Freshman Lady Hornets’ rally not enough to trip up Magnolia

For all but the final two minutes of the second half of their game, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman basketball team held the Magnolia Lady Panthers to 1 point.

Unfortunately, in the first half, Magnolia built an 18-3 lead.

Though the lead dwindled to 7 points early in the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets were unable to come all the way back as they absorbed a 27-12 loss in the first round of the annual Bryant Invitational Tournament on Monday.

The Lady Hornets will try to notch their first win of the young season on Tuesday at 5:35 p.m. against Hot Springs, which fell to North Little Rock in the second game of the night.

“We didn’t play with a lot of energy,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “I told (assistant) Coach (Deanna) Ward, we were kind of running our offense like we were at shoot-around, walking through things, kind of waiting on them to mess up instead of taking the action to them.”

The defense in the second half was a positive sign and the team managed to get more shots away including a few from point-blank range. But they just refused to fall.

“It gave us a chance,” Castaldi acknowledged. “I thought we put ourselves in position to come back. We just dug ourselves too big a hole in the first half.”

The Lady Hornets forced Magnolia into 12 turnovers in the second half. But, after they cut the lead to 19-12, the Lady Panthers scored the last 8 points of the game to secure the victory.

A free throw for Magnolia to start the second half made it 19-3 but an offensive-rebound basket by Ryleigh Laughlin with 4:59 left in the third quarter knocked the lid off the basket. It was the first Bryant field goal of the contest. Kaitlyn Weng made a steal and a layup then Jaiyah Jackson, who gave the team a spark in the second half, scored off a steal to make it 19-9.

After a Magnolia timeout, Jackson made another steal but the Lady Hornets turned the ball back over and it was 19-9 going into the fourth quarter.

A free throw from Jackson and two by Megan Brown off an offensive rebound by Abbey Inman cut it to 19-12 with 2:32 left.

In the first half, the Lady Hornets could only muster free throws from Kristyn Weng and Brown. Magnolia led 9-1 at the end of the first quarter.

As with most freshman teams at Bryant, it’ll take a few games before the team jells after being rivals in seventh and eighth grade. The defense appeared to make major strides in the second half on Monday. The offense, as is often the case, takes a while longer.

“It’s coming together,” Castaldi urged. “We had a lot this year in volleyball. We’re still kind of trying to figure that out and they’re still a little bit behind, but it’s coming together. They’re working really hard. We’re going to get there.”

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