Freshman girls come through in the clutch to edge Russellville

Photos by Kevin Nagle

Rachel Studdard (3) pulls down a key rebound as teammate Lauren Burnett arrives to help. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Rachel Studdard (3) pulls down a key rebound as teammate Lauren Burnett arrives to help. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

There was no letdown for the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team Thursday night.

With back-to-back wins going into their trip to Lake Hamilton on Tuesday, the Lady Hornets suffered a heart-breaking one-point loss on a pair of free throws in the final seconds, nearly knocking off the unbeaten Lady Wolves. But, overcoming that disappointment, the Bryant girls bounced back with a down-to-the-wire win, 21-16, over the Russellville Lady Cyclones, a team they’d previously lost to 22-17.

So, make it three wins in the last four games as the Lady Hornets appear to be peaking at the right time of the year. They’ll host Cabot Red on Monday, Feb. 8, then Conway White on Thursday, Feb. 11, hoping to roll right into the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament starting Wednesday, Feb. 17.

“We’re going in the right direction and the one we lost was a tough one,” acknowledged Bryant coach Nathan Castaldi. “I think the girls have a lot of confidence going forward. Next week, we’ve got a couple of big games. Hopefully, we can keep this going.”

The game was tied 16-16 going into the final two minutes after Russellville’s Kasey Heath hit a 3-pointer. But Mary Catherine Selig knocked down a clutch 15-footer from the elbow to put the Lady Hornets back on top.

Lauren Burnett made a steal for Bryant, knocking the ball to point guard Kalia Walker. But the Lady Hornets turned it back over. Russellville returned the favor with :52.7 to go.

So Bryant had the ball and Russellville needed to foul. But the Lady Whirlwinds had only committed three team fouls in the half and needed to get to seven before sending the Lady Hornets to the line. It took them until the :23.9 mark.

Kalia Walker (24) goes up in traffic to try to get a shot away. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Kalia Walker (24) goes up in traffic to try to get a shot away. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

They got a break when Burnett couldn’t get the front end of a one-and-one to fall but Rachael Studdard wrestled away the rebound and the Lady Hornets were able to run the clock down to :17.9 before Russellville could foul again.

This time, Walker went to the line and converted twice to make it a two-possession game. In turn, Russellville turned the ball over again and Walker added a free throw to seal the win with :08.3 showing.

“I think our defensive effort was great,” Castaldi stated. “We did a good job. (Allowing) sixteen points is really good. I thought the first quarter was as good a defensive effort as we’ve had. Not just on the ball but help-side. A couple of times we got beat off the dribble or beaten back-door, we’d have somebody waiting on them. Holding them scoreless — that set the tone early.”

Indeed, the Lady Hornets built a 7-0 lead by the end of the opening period. The second quarter was nearly half over before a 3-pointer by Blakely Walker broke the ice for the Lady Whirlwinds.

Selig, Kalia Walker and Meagan Chism accounted for Bryant’s 7 points to that point. Walker hit an off-balance pull-up jumper at the buzzer ending the first quarter.

After Blakely Walker’s 3, Selig scored off the offensive boards to make it 9-3. But that proved to be the only points for the Lady Hornets in the second stanza.

Russellville rallied to within 9-7 at the half then tied it on a basket by Zee McCallister to open the second half. Heath scored and the Lady ‘Winds were ahead 13-11.

“They answered,” Castaldi said. “They’re a good team. They were 4-2 in conference before tonight.”

Selig tied it up with two free throws with 2:40 left in the period. Makayla Ealy’s stickback gave the Lady Whirlwinds the upper hand at 2:26 but that was the last lead they would enjoy.

Allie Dugan eyes the basket. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Allie Dugan eyes the basket. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

In the final minute of the quarter, Selig hit Kalia Walker with a kick-out pass and she proceeded to drain a 3 to give Bryant a 14-13 lead.

The two teams went back and forth at the start of the fourth quarter until Kalia Walker and Allison Steen combined to force a turnover that led to a layup for Chism. The duo combined on another theft and Walker went to the line with 3:49 left.

But it was an empty trip. That led to Heath’s game-tying 3 and Bryant’s clutch play at crunch time.

“I think, in the past, when something bad would happen, we would drop our heads,” said Castaldi. “I think, now, we have a little bit of confidence so when something bad would happen, we’d rally back.”

LADY HORNETS 21, LADY WHIRLWINDS 16

Score by quarters

Russellville     0          7          6          3 — 16

BRYANT          7          2          5          7 — 21

LADY WHIRLWINDS 16

Sparks 0-3 0-0 0, Boyce 0-0 0-2 0, B.Walker 1-4 0-0 3, Ealy 2-9 0-0 4, Heath 2-5 0-0 5, McCallister 2-8 0-1 4, Varderman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 7-29 (24%) 0-3 (0%) 16.

LADY HORNETS 21

K.Walker 2-7 4-8 9, Studdard 0-1 0-0 0, Selig 3-7 2-4 8, Chism 2-5 0-0 4, Burnett 0-1 0-0 0, Steen 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 0-1 0-2 0, Dugan 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 7-25 (28%) 6-15 (40%) 21.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-1 (K.Walker 1-1), Russellville 2-11 (B.Walker 1-3, Heath 1-2, McCallister 0-5, Sparks 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Russellville 10. Rebounds: Bryant 26 (Selig 3-5 8, Studdard 1-2 3, Chism 0-3 3, K.Walker 0-3 3, Steen 1-2 3, Burnett 1-1 2, Robinson 1-0 1, team 3-0 3), Russellville 8-11 19 (Ealy 4-5 9, Boyce 1-2 3, B.Walker 0-2 2, McCallister 1-1 2, Sparks 0-1 1, Heath 1-0 1, team 1-0 1). Team fouls: Bryant 7, Russellville 12.

Meagan Chism (14) shoots over Russellville's Makayla Ealy. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Meagan Chism (14) shoots over Russellville’s Makayla Ealy. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

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