Freshman Lady Hornets win 11th straight, barely

Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi talks to his team during a timeout. (Photo by Rick Nation)

For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here; by Rick Nation, go here

Lauren Lain (10) tries to get a shot up despite Benton’s Alyssa Houston. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

In a wild scramble of a fourth quarter, the Benton Lady Panthers freshman team got within a point of the Bryant Lady Hornets twice. Initially, it came with 1:51 left to play on a free throw by Wesleigh Ferguson. She missed her second shot, but teammate Alyssa Houston rebounded only to miss a contested follow.

The teams traded turnovers then, with 1:16 left to play, Bryant’s Natalie Edmonson knocked down an 18-foot jumper.

With both teams pressing full-court and trapping in the half-court, the turnovers continued to pile up until, with :05.7 left, Benton’s Presley Chism was fouled. She went to the line and converted twice to make it 28-27.

After a timeout, the Lady Hornets inbounded to Edmonson, who was fouled immediately. She was able to convert her first shot with :04.7 showing. With so little time remaining, Benton was unable to get a good shot at a tie or a win and the Lady Hornets held on for a 29-27 victory.

It was their 11th in a row, since a season-opening loss to Vilonia and their final non-conference game. They’ll start Central Arkansas Junior High Conference action on Thursday, Jan. 9, against Conway Blue.

“We did just enough to pull it out there at the end,” said Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “Natalie made some big shots there the second half, hit a big one late in the fourth quarter, knocked a free throw down, gave us a little breathing room. But it wasn’t much.”

Emileigh Muse (Photo by Rick Nation)

Edmonson led the Lady Hornets with 11 points, all in the second half. She knocked down a pair of 3’s midway through the third.

“Especially the last three or four minutes, it was kind of rag-tag, up and down,” Castaldi added. “We kind of expected that game except not as sloppy as we played. We want to clean that up for sure.

“An ugly win is a whole lot better than a pretty loss,” he asserted. “We might not have deserved to win tonight but we’ll definitely take it.”

The Lady Hornets came into the game after a three-win streak to the championship of the Kameron Hale Invitational Tournament at Lake Hamilton over the weekend.

“A couple of the girls said they were a little tired,” said Castaldi. “Kind of a hangover from winning that, then having to come play a big game that, in actuality, doesn’t mean a lot because it’s still not a conference game. So, it was kind of hard to focus and lock in on.”

Tight most of the way, the Lady Hornets made a bid to run off and leave the Lady Panthers late in the third quarter and early in the fourth with a 12-2 run that turned a one-point lead into a double-digit advantage.

Bryant’s Jaelyn Allen (34) pushes the ball up the floor. (photo by Rick Nation)

It was just 14-13 with 3:04 left in the third. Jaelyn Allen hit a free throw and, after the Lady Hornets regained possession on a held ball, Edmonson drained her second 3 of the quarter. Moments later, she canned a 15-footer to make it 20-13.

Benton took a timeout but, with :05 left in the half, Haya Winfield scored inside. 

But, at the buzzer, Chism was fouled on a desperation 3-point try from 35 feet out. She was able to convert two of her three shots with no time on the clock, so it was 22-15 going into the fourth.

Lauren Lain’s basket off the offensive glass and Knight’s drive extended the lead early in the fourth before Benton’s frantic rally.

The two teams battle for a rebound. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

That’s when Benton started to scramble back into it. Between Jayla Knight’s driving layup at the 5:01 mark that made it 26-15 and Edmonson’s 18-footer at the 1:16 mark, Bryant did not score.

Though the Lady Panthers were just 1 of 7 from the floor in that fourth quarter, they kept getting to the free-throw line where they converted 9 of 11 down the stretch.

Presley Chism scored 7 of her team high 11 during that surge including a 3 to help get it revved up.

But the Lady Hornets never relinquish the lead in the second half. They’d trailed 4-0 early before managing a 5-4 edge at the first break. Benton led 6-5 on a layup off a steal by Chism to start the second stanza, and later had a 9-8 edge before Abbie Gentry popped a 3 from the corner. 

Two free throws by Madison McIntire tied the game at 11 at the half.

Natalie Edmonson drives from the left wing. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)



Score by quarters

Benton            4          7          4          12 — 27

BRYANT           5          6          11        7 — 29


McIntire 0-1 6-6 6, Chism 2-10 6-7 11, Ferguson 0-4 1-3 1, Houston 4-7 1-4 9, Albaugh 0-3 0-0 0, Hobson 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 6-28 (21%) 14-20 (70%) 27.


Lain 1-6 1-4 3, Edmonson 4-9 1-2 11, Muse 0-1 0-0 0, Winfield 3-3 0-1 6, Allen 1-5 1-2 3, Knight 1-3 1-2 3, Gentry 1-2 0-0 3, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-29 (38%) 4-11 (36%) 29.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-8 (Edmonson 2-4, Gentry 1-1, Lain 0-1, Muse 0-1, Allen 0-1), Benton 1-9 (Chism 1-6, Davis 0-3). Turnovers: Bryant 18, Benton 18. Rebounds: Bryant 9-16 25 (Winfield 3-5 8, Lain 3-3 6, Allen 1-4 5, Muse 1-2 3, Knight 1-1 2, team 0-1 1), Benton 9-13 22 (Houston 2-3 5, Albaugh 2-3 5, Chism 1-2 3, Ferguson 0-2 2, McIntire 0-2 2, team 4-1 5). Team fouls: Bryant 12, Benton 12.

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