Sheridan needed a timeout as it faced a 27-22 deficit with 5:36 remaining.
Elhagemoussa hit a pair of free throws to make it a 7-point lead but Taylor finally hit a 3 from 25 feet out to keep Sheridan in it.
Bryant led 31-25 going into the final three minutes but on three trips to the free throw line in the final 2:30, got just one point. Sheridan did little better but when Vance scored with :12 left, the Lady Jackets were within 32-30.
But Taylor fouled out sending Slack to the line for the clinching free throws.
In the semifinals, a 54-43 win over Cabot, Slack scored 20 points and the Lady Hornets held the Lady Panthers to just 21 percent shooting from the field through three quarters. Cabot scored just 2 points in the third quarter as Bryant extended its 33-20 halftime edge.
When Mann hit a jump hook with 5:12 left in the third quarter and Slack followed with a 3-pointer, Bryant led by 20, 42-22. Before the quarter was over, Stephens added a pair of free throws and Slack fed Mann for an open jumper in the lane to make it 46-22.
The Lady Hornets still held a 24-point advantage going into the final two minutes. Cabot rallied against the Bryant bench, finishing with a 13-0 run that set the final margin.