Lady Hornets deliver down the stretch; McClellan close for three quarters
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
LITTLE ROCK — Almost like a cat toying with a captured mouse before devouring it, the Bryant Lady Hornets have, of late, given their opponents some hope of victory through three quarters before completely dashing those ideas with a decisive rush in the final period.
On Friday, the Little Rock McClellan Lady Lions became the most recent victim as the Lady Hornets gradually pulled away for a 60-40 victory.
Bryant improved to 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the AAAAA-South Conference while putting a hurt on the Lady Lions’ hopes for a State Tournament bid. McClellan dipped to 10-10 and 3-6, two games behind in the race for the fourth and final seed from the league.
Bekka Middleton scored 16 points and gathered 10 rebounds for Bryant. Ashley Wallis added 14 and sophomore Candice Croy came off the bench to pitch in with 10, all in the second half.
Despite an 8-2 start, the Lady Hornets led just 12-11 at the end of the first quarter. McClellan’s Stacey Enoch, who led her team with 15 points, hit the first of her three 3-pointers in the game with :44 left in the period to get the Lady Lions that close.
Kim Jacuzzi, working the low post in a high-low game with Middleton, opened the second quarter with a basket and, after Tiffany Gunn hit a free throw for McClellan, Wallis drained a 3, following up with a driving layup and a 19-12 lead. Enoch missed and Wallis knocked down a jumper from the wing to make it a 9-point margin.
At the half, Bryant led 31-22.
But McClellan started the second half with a 7-2 run, highlighted by Enoch’s third trey which cut the margin to 31-27. Middleton and Charlane Relford traded baskets then the Lady Hornets cleared some room again. Jacuzzi scored inside and, later, combined with Joanie Robideaux on a steal that produced a layup.
Croy followed up with a theft and, after Wallis misfired, grabbed the rebound and scored to make 39-29.
Enoch interrupted with a jumper but Croy scored on another stickback, Middleton made a steal that led to a layup for Croy and, after Shannon Amos and Tiffany Kennedy combined to force a Lady Lion turnover, Wallis drove for a layup and a 45-31 lead.
But Enoch hit a layup to cut the margin to 12 at the end of the third quarter, then McClellan’s Danique Cuningkin hit two free throws to start the fourth period. That gave the Lady Lions a glimmer of hope for a fourth-quarter rally but that glimmer was soon doused as the Lady Hornets commenced with their usual fourth-quarter clincher.
The week before Bryant had blown open even closer games against Benton and Sheridan after the third quarter.
This time, the tell-tale run began when Jacuzzi hit a shot from the high post. After a McClellan turnover, Emily Hantz earned a trip to the free-throw line where she converted twice.
Another Lady Lions fumble gave Jazuzzi and Middleton another chance to work on the high-low post action with a bucket by Bekka the result. Wallis added a free throw then cashed in a steal by Hantz with a layup.
Suddenly, Bryant had its largest lead of the game 54-35 and the Lady Lions were looking for some relief via a timeout.
But, when play resumed, Kennedy’s high-arching jumper from the baseline bottomed out and Bryant had its largest lead of the game 56-35 with 3:07 left to play.
And, what had once must’ve felt like a winnable game for the Lady Lions, was suddenly a catastrophe.