Lady Hornets hold off Conway; retain share of league lead
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
At first glance, the difference in the game between the Conway Lady Wampus Cats and the Bryant Lady Hornets on Friday, Feb. 24, was this:
Conway hit just 8 of 21 free throws; Bryant hit 14 of 24.
But when you get right down to it, the difference between the Bryant Lady Hornets and the Conway Lady Wampus Cats was this:
The Lady Hornets always seemed to come up with the play they needed to stay ahead in the second half, coming through in the clutch time after time.
And in doing so, they stayed in first place in the AAAAA-Central Conference, knocking Conway out of the three-way tie with a 43-40 victory in the final home game of the season for the Lady Hornets.
Going into the last night of the season, five teams were within two games of the league lead, vying for four State Tournament bids. The Lady Hornets, along with Little Rock Parkview, lead the league with 10-3 marks. They were the only two of the five that are certain of a trip to State. Bryant, which was set to finish up at Mount St. Mary’s (probably Thursday or Friday after the game was snowed out on Tuesday). The Lady Hornets could wind up seeded first, second or third depending on the results of the final games.
Parkview was set to play Little Rock McClellan, the fifth-placed team at 8-5 which needed a win and some help to reach State. Conway was set to host Little Rock Central, out of the running in sixth. Mount St. Mary’s and Conway go into the evening tied for third at 9-4.
On Friday, Bryant led just 42-40 with :22 left after a basket by Conway’s Brittany Greer. On the inbounds against the Conway press, the Lady Hornets worked a play in which Ashley Grappe set up to inbound the ball but Jennifer Slack stepped out of bounds, took a pass from Grappe then tried to get it back to her as she stepped inbounds. The pass back to Grappe got away and appeared to be headed for the sideline and back in possession of the Lady Wampus Cats. But Jeanne Randall hustled back and prevented the ball from going out of bounds. She passed it back to Slack who was fouled with :18 left.
Slack went to the line shooting a one-and-one. She had hit 2-of-4 in the game to that point. Her free throws had been flat so her teammates on the bench were chanting, “Arch, arch, arch,” trying to remind her to put some air under her shots.
And she made the first one to give Bryant a 43-40 lead. The second, however, rimmed out and Conway had a chance to tie. After a timeout, point guard Brittany Whitmore got a look from the top of the key but missed. Randall rebounded for Bryant and got the ball to Ashley Grappe who was fouled with :04.6 left.
But she couldn’t get either of her free throws to stay down and Conway got one last shot to tie. Jessica Brown ran the ball up the floor and got to the right wing. Her leaning 3-point attempt caught iron but rimmed away as time expired.
Ashley Grappe was the only player in the game to score in double figures. She had 10. Slack added 9, Amanda Grappe 8 and Randall 6. For Conway, Franklin and Greer had 9 each and Brown 8.
The Lady Hornets struggled early, falling behind 9-0. In the first five minutes of the game, they attempted just one shot from the field, two free throws and turned the ball over five times.
With 2:49 left in the period, Amie Hubbard grabbed a rebound and was fouled. Her free throw broke the ice and the Lady Hornets roared back. Jennifer Slack and Amanda Grappe added free throws before Yousra Elhagemoussa got free inside for the first field goal with 1:02 left in the opening quarter. And when Slack came through with a three-point play in the final :20, Bryant had trimmed the lead to 11-9.
Conway maintained the advantage until a driving layup by Ashley Grappe with 4:30 left in the half tied the game at 15. The Lady Cats’ last lead came moments later on a stickback by LaShanta Franklin. Kalin Dreher fed Slack for a layup to tie it back up then the Lady Hornets forced a turnover and Jeanne Randall drove down the left side of the lane for the go-ahead hoop.
Though they never led by more than 7 — and by that much only briefly — the Lady Hornets never trailed again.
Conway’s Brittany Greer misfired and Bryant upped the advantage to 21-17 when Slack whipped a pass inside to Randall for another deuce with 2:57 left in the half.
Bryant led 25-20 at the half.
And when Dreher scored first in the second half, Bryant had its 7-point edge. It lasted for about a minute and a half until Conway’s Maggie Ussery splashed a 3. Conway eventually cut the lead to 1, but couldn’t get ahead. When it was 31-30, Randall hit two free throws to keep the Lady Cats at bay. Moments later, she made a steal and fed Amanda Grappe for a layup that made it 35-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Conway missed five free throws in the early moments of the final period. Only a driving jumper by Whitmore cut into Bryant’s edge. Eventually, however, the Lady Cats were back within 1, 37-36 with 4:25 left. Slack was fouled with 4:18 to go and missed the front end of the one-and-one only to go back and somehow get the rebound. She missed, got the ball again and, this time, scored.
Whitmore cut it to 1 again with a basket inside, and the Lady Cats had a chance to take the lead after Ashley Grappe and Elhagemoussa misfired for Bryant. But Brown couldn’t get her shot to fall and Rachel Blakley was fouled at the three-minute mark. Blakley converted once to make it 40-38 then Ashley Grappe made a steal.
The Lady Hornets worked the clock down to 1:38 before turning the ball over. With a chance to tie, the Lady Cats worked the ball to Greer, who drove the baseline but stepped out of bounds with :58 left.
Conway jumped into a press but Bryant solved it easily. Slack fed Amanda Grappe for a layup and a relatively comfortable 42-38 lead with :47 to go.
But Greer’s basket with :22 left followed, setting up the dramatic finish.