Bryant avenges earlier loss
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
When the Bryant Lady Hornets played the Little Rock McClellan Lady Lions the first time, McClellan’s Miesha Williams and Gabby Jones combined to score 45 points in their teams’ 66-62 win in a AAAAA-Central Conference slugfest (almost literally) at the Lions Den.
In the return engagement on Friday, Feb. 4, those two combined for just 11 points as the Lady Hornets eviscerated the Lady Lions 51-37 in one of Bryant’s best performances since before Christmas.
It was pretty much a must-win situation for the Lady Hornets who are fighting to gain one of the league’s four bids to the Class AAAAA State Tournament in Camden. They improved to 17-5 overall and 5-4 versus the league, a game behind third-place North Little Rock (an upcoming home opponent) and one ahead of fifth-place Little Rock Central, which upset the Lady Hornets on Tuesday.
McClellan, which had a chance to forge a three-way tie for fourth with Bryant and Central with a win, dropped to 12-8 and 3-6, it’s hopes for a trip to State severely damaged.
In other words, both teams had their backs to the wall and it was Bryant that rose to the occasion.
“We worked together,” declared Lady Hornets senior Allison Grappe. “I don’t think we have been. We were pumped up and we had really good practices. This is the first time, I think, that we brought our practices to the game. We worked hard and we shut down the people we needed to shut down.”
“The main difference tonight was that we came into the game with a focus,” agreed Lady Hornets head coach Rhonda Hall. “We had a plan and we stayed with it. We wanted to try to keep (Williams) from scoring and we held her to 1 point. She’s been their leading scorer about every game they’ve played.”
To do that, Hall deployed her team in a box-and-one defense with Amie Hubbard, with relief from Bridgette McPeak, shadowing Williams and totally taking her out of the game. Williams, who had 23 in the previous game, managed just two shots in the game, made one of two free throws and collected only three rebounds.
“Our second goal was to try to keep (Jones) from out-rebounding us and we did that as well,” Hall noted. “She got a couple of early baskets but, after that, the second through fourth quarters, she only had 4 points total.
“We felt if we could keep those two from scoring that we’d give ourselves a chance to win.”
Jones, who had 22 points and 17 rebounds at McClellan, finished with 10 points and eight boards, and the Lady Hornets out-rebounded the Lady Lions 38-26, led by Amanda Grappe’s nine. Robin Speake and Allison Grappe had seven each and Hubbard five.
“Offensively, we were more patient,” Hall continued. “We tried to make more passes before we shot the ball because we felt like we could get the same shot if we just passed it a couple more times and, actually, we got better shots.
“Also, we had other players that stepped up tonight,” she added. “They just played as a unit again and they haven’t done that in a long time. We didn’t have to count on just one or two people.”
Ashley Grappe (playing off the bench for the first time this season for reasons Coach Hall didn’t want to discuss) and Kalin Dreher each had 11 points. Hubbard added 10, Amanda Grappe 8, Allison Grappe 7 and Speake 4.
“There was a determination to find something we’d lost,” Hall said of the team’s renewal. “We haven’t played well, hadn’t played as a unit and I think they realized that this week. We had a real good practice on Monday and I was real surprised that we didn’t play better than we did on Tuesday (at Central) because we really have had a good week. The kids have really focused and they’ve really worked. I think if things would’ve gone a little bit better for us early in Tuesday’s game, that it would’ve been different than what it was.”
Some creative officiating continued to frustrate the Lady Hornets at Central as it has much of the conference season. The officiating was improved Friday and, ironically, only 17 fouls were called. Bryant shot nine free throws and McClellan just six.
“We’ve tried to work more on ourselves and not focus so much on how the game was officiated,” Hall commented, “to try to stay away from the things that were negative (but do go on in games sometimes). I think the kids did that.”
McClellan stayed in the game for a while behind Nyeshia Stevenson’s 17 points. The Lady Lions trailed just 10-9 at the end of the first quarter thanks to a buzzer-beater by Stevenson.
Dreher had scored 4 of her points in the opening quarter including a 12-foot jumper that gave Bryant its first lead at 6-5.
Jones scored the first basket of the second period, giving McClellan an 11-10 lead but that wound up being the last the Lady Lions would score in the half (7:53) and the first 2:15 of the third quarter.
In the interim, the Lady Hornets just dismantled the Lady Lions’ defense on a 23-0 blitz that took most of the mystery out of the outcome.
The run opened with a 3-pointer by Hubbard off a nice feed from Ashley Grappe. Later, after Hubbard swiped a rebound away from a McClellan player, she returned the favor, dishing to Ashley Grappe for a layup.
Amanda Grappe converted a pair of free throws to make it 17-11. After a McClellan miss, Allison Grappe’s 3-pointer wouldn’t fall but Ashley Grappe tapped the rebound out to Hubbard who drained a 3-pointer.
Allison forced a Lady Lions turnover and it led to a trip to the free throw line for Ashley, who converted once. After both teams missed chances to score, Amanda made a steal which led to a short jumper by Dreher, a 23-11 Bryant lead and a McClellan timeout that failed to change the way things were going.
Before the half was over, Dreher added a free throw and Ashley Grappe nailed a buzzer-beating 3 as the lead ballooned to 27-11.
Baskets by Amanda Grappe, Dreher and Speake to open the third quarter completed the 23-0 spree.
McClellan cut it to 15 before the end of the quarter but another 3 by Ashley Grappe and her last-second fling at the hoop that fell made it 44-24 going into the final eight minutes.
The largest Bryant lead was 24 midway through the fourth quarter when Allison Grappe hit a baseline jumper and Hubbard got a layup off a nice dish from Speake to make it 51-27.
Reserves finished the game for both teams, though Stevenson played until the final minute adding 7 points to her total.