By Rob Patrick
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Could it be that, at 22-0 this season, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman basketball team could still be getting better?
On Nov. 19, at home in the Bryant Invitational Tournament, the Lady Hornets whipped North Little Rock by 15. And, on Jan. 4, in their first meeting in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference at Bryant, the Lady Hornets beat the Lady Charging Wildcats by 18.
And, on Monday, Feb. 1, playing the Lady Cats on their home floor, the Lady Hornets rolled to a 26-point lead before finishing with a 47-27 victory that improved their division record to 12-0.[more]
And it’s not likely they’ll be resting on their laurels in their final two regular-season games either. This Thursday, they play their final home game against Cabot South, the second-place team in the division and the only team this season that’s scored more than 30 points against them (in Bryant’s 47-34 win at Cabot on Jan. 7).
Then there’s the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference post-season tournament in Sheridan starting on Feb. 13.
Win No. 22 came with a fast start. Courtney Davidson knocked down a 15-foot jumper and Lauren Buck hit a shot from the baseline that helped open up the middle of the packed in North Little Rock defense a bit, providing some driving lanes for Kiara Moore and McKenzie Adams.
And, of course, the Bryant press was effective despite the quickness of the North Little Rock guards. The Lady Hornets forced nine turnovers in the first quarter, half of the 18 the Lady Cats committed in the game.
Bryant led 4-1 before Adams made a steal and fed Moore for a three-point play. Moments later, Logan Davis came up with a theft and drove for a layup to make it 9-1 and force a North Little Rock timeout.
When play resumed, Davidson made a steal. The Lady Hornets turned the ball back over but Davis made another theft and Adams cashed it in with a 3 that made it 12-1.
After another timeout, North Little Rock ended the 10-0 run with a pair of free throws by Jasmin Mays but Adams hit two at the other end to make it 14-3 going into the second quarter.
Adams would finish with 17 points, Moore 15 and Buck 5. For North Little Rock, the leading scorer was Amber Daniels who had 6. Sascha Giles added 5. Lady Cats’ sharp-shooter Melissa Bridwell was held to 2.
“You know if you come into this gym, you’re going to have a tough game,” stated Lady Hornets coach Eric Andrews. “I thought my girls did a great job of being prepared to play then going out there and executing, doing what we knew we had to do to win the game. We knew where they were going to attack us. We knew they were going to try to go inside on us. We knew they had a shooter with (Bridwell) out there and we kept a close eye on her and shut her down tonight. I thought we played a great game.
The tactic of going inside did cause a couple of problems in the first half as Moore, Adams, Davidson and Whitney Meyer all picked up two fouls. But, after going 3 for 4 at the line in the first quarter, the Lady Cats hit just 1 of 8 from the line in the second and the misses included the front ends of two bonus opportunities.
For the game, the Lady Cats attempted more free throws than field goals. They were 12 of 27 at the line, 7 of 22 from the field.
Bryant, meanwhile, went 10 of 16 at the stripe but scorched the nets at a 53 percent clip (18 of 34) from the field.
North Little Rock stayed within 11, matching Bryant scoring for the first two or three minutes of the second quarter but a basket by Adams then a steal and a layup made it 23-8. After Giles missed a free throw, McKenzie Rice fed Hayley Murphy for a basket to make it 25-8.
Adams then put on a show with a coast-to-coast drive through the North Little Rock press, going behind her back then using a nice crossover dribble at full speed, driving into the paint, pulling up and popping an eight-foot jumper that made it a 19 point lead with 2:31 left in the half.
But North Little Rock showed why you’re never at ease against them as they closed the half with a 5-2 burst that was interrupted only by an 18-footer by Buck.
So Bryant’s halftime lead was 29-15 and no one had picked up a third foul.
“They changed defenses a couple of times,” Andrews acknowledged. “Out of their man-to-man, they like to run people at your point guard. They want to keep you from running a set play. After the first couple of times they did it, whoever they were leaving open was stepping up and we were able to make that pass and attack from there. So, the girls did a good job of just seeing what the defense was doing and attacking it.”
Free throws by Daniels trimmed the margin to 29-17 before Moore came through with a three-point play that started a 16-2 run that blew the game up. Moore added a free throw then made a steal and fed Adams for a layup. Buck added a free throw and, after Jaelyn Wayne interrupted with two from the line, Moore scored off a nice feed from Davis.
The Lady Hornets had doubled the North Little Rock score at 38-19 and, after a Lady Cats’ miss, when Moore was fouled on a drive to the hoop, North Little Rock coach David Wallace, asking for a technical presumably to fire his team up, got what he wanted.
The result was a 3 of 4 trip to the line for Moore and a 41-19 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A couple of baskets by Adams to start the final period gave Bryant its largest lead at 45-19.
LADY HORNETS 47, LADY CHARGING WILDCATS 27
Score by quarters
BRYANT 14 15 12 6 — 47
North Little Rock 3 12 4 8 — 27
LADY HORNETS 47
Moore 4-6 7-10 15, Adams 7-10 2-4 17, Rice 1-4 0-0 2, Davidson 1-3 0-0 2, Buck 2-4 1-2 5, Davis 1-5 0-0 2, Meyer 1-1 0-0 2, H.Murphy 1-1 0-0 2, Henderson 0-0 0-0 0, Scarlett 0-0 0-0 0, Combs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-34 10-16 47
LADY CHARGING WILDCATS 27
Giles 2-3 1-7 5, Bridwell 0-2 2-4 2, Daniels 2-4 2-4 6, Mays 0-2 3-4 3, Tillman 0-1 0-0 0, Banks 1-2 0-0 3, Wayne 0-0 2-2 2, Harris 1-1 0-1 2, L.Murphy 1-6 2-5 4, Stewart 0-1 0-0 0, Jarrett 0-0 0-0 0, Robertson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 7-22 12-27 27.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-4 (Adams 1-2, Moore 0-1, Davis 0-1), North Little Rock 1-5 (Banks 1-1, Bridwell 0-2, Mays 0-2). Rebounds: Bryant 20 (Moore 5, Davidson 3), North Little Rock 22 (Mays, Wayne 3). Turnovers: Bryant 9, North Little Rock 18. Team fouls: Bryant 20, North Little Rock 13. Technical foul: North Little Rock coach Wallace.