Freshman girls close out Hale tourney with narrow misses

PEARCY — After opening the annual Kameron Hale Invitational Tournament with a convincing win, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team absorbed two tough losses against teams they’ll see again in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play.

On Monday, the Lady Hornets were edged by the host Lake Hamilton Junior Lady Wolves, 33-28, in the tourney semifinals. In the third-place game on Tuesday, their second-half rally came up just short in a 20-18 loss to the Benton Junior Lady Panthers.

CAJHC play begins when the Lady Hornets host Cabot South on Thursday, Jan. 8.

“I think that these last two games should prepare us for the rest of the season,” said Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “Lake Hamilton and Benton are both playing well right now and we gave them everything they wanted. While we did not come out on top, hopefully, we can build on these games.”

Earlier in the season, Bryant went to Lake Hamilton and suffered a 39-22 setback.

“The first time we played Lake Hamilton, they were able to control the game from the start,” Castaldi noted. “This time, we played much better. We still struggled some with Lake Hamilton’s pressure defense but we were able to take advantage of their aggressiveness and get some easy buckets.”

The Lady Wolves led just 6-4 after a quarter and the game was tied 13-13 at the half. Lake Hamilton opened the second half with a surge that helped produce a 25-19 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Bryant outscored the Lady Wolves 9-8 down the stretch but it wasn’t enough to overtake them.

“Other than about the first three minutes of the second half, I thought we played very well,” Castaldi said.

Raven Loveless, who was named to the all-tournament team, led Bryant with 9 points. Danielle Singleton finished with 7, Paige Adams 5. Kelly Williams scored 3 points with Baylee Rowton and Stephanie Cullen each getting 2.

Against Benton, the Lady Hornets struggled offensively in the first half, scoring just 2 points in each of the first two quarters. But they trailed just 10-4 at the break. They started coming on in the third quarter and trailed just 17-12 going into the final period.

Loveless finished with 10 points, Singleton 6 and Adams 2.

“After a poor start, we were able to come back in the second half and make a game of it,” Castaldi commented. “While we struggled offensively, I thought our defense played well all game long. We did a much better job in the second half on the offensive end. We had a couple of good looks in the last minute, but both rimmed out.”

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