Lady Hornets earn return trip to State
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
Despite all manner of injury and adversity, with a handful of sophomores playing key roles, the Bryant Lady Hornets have found a way to make a return trip to the Class AAAAA State Tournament.
The Lady Hornets clinched the bid Tuesday with a 58-46 win over the Pine Bluff Fillies, a win that also pulled them into a tie with the Fillies for second in the AAAAA-South Conference going into the final week of the regular season. It also avenged perhaps the Lady Hornets’ most lopsided loss of the season, a 51-34 thumping at Pine Bluff.
Both teams are 8-4 in league play (with El Dorado at 7-4 after winning at Camden Fairview Tuesday), two games behind the Sheridan Lady Jackets who clinched at least a share of the league title Tuesday with a win over Lake Hamilton. The Lady Hornets close out the regular season with a game this Friday at Fairview and a finale at home against Benton. Pine Bluff hosts Benton before finishing up at Lake Hamilton on Feb. 20. El Dorado travels to Lake Hamilton, hosts Sheridan then, if necessary, must make up a game at home against Texarkana.
Should there be a tie in the end, a tie-breaking point system would be applied. At this point, Bryant has a sizable advantage.
At State in Forrest City, the South’s second-place team will take on the third-placed team from the East (probably Blytheville or Jacksonville) on Thursday, March 1, at 4 p.m. The South’s third-place team will open against the No. 2 team from the West (probably Fayetteville or Fort Smith Southside) on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. The fourth team from the South will open against the East champions (Jonesboro) on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
The Lady Hornets changed their strategy for Pine Bluff this time. Instead of coming out aggressively on defense — a move that allowed the Fillies to drive around them for easier shots at Pine Bluff — the Lady Hornets sloughed off and Pine Bluff took, and missed, more from the outside.
Offensively, the Lady Hornets turned the tables on the Fillies, aggressively attacking their tight man-to-man and driving around defenders. The Fillies struggled to help each other out defensively, particularly in the first half. Fouls resulted and Bryant took advantage by hitting 26 of 35 from the line in the game.
In fact, of Bryant’s 9 first quarter points only a 3-pointer by Joanie Robideaux came from a field goal. Pine Bluff struggled offensively and had just 8 at the first break.
The Fillies managed as much as a 5-point edge in the second quarter but Bryant answered with a 10-0 surge to end the half. Two free throws and a basket by Robideaux, who wound up leading all scorers with 26, cut the margin to 1. Pine Bluff had three chances on one trip up the floor to extend the margin again before Bryant’s Starr Crow gathered in a rebound and was fouled with 2:15 left in the half. She hit her first shot but missed her second. Jennifer Slack, however, rebounded the miss and scored to put Bryant up 21-19.
Slack had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Lady Hornets.
After Carreba Williams missed four free throws in consecutive trips to the line, Candace Croy buried a 3 to make it 24-19.
The Fillies never led again. Still, they trailed only 28-25 at the midpoint of the third quarter when Robideaux drained a trey. After the Fillies missed twice, Slack rifled a pass into the post for Amber Stephenson who turned for an easy deuce.
Later, Rachel Blakley absorbed a charge as Pine Bluff’s point guard Tiffany Taggart (14 points) continued to try to find seams to drive through against the Bryant defense. A driving layup by Robideaux gave the Lady Hornets a 10-point lead.
By the end of the quarter, however, the Fillies were back within 39-33. But the basket that made it that close with :10 left in the period was the last the Fillies would muster for almost four minutes. In the interim, Slack and Blakley combined to hit eight straight free throws and, when Robideaux hit a left-handed scoop shot off a drive down the left side of the lane with 4:29 left, the Lady Hornets were comfortably ahead 48-33.
Even after Calynna Sorrells ended Pine Bluff’s drought, Croy stepped out for a 3 to give the Lady Hornets their largest lead at 51-35. The margin was never less than 10 after that.