Crow, Kennedy spark big victory
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 continue posting 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
It’s no secret that the Bryant Lady Hornets depend a lot on senior Bree Mann and junior Jennifer Slack. As they go, so go the Lady Hornets.
But no basketball team is just two players. Everyone must play their role and, just about every game, somebody has to come through with something extra. It’s even more crucial in the big games.
Most of the time, it’s someone in the normal rotation of players. Someone gets a couple of big steals or supplies a defensive effort that slows down the opposition’s top scorer; or they hit a couple of key free throws, a basket or two, or grab a clutch rebound. Sometimes, though, the “something extra” comes from unexpected sources.
On Friday, Feb. 15, the Lady Hornets faced a showdown for second place in the AAAAA-South Conference with a hot Camden Fairview Lady Cardinals team. Coming off a bitterly disappointing loss at Pine Bluff earlier in the week, the Lady Hornets were looking at it as a must-win situation for their playoff hopes and a chance to get the highest seed they could get.
They got the usual top-notch play from Mann and Slack who combined for 30 points but the difference makers at the end also included junior Starr Crow and sophomore Megan Kennedy.
Crow scored a career-high 11 points including seven in the second half and Kennedy hit a big basket and a pair of free throws in a pinch as the Lady Hornets surged late to a 54-46 victory.
The win improved Bryant to 19-6 overall this season, 8-4 in conference play, tied with Lake Hamilton for second in the league. The result knocked Fairview a game behind the Lady Hornets tied with Pine Bluff for fourth in a five-team race for four state tournament bids.
The Lady Hornets finish the regular season against a pair of teams out of the playoff hunt, though on the road. They were to visit Benton (see related story) and El Dorado with nothing still certain.
On Friday, the game looked like it would go down to the final minute. In fact, the Lady Hornets found themselves trailing in a seesaw battle 43-42 with 2:40 left in the game. But Slack laced a pass to Crow who had sneaked in behind the Fairview zone for a layup despite being fouled.
Though she missed the free throw, Bryant was ahead to stay. Fairview missed a chance to regain the lead moments later when Veronica Cargile missed two free throws. Still, it was just a 1-point game when Kennedy was fouled with 2:06 to go. Though earlier in the game, she had missed two free throws, this time, with the pressure on, she nailed both to make it 46-43.
Fairview, which scored just one field goal in a 14-point fourth quarter, pulled back within a point on a pair of charity tosses by Iriyah Anderson, who led her team with 12 points.
Slack answered, however, with two for Bryant. After missing her first five free throws of the game, including the front end on two bonus opportunities, Slack nailed 8 of 9 down the stretch to finish with a game-high 16 points.
In turn, Anderson missed twice at the line and, with :51 left, Crow once again snuck down the baseline on the leftside behind the Fairview defense. Mann found her with a nice feed and the layup made it a 5-point game.
The Lady Cardinals scored just 1 point after that and Slack and Crow added free throws in the final :30 to seal the victory.
The final margin was the largest difference between the two squads in the entire ballgame.
The Lady Hornets scored the first 4 points of the game but it took them over half of the first quarter to get that. Fairview didn’t get on the board until there was just 2:49 left in the period.
The teams were tied at 6 going into the second quarter and played nip-and-tuck in the second which ended 16-16 after Fairview had led by as much as 3 early and late in the quarter.
A three-point play by Mann started the second half scoring. She added a turnaround jumper off the post to make it 21-16 and when Crow hit a free throw with 5:41 left in the period, Bryant’s lead was 6.
After Anderson scored, the Lady Cardinals got a chance to cut further into the margin, but Rachel Blakley, who did excellent work defensively limiting Fairview’s second-leading scorer Charlsie McKinney to just 4 points in the game, made a steal and a layup. Slack hit her first free throw with 4:34 left in the period and the Lady Hornets had their largest lead to that point at 25-18.
But Fairview rallied, sparked by the diminutive Cargile and the widette Anderson who proved to be difficult for Crow or sophomore post player Yousra Elhagemoussa to handle in the post. When Anderson scored inside with :39 left in the third quarter, Fairview had a 32-30 lead.
The game was tied at 35 and 37. Mann put the Lady Hornets ahead with a free then Kennedy forced a held ball to get the ball back. Mann’s short jumper in traffic with 4:07 left made it 40-37.
Kelecia Haygood drove into the lane for a basket for Fairview but Kennedy pulled down the carom off a miss by Blakley and scored in answer.
Free throws by Cargile and Haygood after that, however, pushed the Lady Cardinals into the lead, setting up Bryant’s decisive push at the end.