By Rob Patrick
PEARCY — The first half of Monday’s game between the freshman girls teams from Bryant and Lake Hamilton was played mostly in the halfcourt. The Lady Wolves took advantage with star post player Kori Bullard scoring 10 points, blocking four shots and grabbing four rebounds. They built a 24-12 lead by the break.
In the second half, however, Bryant[more] went to a full-court press to make it more of an uptempo game. The Lady Wolves got so caught up in it, they suffered 15 of their 20 turnovers and somehow forgot about getting the ball inside to Bullard who was limited to 2 free throws in the second half.
The Lady Hornets took advantage and, after trailing by as much as 14 early in the third period, they rallied for a 36-30 victory.
The Lady Hornets include Aubree Allen, Jessica Alliston, Andrea Buford, Ashlee Caton, Caylin Choate, Dezarea Duckworth, Kaitlyn Greer, Keedy Harrison, Taylor Matthews, Dee-Dee Mosby, Melinda Murdock, Amber Newman, Destiny Nichols, Brittany Privett, Erica Smith, Rori Whittaker and Alex Wright.
“I’d like to get a lead for once and hold onto it,” quipped Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “I think the last two games, we’ve come back from 12- or 14-point deficits in the second half.”
It was indeed 26-12 after free throws by Lake Hamilton’s Courtney Thompson and Brandy Scott to open the third quarter. Whittaker hit a short jumper and Allen scored inside to cut the lead to 10 before Bullard’s two free throws made it 28-16.
That was all Bullard would score the rest of the game.
“We did a lot better job in the second half,” Castaldi said. “(Bullard) is good and you know she’s going to get her points. We did a good job. We actually went a little small, played a smaller lineup and kind of got physical with her as much as we could, to keep her from actually catching it. Because when she catches it, you know it’s usually two points. But we did a good job defensively of denying her the ball and kind of taking her out of the game the second half.”
The Lady Wolves had a chance to push it back to 14 but turned the ball over and Duckworth, following her own miss, scored and was fouled with 1:07 showing. She converted the free throw and Caylin Choate made a steal and was fouled. Her free throws trimmed the margin to 28-20.
Lake Hamilton tried to hold for a last shot but the Lady Hornets forced another turnover and Whittaker hit a driving jumper with :10 left in the period to make it 28-22.
Duckworth made a steal and layup early in the fourth quarter to make it a 4-point game and, later, a turnover led to a layup by Whittaker that had Bryant within 2, 28-26.
Shelby McCartney broke the Lake Hamilton drought with 4:07 left to play, giving her team a 30-26 lead but the Lady Wolves would not score again the rest of the game.
“We kind of got them playing more our style of ball, uptempo and they struggled,” Castaldi noted. “Their point guard’s out, so their guards were struggling handling the basketball. Usually when your point guard’s out, that happens.”
Whittaker, who led all scorers with 18 points, canned an 18-footer with 3:50 left to get Bryant back within 2. After a timeout, Duckworth and Greer combined to force a turnover. Allen crashed the offensive boards for a basket that tied the game with 3:27 left.
The game turned into a scramble at that point. Duckworth made another steal but the Lady Hornets turned in back over. Allen blocked a shot by McCartney but, again, Bryant committed a turnover. A Lake Hamilton turnover, however, led to a jumper in the lane by Whittaker and the first Bryant lead of the game with 2:40 left to play.
Mallory Cutlett missed for the Lady Wolves but they got the ball back when Bullard blocked another shot. But Scott’s shot failed to go and the Lady Hornets gained possession.
With 1:21 left, the Lady Wolves committed just their third foul of the half so they had to catch up quickly to get the Lady Hornets into the bonus. Along the way, Whittaker drove to the baseline and launched a high-arcing shot that kissed off the glass at an extreme angle and went in as she was fouled. Though she missed the free throw, Duckworth swiped the ball back and Choate was finally fouled with :41.6 on the clock putting the Lady Hornets in the bonus.
Though Choate couldn’t get her first shot to fall, McCartney’s attempt to answer rimmed out and Smith rebounded for Bryant. Allen was fouled with :20.4 to go but she too missed the front end only to have Duckworth make yet another steal, driving for a layup that put the game away.
To go with Whittaker’s 18, Duckworth added 7 and Allen 6. To go with Bullard’s 12, Peyton Vinyard had 7 but all of those came in the first quarter when Lake Hamilton snapped a 2-2 tie and built a 7-2 lead.
Whittaker hit a pair of baskets to cut the margin to 7-6 but then Lake Hamilton, sparked by Vinyard in off the bench, scored 11 unanswered points to make it 18-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Allen buried a 15-footer and, a little later, Nichols took a kick-out pass from Smith and nailed a long jumper to get Bryant back within 18-10. But Bullard countered with a pair of hoops to push the lead back to double figures.
In the final 30 seconds, Smith and McCartney traded baskets to set the 24-12 halftime score.
Lake Hamilton wound up with a 29-21 rebound advantage but only three of the Lady Wolves' boards came on the offensive end. All nine of Bullard's game-high total came on the defensive end.
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 4-2 on the season going into Thursday’s game at home against Conway White.
LADY HORNETS 36, LADY WOLVES 30
Score by quarters
BRYANT 6 6 10 14 — 36
Lake Hamilton 18 6 4 2 — 30
LADY HORNETS (36)
Nichols 1-5 0-0 2, Alliston 0-0 0-0 0, Whittaker 9-17 0-1 18, Allen 3-13 0-1 6, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Newman 0-0 0-0 0, Buford 0-2 0-0 0, Caton 0-1 0-0 0, Duckworth 3-4 1-1 7, Choate 0-1 1-3 1, Greer 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 2-6 36
LADY WOLVES (30)
Bland 1-1 0-0 2, Scott 0-3 1-2 1, Cutlett 0-3 1-2 1, Thompson 0-2 1-2 1, Bullard 5-7 2-2 12, McCartney 2-9 0-0 4, Vinyard 3-3 0-0 7, Evans 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 12-29 5-8 30.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 0-3 (Nichols 0-1, Whittaker 0-1, Duckworth 0-1), Lake Hamilton 1-3 (Vinyard 1-1, Scott 0-1, McCartney 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Lake Hamilton 20. Rebounds: Bryant 21 (Allen 5, Smith 4), Lake Hamilton 29 (Bullard 9, Bland 8). Team fouls: Bryant 7, Lake Hamilton 8.