Rejuvenated Lady Hornets send Lady Wildcats packing
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
Even after the Bryant Lady Hornets regrouped from the loss of two key inside starters to injury and snapped a two-game skid with a win at Lake Hamilton, the team figured to have troubles against teams with size. In fact, the El Dorado Lady Wildcats came to mind, in particular. With two 6-footers and another player at 5-11, the Lady Wildcats are among the tallest in the AAAAA-South Conference (matched only by Sheridan, perhaps). And, since the Lady Hornets, at full strength, had split two earlier games with the Lady Cats, Tuesday’s conference re-match at the Bryant gym figured to be one of the toughest hurdles the Lady Hornets would face in their drive for a State Tournament bid and, perhaps, a piece of the league championship.
But it didn’t turn out that way.
With a splendid defensive effort on El Dorado’s 6-2 Falundrus Sims and play-making point guard Kristian Tester along with some hot shooting, the Lady Hornets blasted the Lady Cats 71-54 to take sole possession of third place in the conference, just a game behind co-leaders Pine Bluff and Sheridan.
It also put them a win away from clinching a return to the Class AAAAA State Tournament.
El Dorado, which came into the game virtually tied for third with the Lady Hornets, fell two games off the pace. With a sweep of the home-and-home conference games between the two teams, Bryant gained the tie-breaker advantage with the Lady Cats, should it become a factor at season’s end.
Senior Joanie Robideaux erupted for 27 points including four 3-pointers to lead the resurgent Lady Hornets. Sophomore Jennifer Slack added 15 and senior guard Candice Croy 10. Sophomore center Amber Stephenson contributed 7 points as well including a couple of early hoops that seemed to surprise Sims, the El Dorado post player.
It was Stephenson, her back-up Starr Crow and Slack along with Croy, playing on the backside of Bryant’s active zone defense that frustrated Sims, who still finished with 15 points before fouling out in the game.
It was obvious, however, that Sims was the key to El Dorado’s game plan as they worked the ball to her early and often. It wasn’t as easy a task as it might’ve been because Tester was being hounded all over the court by sophomore guard Rachel Blakley and her back-up Lindsey Stone.
The game was close until the Lady Hornets put together a 26-point explosion in the third quarter. Bryant never trailed in the game.
Bryant had five different players score in the first quarter though 7-2 and 13-6 lead were whittled away. A 15-foot jumper by Stone with :10 left gave the Lady Hornets a 17-11 edge.
But Bryant only scored 6 points in the second quarter as El Dorado, led by Sims and 6-0 forward Sarah Sullivan (10 points), pulled even at 21 with 1:49 left.
An offensive rebound basket by Crow snapped the tie and Bryant led 23-21 at the half.
El Dorado tied it at 23 when Cassie Tester hit a bucket from the corner to start the second half. After Blakley hit a free throw to put Bryant back on top, Robideaux sparked a run with her defense. She made a steal and earned a trip to the free-throw line as she attacked the basket. She converted both shots to make it 26-23 then made another steal that led to an offensive-rebound hoop for Croy. Robideaux then capped the run with a 15-foot jumper.
Still, El Dorado was within 34-30 when Sims came up with a three-point play with 2:46 left in the period. El Dorado jumped into a press and the Lady Hornets sliced through it. Slack got behind the defense with only Sims to beat. Sims played back to keep Slack from passing to Stephenson under the basket and on two different occasions, Slack stopped in the lane and knocked down a short jumper.
Robideaux made another steal and hit a jumper to make it 38-30 with 2:09 left. After Kristian Tester hit a free throw and Slack canned another short jumper to burn the press, Blakley made a steal and drove for a hoop and Bryant’s first double-digit lead at 42-31 with 1:42 left in the third.
A three-point play by Kristian Tester in the final minute had El Dorado within 44-36 but Stone buried a jumper from the win and Robideaux flushed another trey before the quarter was out and Bryant led 49-36.
And when Robideaux opened the fourth quarter with a 3, the margin was up to 16.
El Dorado made one more push and had the margin down to 8 at 54-46 with 4:51 left. The Lady Cats forced a Bryant turnover and had a chance to cut it to 6 but couldn’t take advantage. Slack’s drive to the hoop produced a three-point play that deflated the Lady Cats’ gathering momentum and, after Kendra Stegall scored for El Dorado, Stephenson took a feed from Slack and contributed another three-point play.
The lead was never really threatened after that as the Lady Hornets hit 11 of 14 free throws in the late going to extend the lead to the final margin.