Fast start, late defense lift Lady Hornets past Benton

For more photos from this event by Rick Nation, go here; by Kevin Nagle, go here

Tierra Trotter scores over Benton’s Rhema Riley. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

BENTON — When Bryant Lady Hornets point guard Tierra Trotter popped her first 3, it gave her team a 7-2 lead over the rival Benton Lady Panthers on Tuesday night in the annual Saline County Shootout at Panthers Arena.

When she hit her second 3, it pushed Bryant’s lead to 14-7. When she connected from long range to beat the buzzer ending the first quarter, it put the Lady Hornets up 22-9.

That was all in the first quarter as Trotter scored 11 of her game-high 14 points to help Bryant build an early lead that was never relinquished on the way to the trophy with a 53-37 victory.

The Lady Hornets improved to 7-1 on the season heading into their Christmas break. They’ll not play against until the Beebe holiday tournament, which starts on Thursday, Dec. 27.

“On the road, in front of a really big crowd, we got off to a really good start,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Brad Matthews. “I thought our defense in the first quarter was really, really good. We got momentum. We were able to play fast. That’s really good.”

The Lady Hornets had four triples in the opening salvo. McKenzie Muse, who finished with 13 points in the game, had one.

India Atkins wound up scoring 10 points for the Lady Hornets. Robyn Gordon had 8, Kalia Walker 6.

Robyn Gordon (left) and McKenzie Muse (35) combine to try to stop Benton’s Makenzy Davidson (25). (Photo by Rick Nation)

“I’ve coached in quite a few of these now and, regardless of the teams, regardless of the records, regardless of anything else, they’re always close,” Matthews said. “And to get off to that great start, I thought, kind of propelled us the rest of the game.

“Tierra came out making 3’s and McKenzie made a couple of big 3’s to kind of get us going and give us that lead,” he observed. “It kind of relaxed us a little bit. We shot it really well early and, when we shoot it well, our defensive is a lot better. That’s the same for a lot of teams. But our shooting and our defensive effort are so well connected.”

The win ended a two-game skid in the Shootout series for the Lady Hornets, who hadn’t won since the 2015-16 showdown. It was the first time, Gordan, Walker and Allison Steen, Bryant’s three seniors, have defeated Benton for the shootout trophy.

Robyn Gordon scores inside. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

“Anytime you beat Benton, a big rivalry game, it’s always fun,” Matthews related. “We don’t play again until after Christmas, so we’ll have a good taste in our mouth for a while.”

It helped that the Lady Hornets hit the boards early as well. In fact, the first two baskets of the game came off the offensive glass, the first by Celena Martin, the next by Gordon.

And Benton had to take a timeout. When play resumed, Benton’s Rhema Riley scored. She and Makenzy Davidson each scored 10 for the Lady Panthers. Kati Morrow had 9, all in the second half.

Trotter’s first trey was followed by a basket inside by Gordon to make it 9-2. Davidson hit a 12-foot jumper, Muse scored on a layup and Kennedy Stringfellow countered with a 3 to make it an 11-7 game.

Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews instructs during a timeout. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Trotter’s second 3 answered Stringfellow’s. Muse followed with a triple then Trotter and Walker combined to force a turnover that led to a layup for Trotter to make it 19-7.

With :22 left in the period, Riley got free inside for a bucket only to have Trotter’s third trey of the quarter close out the quarter.

And when Trotter hit a layup to open the scoring in the second quarter, Bryant held a 24-9 advantage.

It was 26-15 going into the final 1:30 of the half. That’s when Atkins drove for a layup and, off a steal by Martin, Walker canned a 3-ball to make it 31-15 at the half.

Gordon scored the first bucket of the second half to extend the lead further. Hannah Brewer of Benton hit a free throw, but Trotter made a steal and Atkins scored off a feed from Martin.

After Davidson scored, Muse’s three-point play with 5:47 left in the third quarter, gave the Lady Hornets their largest lead 38-18.

But Benton closed the quarter with a 12-0 run, cutting the margin to 8 going into the final stanza.

“We were getting beat off the dribble a lot,” Matthews said of that stretch, which was punctuated by a 3 from Morrow. “They were getting the ball in the high post quite a lot. Davidson is so good. I thought for a lot of the game, we did a good job kind of containing her. Once she got going there in the third quarter, they feed off that.

“I didn’t think I did a very good job in the third and fourth quarter, keeping us in the flow,” he related. “We were a little stagnant and I think a lot of that was my fault. We needed to press more but we picked up some early fouls. The last thing you want to do when you’re 15 up is put a team at the free-throw line and not make them work for what they get. We had to limit her touches then we just made some plays on offense to extend the lead so that it never got too close.

“We’ve got to learn from that,” the coach stated. “We’ve got to put pressure on people the entire game. We play better when we’re doing that. But when the other team is shooting the one-and-one so early — it seemed like it was so early in the second half — we’ve got to work on that.”

Benton had a chance to get closer with the opening possession of the fourth quarter, but the Lady Hornets forced a turnover that Walker cashed in with a 3. Morrow answered to get the lead back under 10 again.

But when Trotter hit a free throw and Muse ripped her second 3, the lead was 12 and the Lady Panthers were unable to get it down under 10 after that.

Two free throws by Davidson made it a 10-point lead but Gordon’s offensive-rebound basket pushed it back to 12. Gordon blocked a shot at the other end but, with 2:59 left, Davidson found the mark again on a jumper in the lane.

Benton forced a Bryant turnover but, again, Gordon blocked a shot. Though the ball went out of bounds and the Lady Panthers retained possession, the Lady Hornets forced another turnover. Another Bryant turnover led to a missed 3 by Morrow and Matthews took a timeout with 2:04 remaining.

Out of the timeout, Benton forced a turnover only to have Atkins make a steal and drive. For a layup. She would add two free throws and another layup off a steal to set the final score.

LADY HORNETS 53, LADY PANTHERS 37

Score by quarters

BRYANT           22        9          7          15 — 53

Benton            9          6          15        7 — 37

LADY HORNETS (7-1) 53

Trotter 5-7 1-2 14, Atkins 4-9 2-2 10, Martin 1-2 0-0 2, Gordon 4-4 0-0 8, Muse 5-11 1-1 13, Walker 2-4 0-0 6, Steen 0-1 0-0 0, Russ 0-2 0-0 0. Totals21-40 (53%) 4-5 (80%) 53.

LADY PANTHERS (4-3) 37

Brewer 2-6 1-4 5, Riley 5-5 0-0 10, Stringfellow 1-6 0-0 3, Morrow 2-6 3-4 9, Davidson 4-9 2-4 10, Ginther 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals14-33 (42%) 6-12 (50%) 37.

Three-point field goals:Bryant 7-14 (Trotter 3-3, Muse 2-6, Walker 2-2, Atkins 0-3), Benton 3-11 (Morrow 2-4, Stringfellow 1-6, Davidson 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 17, Benton 17. Rebounds:Bryant 8-10 18 (Martin 2-2 4, Gordon 2-2 4, Trotter 0-3 3, Atkins 0-2 2, Muse 2-0 2, Steen 1-1 2, team 1-0 1), Benton 12-10 22 (Brewer 5-1 6, Riley 3-3 6, Stringfellow 0-2 2, Morrow 1-1 2, Davidson 1-1 2, Ginther 0-1 1, team 2-1 3). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Benton 9.



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