LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team was coming off a three-game stretch against the best teams in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. Though their loss at Lake Hamilton was deeply disappointing, they managed to compete with North Little Rock and Conway Blue over the last week despite suffering setbacks.
Going into Monday’s battle at Mount St. Mary Academy, Bryant head coach Nathan Castaldi emphasized that competitive effort.
“Last week, we played well against some really good competition and we talked as a team, if we play that well the rest of the year we are going to have some success,” he acknowledged. “That carried over into Monday’s game and hopefully it will as we finish our season.”
The Lady Hornets proceeded to avenge a 35-33 loss to the Mounties with a 32-23 victory as they embark on the final two weeks of the regular season. Their last three games will be at home including Russellville on Thursday then Cabot South and Conway White next week.
Bryant will be battling to improve their seeding for the CAJHC post-season tournament, which will be hosted by the Lady Hornets, Feb. 12-15. The win locked them in a tie for sixth place with Mount and Benton.
Kristyn Weng and Jaiyah Jackson led the team in scoring on Monday. Weng had 10 points including a 3 at the end of the first half that gave Bryant an 11-7 lead going into the intermission. That inspired the Lady Hornets to go on a 12-3 push in the third quarter and, eventually, a lead of as much as 17.
“Both teams started off slow the first quarter,” said Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi, referring to the 3-3 deadlock at the end of the opening period. “In the second quarter, Jaiyah really gave us a spark off the bench. She worked her way inside against their zone for a couple of buckets and caused Mount to panic on defense and we got some steals. We had a really good possession to the end the half leading up to a 3 by Kristyn.
“I think that possession gave us some momentum to start the second half,” he added. “The third quarter and start of the fourth was about as well as we have played all year. We only gave up 3 points during that stretch and went up as much as 17.
“The last few minutes, Mount got a little more aggressive but, by then, the outcome was not in doubt,” the coach concluded. “During that stretch, we defended really well as a team. We helped and recovered against penetration and finished each possession with a good block out. On the offensive end, we protected the basketball, got good shots each possession and finished well.”
Ashton Inman finished with 5 points for Bryant. Addison Funk and Kaitlyn Weng added 3 each with Abby Inman and Katrina Johnson getting 2 apiece.