Defense, clutch play down the stretch lift Lady Hornets past Belles

Photos by Kevin Nagle

If your team is going to shoot 24 percent from the field, it they’re going to have a chance to win, they better play some defense, go to the boards and convert opportunities at the free-throw line.

Raija Todd (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Raija Todd (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

On Tuesday, in their key 7A/6A-Central Conference match-up against the Mount St. Mary Academy Belles, the Bryant Lady Hornets only shot 24 percent from the floor (10 of 50) but, following that formula, they found a way to forge a 46-36 win.

It was their first league victory in two games but, more importantly, it came against one of the three teams the Lady Hornets will be battling for one of three bids to the Class 7A State Tournament. Only games against conference teams in the same classification count for that.

Now 9-6 overall, the Lady Hornets will play another one of those league games on Friday at Van Buren.

“There’s six games that are going to determine whether we go to the State tournament and, in those six games, we’re 1-0,” stated Bryant coach Brad Matthews after Tuesday’s contest. “That’s the biggest takeaway of the night.”

The Lady Hornets, playing at home for the first time since Dec. 16 and just the third time all season, just couldn’t shake the Belles who trailed most of the game but managed to pull ahead late in the third quarter, 27-26, on a basket by Lizzie Allgood, who led her team with 21 points and 14 rebounds.

But a free throw in the final second of the period by Bryant senior Jakeria Otey not only tied it going into the fourth quarter but started a 17-2 blitz that put the Lady Hornets on the path to victory.

Otey scored 12 of her game-high 23 points in the final eight minutes.

And in those three key categories, the Lady Hornets’ defense forced 23 turnovers as they out-rebounded the Belles 38-29 including 20 offensive boards, and they converted 20 of 31 free throws including 13 of 19 in the final period as Mount was forced to chase.

Raija Todd scored 8 points, Maddie Baxter 7, Lauren Carroll 6 and Emily Ridgell 2. Carroll finished with 10 rebounds including six on the offensive end. Baxter’s five boards included four on teammates’ misses, two at key moments in the fourth quarter. Rachel Miller had five caroms while Otey, Todd and Ridgell hauled down four each.

Lauren Carroll (11) battles for a rebound. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Lauren Carroll (11) battles for a rebound. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

“Mount St. Mary’s really scrappy,” Matthews said. “They played with a lot of energy. We finally started matching that energy and effort in the third and fourth quarter.

“I thought, offensively, we executed really well,” he stated. “We just didn’t finish. You’re going to have nights like that. That’s why we preach defense, rebounding, taking care of the ball. When you do those three things night in and night out, you can overcome some offensive misses.”

Bryant suffered 13 turnovers but only five in the second half, one in the fourth quarter.

“I thought the kids showed a lot of character,” Matthews asserted. “With four or five minutes left to go and the game on the line, I thought Lauren and Maddie got some offensive rebounds that gave us some buckets. And we made enough free throws down the stretch to kind of pull away a little bit at the end.

“I thought our kids gave good effort and really stepped up and made the little plays down the stretch — the offensive rebounds, the extra pass to a cutter,” he continued. “It was enough to make a difference.”

To start the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets forced a turnover as Todd covered Mount’s Kara Rogers closely for a five-second count. At the other end, Otey drove for a basket and was fouled. Though she missed the free throw, Baxter chased down the rebound.

But the teams traded turnovers with Bryant clinging to a 29-27 lead. With 6:14 left, Carroll was fouled. She converted the front end but missed the second. She, however, chased down the carom. Todd misfired on a 3-point try but there was Baxter again to rebound. She got the ball to Otey who was fouled. Two free throws made it 32-27.

Mount’s Emily Engnath missed the front end of a one-and-one with 5:10 to go and Rogers did as well after rebounding a Bryant miss. Two free throws by Otey with 4:27 on the clock extended the lead to 7, a three-possession game.

Bryant's Maddie Baxter (12) shoots over Mount St. Mary defenders Lizzie Allgood (35) and Allie Walls (14). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Bryant’s Maddie Baxter (12) shoots over Mount St. Mary defenders Cynthia Weyrens (15) and Kara Rogers (10). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

A driving hook by Allgood went in to interrupt the Bryant run but Otey drove for an answering bucket. Baxter added a pair of free throws to push the lead to 38-29 at the 3:37 mark.

Moments later, Otey was at the line. Though she missed both shots, she followed up with a steal and a lay-in, producing the first double-digit lead for either team, 40-29. Todd made a steal and added a free throw and with 1:33 left, Otey knocked down two more as the margin reached 14.

Otey fouled out moments later and Mary Rhinehart ended a three-minute scoring drought for the Belles with a pair of free throws. Todd converted a pair with :42.6 left.

Conley Grayson-Norris hit a jumper and Allgood hit a 3 at the buzzer to close the final gap to 10.

“We wanted to speed them up a little bit, not necessarily trap and force turnovers, just try to speed them up to play out of their comfort zone,” Matthews said of the defensive strategy. “I thought, in spurts, we did that. We had some breakdowns on the back, had some breakdowns in rotations. Obviously that’s my fault.”

The Belles’ lone lead of the first half was 2-1. Otey’s three-point play put the Lady Hornets in front, though the game was tied at 4, 15 and 17 along the way.

Todd nailed a 3 and cashed in a Mount turnover with a driving jumper to make it 9-4. Rogers scored and the Belles had a couple of chances to get closer but Baxter and Carroll combined to force a turnover that led to a 15-footer by Ridgell to make it 11-6. Rhinehard beat the buzzer to end the first quarter with the Belles down 3.

Todd made a steal that led to a free throw for Baxter to start the second. Allgood cut it to 2 but Otey drilled a 3.

Allgood, who scored all 9 of her team’s points in the second quarter put together a spurt that produced a 17-17 tie. But Baxter’s three-point play off a steal in the final minute gave Bryant a three-point lead at the break.

The Lady Hornetsh held a 24-21 lead midway through the third quarter but a layup by Valerie Kauffman and free throws by Allgood and Rhinehart pushed the Belles into the lead, 25-24 with 3:21 left in the period.

Carroll and Allgood traded baskets before Otey’s free throw that started Bryant’s game-breaking run.

The Lady Hornets will make the return trip to Mount St. Mary on Feb. 10.

LADY HORNETS 46, BELLES 36

Score by quarters

Mount St. Mary          8          9          10       9 — 36

BRYANT                      11       9          7          19 — 46

BELLES (4-11, 0-2) 36

Engnath 1-4 0-1 2, Weyrens 1-3 0-0 2, Rhinehart 1-3 3-4 5, Kauffman 1-6 0-0 2, Allgood 8-16 4-5 21, Rogers 1-2 0-1 2, Grayson-Norris 1-4 0-0 2, Alvarez 0-0 0-0 0, Walls 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-38 (37%) 7-11 (64%) 36.

LADY HORNETS (9-6, 1-1) 46

Otey 7-20 8-12 23, Baxter 1-4 5-8 7, Todd 2-15 3-4 8, Ridgell 1-3 0-0 2, Miller 0-2 0-0 0, Carroll 1-4 4-7 6, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, McDowell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-50 (24%) 20-31 (65%) 46.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-13 (Todd 1-6, Otey 1-4, Baxter 0-2, Ridgell 0-1), Mount St. Mary 1-8 (Allgood 1-2, Kauffman 0-3, Engnath 0-1, Rogers 0-1, Grayson-Norris 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Mount St. Mary 23. Rebounds: Bryant 20-18 38 (Carroll 6-4 10, Baxter 4-1 5, Miller 0-5 5, Otey 4-0 4, Todd 1-3 4, Ridgell 1-3 4, Martin 0-1 1, McDowell 1-0 1, team 3-1 4), Mount St. Mary 10-19 29 (Allgood 7-7 14, Kauffman 1-4 5, Rhinehart 1-3 4, Weyrens 0-2 2, Engnath 0-1 1, Rogers 0-1 1, Walls 1-0 1, team 0-3 3). Team fouls: Bryant 12, Mount St. Mary 23. Fouled out: Bryant, Otey; Mount St. Mary, Kauffman, Rogers.

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