By Rob Patrick
For much of the first half, North Little Rock freshman girls coach Jason Wallace was exhorting his team to show some spark, to act like they were in a first-place battle — which they were.
But Bryant’s Lady Hornets freshmen gave them few opportunities to get much going through three quarters building as whopping 22-point lead then holding on after the Lady Cats finally got it going to rally within 10 down the stretch.
Bryant improved to 15-0 on the season and 5-0 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference with a stunning 40-22 win. The two teams came in tied with Cabot South atop the league standings. Bryant, by the way, travels to Cabot South in its next game on Thursday, Jan. 7.[more]
Bryant rode into the game fresh from the championship of the Kameron Hale Memorial Tournament in Lake Hamilton on Saturday. North Little Rock, meanwhile, hadn’t played since before Christmas and it kind of looked like it.
“I was real proud of the girls,” stated Lady Hornets coach Eric Andrews. “We showed up ready to play just like we did Saturday night. We brought that same intensity that finished up the tournament with and we carried it over to tonight which was very good for us.”
The Lady Hornets, utilizing a zone press and more halfcourt zone than usual, forced North Little Rock into more turnovers (29) than field goal attempts (22). The Lady Cats didn’t get into double digits in scoring until the 4:53 mark of the fourth quarter.
Bryant was led by McKenzie Adams’ 21 points. Kiara Moore and Courtney Davidson added 6 each with Davidson gathering a team-high seven rebounds, all on the offensive end.
North Little Rock was led by Melissa Bridwell who scored 6 points all on a pair of 3-pointers during her team’s early fourth quarter rally.
Bryant led 4-2 early in the first quarter before Adams drained the only 3-pointer of the game for the Lady Hornets, starting a 16-2 blitz. Moore added a free throw after teammate Whitney Meyer made a steal. Moments later, Moore’s theft led to a banker by Adams that made it 10-2 and forced a North Little Rock timeout with 2:03 left in the quarter. To that point, the Lady Cats had managed to launch just one shot, which Keandra Tillman converted to go with six turnovers.
And when play resumed, the Lady Hornets forced another that led to a layup for Davidson. Adams’ driving jumper finished the scoring in the quarter, leaving Bryant up 14-2.
Tillman scored inside to start the second quarter but an offensive-rebound bucket by Davidson started a 6-0 run. Lauren Buck swished a jumper from the corner then, after a steal by McKenzie Rice, Davidson added two free throws to make it 20-4.
Sascha Giles ended a four-minute-plus scoreless stretch for North Little Rock but Logan Davis answered for Bryant from just inside the 3-point arc to make it 22-6 at the half.
Working in some half-court trap defense, the Lady Hornets continued their domination in the third quarter. While North Little Rock was only able to add a free throw to its total, Adams scored all 7 of Bryant’s points in the quarter as the lead expanded to 29-7.
North Little Rock’s comeback began with a 12-foot jumper from the wing by Serenity Stewart with 5:21 left. It was the team’s first field goal of the half.
A Bryant turnover against the intensified defensive pressure of the Lady Cats led to a three-point play by Darian Banks which was followed by Bridwell’s first 3-pointer.
Adams hit a free throw with 3:49 left but Banks converted twice at the line and, after Moore missed the front end of a bonus opportunity, Bridwell bombed in another trey that had her team within 30-20 with 3:18 left to play.
Bryant responded at that point. Moore came back to convert both ends of a one-and-one and Adams made a steal. Her free throws had the lead back up to 14. Bridwell had a chance at the line with 2:27 to go but missed the front end.
The Lady Hornets were spreading the floor by then and working the clock. North Little Rock was forced to foul and, with 1:50 left, Moore hit one. Davis added another with 1:14 to go and when she missed the second, Davidson tapped out the carom to Davis.
Buck was eventually fouled and her free throws were followed up by a steal and layup by Adams that had Bryant back up by 20 with :45 on the clock.
The Lady Hornets were 9 of 13 from the line in the fourth quarter, 15 of 23 for the game. North Little Rock had its chances at the line down the stretch but converted just 3 of 11 in the final period, 4 of 13 for the game.
“Whenever you’ve got a team as athletic as them that plays as hard as they do, you know they’re going to come after you at some point and they finally did late in the game after my girls probably got a little bit relaxed,” commented Andrews. “So we had to wake back up again to get things finished out. I was proud that the girls were able to do that, to see what was going on and understand the situation that was developing and going on and finishing things off.”
LADY HORNETS 40, LADY CHARGING WILDCATS 22
Score by quarters
North Little Rock 2 4 1 15 — 22
BRYANT 14 8 7 11 — 40
LADY CHARGING WILCATS 22
Giles 1-3 0-0 2, Daniels 0-1 0-0 0, Banks 1-4 3-3 5, Mays 0-1 0-0 0, Tillman 2-2 0-2 4, Murphy 0-1 1-3 1, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0, Bridwell 2-4 0-3 6, Stewart 1-4 0-0 2, Jarrett 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 1-1 0-0 2, Wayne 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 8-22 4-13 22.
LADY HORNETS 40
Moore 1-6 4-7 6, Adams 7-17 6-9 21, Davis 1-5 1-2 3, Davidson 2-7 2-2 6, Meyer 0-0 0-1 0, Buck 1-1 2-2 4, Rice 0-0 0-0 0, Scarlett 0-0 0-0 0, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Combs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-36 15-23 40.
Three-point field goals: North Little Rock 2-4 (Bridwell 2-4), Bryant 1-6 (Adams 1-3, Moore 0-3). Rebounds: North Little Rock 29 (Banks 7), Bryant 21 (Davidson 7). Turnovers: North Little Rock 29, Bryant 13. Team fouls: North Little Rock 19, Bryant 17.