For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
Of the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team’s five losses during the regular season, perhaps the most surprising and disappointing was a late-season trip to Cabot South. The Lady Panthers, who had lost to Bryant 42-18 on Jan. 3, pinned a 36-27 stunner on the Lady Hornets on Feb. 6.
Not that the Lady Hornets needed more incentive after falling short of their goal of an unbeaten season and a regular-season conference championship, but opening the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference Tournament on Wednesday night against those same Cabot South Lady Panthers — well, a little extra motivation wouldn’t hurt, right?
The game, played at Bryant Middle School gym, wound up resembling the first meeting between the two teams than the latter one. Forcing 10 turnovers and allowing just one shot from the field in the first quarter, the Lady Hornets got out to a 12-4 lead and never looked back as they ended the Lady Panthers’ season with a 44-30 conquest.
The win was Bryant’s 20th of the season going into tonight’s second round showdown against second-seeded Lake Hamilton. The Lady Hornets, seeded third, will be facing a hot team in the Lady Wolves, but one that they defeated twice during the regular season. So, the emotional advantage may be on Lake Hamilton’s side as they play at 6:30 p.m., at Benton Arena.
In the other semifinal, regular-season champion Conway Blue will take on fourth-seeded North Little Rock at 4 p.m.
For the game, Bryant, utilizing a smothering half-court trapping defense, particularly early, forced Cabot South into 29 turnovers, 18 of those in the first half which ended with the Lady Hornets enjoying a 23-8 advantage.
“One big difference was we were more aggressive on offense,” noted Bryant head coach Nathan Castaldi. “A big part of our offense is the 3-point shot but last week, we settled for them, whereas tonight we took them in the flow of our offense.
“Second, we were able to completely take them out of their offense,” he acknowledged. “We used our quickness to take away their height advantage. We tried to speed them up and trap as much as possible. The first quarter I thought was about as good of defensive quarter as we have played.”
The game opened with Celena Martin making a steal and driving for a layup. Tyianna Robinson followed up with a theft that led to a 3-pointer by Tierra Trotter and a 5-0 lead.
Trotter went on to lead all scorers with 14 points. Robinson had 9, Martin 8 and Lexi Taylor had 7 off the bench. For Cabot South, no one had more than the 6 that point guard Maggie Gibson managed.
Madison French scored on the Lady Panthers’ only field goal attempt of the first quarter with 4:16 left. In turn, Robinson hit a free throw. Robinson and Ivory Russ combined on a steal but the Lady Hornets missed three shots to add to the lead. Russ and Martin teamed up to force a turnover and, this time, Russ got to the line.
Though neither of her free throws dropped for her, another Cabot South turnover led to a driving layup by Robinson. Another turnover resulted in a layup by Russ off a dish from Martin to make it 10-2.
Martin scored to make it a 10-point lead.
Cabot South finally scratched again on a free throw by Carson Coleman. Emily Belin added another in the final seconds to trim it to an 8-point difference going into the second period.
Trotter fed Robinson for a basket.
Though Kinley Oholendt and Taylor combined on a steal, the Lady Hornets couldn’t cash in immediately. Trotter stole it back leading to Martin’s 8-foot jumper off a feed from Oholendt.
Russ and Maddie Scifres combined to force a turnover and Oholendt got another assist off a kick-out pass to Trotter who bombed in another 3 to make it 19-4.
It was then that Cabot South managed its second field goal of the game. Belin scored with 2:58 left in the half, ending a seven-minute drought. But before the Lady Panthers could score again, Trotter hit a layup and Robinson connected for two free throws to extend the margin to 23-6.
Scoring the first 5 points of the second half, the Lady Panthers cut the margin to 10 and, in a scramble, had three chances to get closer. Each time, however, they suffered turnovers as Martin came up with two steals and Russ another.
Finally, after Martin’s second theft, Trotter hit a layup to take advantage.
Taylor and Robinson added free throws then Alivia Allen grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to make it 30-13. Before the quarter was over, Emily Stokes added a free throw for Cabot South to make it a 16-point game going into the fourth.
Taylor opened the final stanza with a 3. Gibson hit a pair of free throws but Martin countered with a layup off an inbounds play. Gibson knocked down a 15-footer but Taylor topped that with her second triple. And when Trotter added a layup off a Lady Panthers’ turnover, Bryant had its largest lead of the game at 22, 40-18, with 4:39 still to play.
The Lady Hornets were only 4 of 10 at the free-throw line in the final four minutes and it allowed Cabot South to rally. But the final margin was as close as they could make it.
LADY HORNETS 44, LADY PANTHERS 30
Score by quarters
Cabot South 4 4 6 16 — 30
BRYANT 12 11 7 14 — 44
LADY PANTHERS 30
Gibson 2-2 2-2 6, French 1-2 0-0 2, Griebel 2-7 0-0 4, Coleman 1-2 1-2 3, McDonald 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 1-1 3-6 5, Belin 1-1 3-6 5, Stokes 1-1 0-0 3, B.Taylor 1-1 0-0 3, Alsup 0-2 0-0 0, A.Scott 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 10-25 9-15 30.
LADY HORNETS 44
Trotter 5-15 2-7 14, Oholendt 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 4-12 0-1 8, Robinson 2-6 5-6 9, Russ 1-3 1-4 3, L.Taylor 2-5 1-2 7, Allen 1-1 0-2 2, Scifres 0-0 0-0 0, Deaton 0-0 1-2 1, K.Scott 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Harlee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-43 10-24 44.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-14 (Trotter 2-7, L.Taylor 2-5, Martin 0-1, Robinson 0-1), Cabot South 1-4 (B.Taylor 1-1, Stokes 0-2, French 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Cabot South 29. Rebounds: Bryant 14-9 23 (Trotter 1-4 5, Martin 3-2 5, Russ 2-1 3, Allen 3-0 3, Oholendt 1-1 2, Robinson 2-0 2, L.Taylor 1-1 2, Deaton 1-0 1), Cabot South 8-20 28 (Coleman 2-9 11, Gibson 1-3 4, Griebel 2-1 3, McDonald 0-2 2, Jones 1-1 2, French 0-1 1, B.Taylor 0-1 1, Alsup 1-0 1, A.Scott 1-0 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Cabot South 15. Fouled out: Cabot South, Griebel.