Freshman Lady Hornets complete undefeated season with conference tourney crown

The undefeated Central Arkansas Junior High Conference champion Bryant Lady Hornets, kneeling from left, McKenzie Rice, Kim Henderson, McKenzie Adams, Logan Davis, Courtney Davidson; standing from left, Kiara Moore, Lauren Buck, Hayley Murphy, Whitney Meyer, Skylar Combs, Kristen Scarlett and head coach Eric Andrews. (Photo by Rick Nation)By Rob Patrick

SHERIDAN — Expectations were sky-high for the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman basketball team this season. After all, the bulk of the squad was responsible for an 18-0 record as eighth graders.

They figured to be very good, maybe great.

The Lady Hornets team celebrates after their 42-35 win. (Photo by Rick Nation)

They figured to contend for the championship of the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference and, because the South is usually the stronger of the two divisions, they figured to be a contender for the championship of the league’s 14-team post-season tournament.

But did anybody expect them to be dominant? Did anyone expect them to roll through the regular season and the post-season without a loss? With only one team getting within 10 points of them?

Well, that's what they did. [more]

McKenzie Adams goes up over Cabot's Abbey Allgood for 2 of her 21 points.

Yes, the Lady Hornets not only met but they exceeded those lofty expectations, finishing off their unbeaten campaign with a well-earned 42-35 win over the Cabot South Lady Panthers in the championship of the CAJHC tournament on Thursday night.

They finish with a stunning record of 28-0, giving the core group 46 consecutive wins in two seasons.

It was a sweet victory for head coach Eric Andrews too. Four seasons ago, in his first at Bryant, he’d led a team to a regular-season title and all the way to the tournament championship only to have Mount St. Mary Academy shock them, denying them the title.

“I definitely thought about it this week,” he admitted. “That group — seniors now — was a great bunch I had. They had a great year and we get knocked off by a team we’d already beat twice. So that’s something that creeps into your mind. It’s hard to beat a team more than twice. Then play a team three or four times — but we’ve done that to a few folks this year.

“I’m just happy for the girls,” he emphasized. “It’s a relief for them. They worked so hard. They deserve it. They’ve done everything they were supposed to do to get this thing.”

Bryant's Kiara Moore drives between two Cabot South defenders. (Photo by Rick Nation)

As she has been all season, McKenzie Adams was splendid, scoring 21 points. And her running mate Kiara Moore added 13. But it was the defense that made the difference, declared Andrews, with Logan Davis, Courtney Davidson and Lauren Buck joining Adams and Moore in the starting lineup and McKenzie Rice the first one off the bench in addition to Whitney Meyer, despite a sore knee, and Hayley Murphy spelling Buck for a couple of minutes each when she got into foul trouble. And there was plenty of encouragement from the rest of the team, Kristen Scarlett, Kim Henderson and Skylar Combs, who contributed all year during practice, helping to make the team better.

The Lady Hornets, who usually force around 20 turnovers a game, got just 12 against the Lady Panthers but they combined to block eight shots along the way and finished with a rebound advantage of 28-26.

“They work hard every day in practice,” Andrews said of his team. “Their defensive intensity — you know, we didn’t play our normal defense early in the game. We were sagging off some people we didn’t think could score. And they made a couple of shots because of it. But I think it kept us out of foul trouble just enough to keep my players on the floor. Then, late in the game, I could tell them, ‘All right, now let’s get out on them and let’s finish this thing off.’”

Courtney Davidson starts a determined drive. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Indeed, the Lady Hornets held the Lady Panthers scoreless over the final 1:49 after Cabot South had whittled a 7-point Bryant lead down to 1, 36-35.

“It definitely wasn’t easy,” sighed Andrews, who had acknowledged after his team’s win over Sheridan in the semifinals on Wednesday that the two best teams in the league were playing for the title.

Cabot South still had made up ground on the Lady Hornets at the free-throw line down the stretch. In fact, the only field goal the Lady Panthers managed in the final period was Elliot Taylor’s basket at the 1:49 mark that made it 36-35.

At the other end, Taylor blocked a shot by Buck and Cabot South got a chance to take the lead gaining possession on a held ball. But the Lady Panthers couldn’t get the ball to Taylor, who was held to 8 points, or their other top scorer, Jaylin Bridges (11 points). Abbey Allgood couldn’t get a shot to go and, battling for the rebound, Buck was fouled.

After a Cabot South timeout with 1:11 showing, Buck went to the line and knocked down the first shot to make it a 2-point game. And, after her missed second toss, Adams came through with a steal, drove to the hoop and was fouled with :51.7 to go. It was Taylor’s fifth foul and Adams made one of the free throws to make it 38-35.

Logan Davis surveys the Cabot South defense. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Bridges tried a deep 3 but couldn’t get it to fall. Moore rebounded but a turnover gave Cabot another chance. But Davidson swiped the ball and the Lady Hornets held on until Adams was fouled again with :27.4 to go.

Andrews called a timeout.

“We just talked about the situation,” he recounted. “I said, ’We’ve got to understand what happens after we make that free throw. If we get them down 4, they’re probably not going to take a quick 3. They’re probably going to attack the basket and try to draw a foul. So we’ve got to contain them and keep them out on the floor. And they’re in the double bonus. We can’t just foul them. We’ve got to play good solid defense and not let them get any second shots. Then, once we get the ball, take care of it because they’re going to come foul us.’”

Adams made both shots to make it a two possession game at 40-35.

During the timeout, Cabot South worked up a plan to get the Lady Hornets to foul, setting a pair of screens, one at halfcourt, the second halfway to the 3-point line. Adams, defending against Bridges, the Lady Panthers point guard, worked around the first pick but didn’t see the second and ran into the screener, Sydney Strickland.

So, with :22.6 showing, Strickland went to the line in the double bonus. She couldn’t get either shot to fall but the Lady Panthers made a strong bid to rebound the second miss. Bodies hit the floor including Buck and Davidson who managed to fight for dual possession. And it was the Lady Hornets’ on the alternating possessions.

Lauren Buck's 3-pointer to end the first quarter gave Bryant the lead for good. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Andrews called another timeout with :17.8 to go and, when play resumed, the Lady Hornets got the ball in to Adams. She was fouled immediately and knocked down both shots to set the final score.

To cap things, she blocked Bridges’ 3-pointer and collected the ricochet and the Lady Hornets held the ball for the remaining seconds before celebrating their championship.

Cabot held the upper hand for much of the first quarter but the Lady Panthers’ last lead was 7-5. Buck spotted up for a 3 from the corner with :13.5 left in the period, giving Bryant an 8-7 edge at the break.

Adams opened the second quarter with a 3. Bridges answered with a drive to the rack but Adams trumped that with a three-point play on her own slashing move to the rim. And when Moore made a steal and a layup, Bryant was up 16-9.

“We came out a little bit stale in the first half,” Andrews observed. “We had talked about the stuff (the Lady Panthers) were going to do and we just weren’t moving the ball. Maybe that was a little bit of nerves we had to work off early.

“Finally, we got to attacking,” he added. “That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to attack. We’ve got to be the aggressor. And once we started doing that, we started getting to the free-throw line a little bit more. We started getting the ball in the basket a little bit more. We opened up the shots from the outside and we hit a couple of those. Good things happened.”

To start the game, Andrews had Adams playing inside rather than on the perimeter as usual.

Bryant head coach Eric Andrews. (Photo by Rick Nation)

“We thought it would be easier to get her the ball if we could start her down low and have her come up through the defense,” he explained. “Sometimes we got caught just standing around and we didn’t move enough to get her the ball. But the last time we played (Cabot South) and I had her up more in a guard spot, they shaded her so much it was hard for us to get her the ball. We got more in a motion offense today, started her down low and told her she could work the whole floor. A few times, we got stale and stood around but we got it in her hands when we needed to.”

Cabot South trimmed the lead to 16-14 thanks to baskets by Taylor and Bridges (who hit a 3), but Adams came through in the clutch with a 3 then an offensive-rebound bucket.

Taylor hit a free throw and followed up with a 3 to get her team back to 21-18 and, after a Bryant miss, the Lady Panthers had a chance to get closer before the end of the half. But Davidson made a steal and, moments later, drained a baseline jumper and Bryant held a 23-18 lead at the half.

Moore matched the Lady Hornets’ biggest lead again with a drive to the first basket of the second half but Cabot South continued to keep the pressure on and, with :33 left in the period, Lauren Morris, who stepped up with 9 points for her team, grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to cut the lead to 28-27.

Still, the Lady Panthers could not wrangle the lead away from the Lady Hornets. They had a couple of chances at that point but Miranda Allen misfired and when Bridges followed, Moore blocked her shot, chased down the loose ball and drove for a buzzer-beating layup to make it 30-27.

Davidson then opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a step-in jumper from 12 feet. A Cabot turnover was followed by a Davidson miss but then Moore again blocked a shot by Bridges. This time, Davis tracked down the loose ball and whipped a pass to the streaking Moore for another layup and, once again, Bryant led by 7, 34-27.

After Bridges and Moore traded free throws, Bryant led 36-29. That’s when Cabot South made its final charge by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. Morris hit a pair then Allgood converted one as did Strickland to trim the lead to 36-33.

Adams misfired but Davis tipped out the carom to Moore. But the Lady Panthers forced a turnover leading to the basket by Taylor that cut the lead to 1 for the last time.

It was, when all was said and done, a game worthy of a championship and thus a win worthy of a champion. 


Score by quarters

Cabot South 7 11 9 8 — 35

BRYANT 8 15 7 12 — 42


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Moore 5-8 3-5 0-2 2 4 13

Adams 6-13 7-10 3-2 5 3 21

Davis 0-3  0-0 1-2 3 1 0

Buck 1-7 1-2 0-2 2 4 4

Davidson 2-9 0-0 3-6 9 2 4

Rice 0-0 0-0 2-1 3 1 0

Murphy 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Meyer 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0

Team 2-1 3

Total 14-41 11-17 11-17 28 16 42


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Bridges 3-12 4-6 0-1 1 4 11

Allen 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0

Taylor 3-6 1-2 1-5 6 5 8

Morris 2-4 5-6 3-4 7 4 9

Allgood 1-6 2-4  2-4 6 1 4

Ellison 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Strickland 1-3 1-4 0-1 1 2 3

Team 1-3 4

Total 10-31 13-22 7-19 26 16 35

Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-14 (Adams 2-2, Buck 1-5, Davis 0-3, Davidson 0-3, Moore 0-1), Cabot South 2-7 (Bridges 1-6, Taylor 1-1). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Cabot South 12. 

1 comment

  1. Rick Meyer

    Coach Andrews and the 9th Grade Lady Hornets worked hard, endured the pain, and never complained. We are so very very proud of your accomplishments. Your dreams have come true. YOU ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!!!

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