Photos by Kevin Nagle
PEARCY — The Bryant Lady Hornets and the Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves freshmen teams are rivals in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference but their game on Monday night doesn’t count in league play. That’s because, in order to have a post-season tournament, the teams can only play once through the conference during the regular season. So they each take a non-conference tour through the league before taking a second, more important one after the first of the year to determine the regular-season championship and tournament crown.
So the first time through is for learning and developing as a team against foes that you have a chance to try again against later with more on the line.
It’s a learning experience, part of the process.
Chances are, when the Lady Wolves visit Bryant on Jan. 26, 2015, the Lady Hornets won’t have a first half like they did Monday night at Lake Hamilton. The lid was on the basket for them. Though they beat the full-court trapping press enough to take seven shots — compared to four by Lake Hamilton — in the first quarter, they missed all seven and fell behind 6-1. Things began to snowball, the press started taking a toll and the aggressive Lady Wolves ran out to a 16-1 lead before the Lady Hornets managed their first field goal, a 15-foot jumper by Paige Adams with 1:49 left in the first half.
Lake Hamilton went on to a 39-22 win.
“I thought the first half we executed pretty well,” commented Bryant coach Nathan Castaldi. “We got the ball where we wanted to, we just didn’t finish inside. We got down a little bit then the girls kind of rushed things instead of staying with what we needed to do — which is understandable, trying to get all that back in one possession instead of just trying to work one possession at a time.
“We got playing their way,” he added. “We didn’t slow the game down and get good possessions every time. Even when we did beat the press, we didn’t score off of it enough to make them get out of it, which we have to do against a team that likes to press.”
As has been noted before, Bryant freshman teams always come a long way as the season progresses because the players are learning to play together as one team for the first time after actually being rivals in seventh and eighth grade. They’re often playing against teams that have been a unit since seventh grade. So, particularly early in the season, it can be a struggle.
Castaldi, who has dealt with that phenomenon for a few years now, knows how far a team can progress if they don’t get frustrated, if they keep working hard.
On Monday, the Lady Hornets trailed 23-5 at the half. Katie Evans hit a 15-foot jumper in the final 30 seconds to add to Bryant’s total.
Lake Hamilton, which was not only very aggressive on defense, proved to be pretty aggressive offensively as well, constantly looking to attack the basket.
The lead ballooned to 31-6 before Adams scored again and, after a Lake Hamilton 3, Raven Loveless canned an 8-foot jumper.
With both coaches using everyone in the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets rallied a bit. They opened the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run. Danielle Singleton and Ralae Benton contributed free throws. Sydney Cooper scored off an offensive rebound and Stephanie Cullen drove for a basket.
After a three-point play by Lake Hamilton — its only points of the quarter — free throws by Benton, Singleton and Anna Inman trimmed the margin to its final figure.
Adams led Bryant with 5 points. Benton had 4. Loveless and Singleton finished with 3. Evans, Cooper and Cullen had 2 each and Inman 1.
The Lady Hornets return to action at home against North Little Rock on Thursday.