Fourth-quarter blitz lifts Lady Hornets past Benton
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
For awhile, it looked like the Benton Lady Panthers, despite their lowly station in the AAAAA-South Conference, might get a sweep of the State Tournament-bound Bryant Lady Hornets Tuesday night in the final regular season game for both teams.
But the gritty Lady Hornets, who trailed by 8 with seven minutes to play, erupted for 26 points in those final seven minutes to extract a 72-66 win.
The Lady Hornets, now 16-8 overall, finish conference play at 9-5 and will represent the league as the third seed thanks to Sheridan’s victory at El Dorado Tuesday. They will open State Tournament play on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m., against the second-place team from the AAAAA-West, Fort Smith Southside.
Benton finishes its season with a 4-19 record.
Bryant’s only two active seniors Joanie Robideaux and Candace Croy (Kim Jacuzzi remained out with a stress fracture in her foot) stepped up big time in their final home appearance, splitting 42 points. Sophomore Jennifer Slack added 16. Soph Rachel Blakley had 8.
For Benton, senior Frannie Whipple poured in 27. Alisha Standridge pitched in with 15.
Both teams shot lights out for much of the game but Bryant had it at the end.
Croy, who had scored 8 points going into the fourth quarter, drilled four 3-pointers in a row for the Lady Hornets to fuel the comeback. The fourth one, with 3:22 left to play, tied the game at 60. It was her sixth 3-pointer of the game and the 10th by the Lady Hornets altogether.
Blakley, the Lady Hornets’ ball-hawking guard, followed with a steal and, with 3:09 left, Croy hit a free throw to give Bryant the lead.
Benton’s Amber Ashley scored inside to put her team back up 62-61 with 2:57 left but when Robideaux, who played the entire final quarter with four fouls, drove within 12 feet and knocked down a jumper with 2:47 left, Bryant was ahead to stay.
But it wasn’t comfortable until the final 20 seconds.
With her team trailing 63-62, Whipple, who hit a trio of 3’s in the game, a couple from deep on the wings, missed twice and when Slack rebounded the second miss, she was fouled with 2:30 to play.
Slack converted both shots — she was 8 of 11 in the game from the line — to make it 65-62.
Standridge made it a 1-point game again with a layup off a give-and-go with 2:01 to play. And, after Blakley misfired at the other end, the Lady Panthers had two chances to take the lead. But Jamie Cash missed twice and, at the other end, Blakley was fouled.
Calmly, the sophomore nailed both shots then came up with another steal as the Lady Hornets suddenly jumped into a press. She was fouled again with 1:01 to go, hitting one of two shots to make it 68-64.
Standridge’s two free throws with :49 left trimmed it back to 2 then the Lady Hornets went into a delay offense. They worked the clock down to :18.9 before Slack was fouled. Her two clutch free throws made it 70-66.
Whipple missed on another 3-point try and, in a crowd, Bryant sophomore center Amber Stephenson corralled the rebound in a scramble. With the Lady Panthers trying to force a held ball or take it away from her, Stephenson alertly called a timeout with :06.8 to go and Bryant retained possession.
When play resumed, Robideaux was fouled and, with :05.9, the senior capped off the win with two more free throws. She was 6 for 6 at the line in the game.
The two teams had combined for 35 points in a hot-shooting first quarter. Benton led 18-17.
Baskets by Slack and Robideaux to start the second quarter put the Lady Hornets ahead and they kept a small edge until, a stickback by Jodie Scott gave Benton a 26-25 lead with 4:20 left in the half.
Robideaux answered but then Megan Hill hit a baseline jumper and, after a pair of Bryant misses, Whipple drilled a 3. She later posted up for a bucket to make it 33-27.
With the game threatening to get away, the Lady Hornets got a lift from Croy’s second 3 of the game. Still, Benton led 36-32 at the half.
The lead was back up the 7 early in the third quarter when Blakley stepped up and drained an long jumper. Slack hit a free throw then Blakley poured in a 3 to cut Benton’s lead to 39-38.
The Lady Hornets gained the lead with 2:41 left in the period on a pair of free throws by Slack. It was 44-43 before Whipple hit another 3 with 1:18 left. Stephenson scored inside to tie it at 46 but a three-point play by Whipple with :07 left gave Benton a 49-46 edge going into the fourth.
A 3 by Cash and a driving layup by Whipple had the Lady Panthers up by 8 with 6:59 left, that’s when the Lady Hornets’ march to victory began.