Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team just couldn’t get to the basket against the packed-in zone defense of the Benton Lady Panthers Thursday night and their outside shots just refused to fall. Meanwhile, the Lady Hornets’ defense was just as stingy, forcing the Lady Panthers into 18 turnovers through three quarters.
So points were at a premium when the two rivals met at the Bryant Middle School gym. The game was tied 8-8 going into the fourth quarter.
Benton’s Trae Gardner drove for a tie-breaking basket in the first minute of the final frame and, after a Bryant miss, she drained a 3 that proved to be a game-breaker.
The Lady Hornets were unable to overcome the 13-8 deficit and the Lady Panthers converted 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to produce a 20-12 win.
Bryant had its chances after Gardner’s flurry. They went to the free-throw line four times between the 3:31 and the 2:08 marks. That’s a potential 8 points. But they wound up with just one during that stretch. What might’ve been a 16-14 lead going into the final two minutes was, instead, a 14-9 deficit. Leighton Withers converted a pair of free throws before Bryant’s Macey Jaramillo hit her team’s lone 3-pointer of the night, making it 16-12.
But that was the last of the Lady Hornets’ scoring. In the final 35 seconds, Withers added two more free throws and Italie Gray converted a pair to set the final margin.
The Lady Hornets, after a hot-shooting night in a 36-20 win at Cabot North a week before, converted just 4 of 26 shots at home on Thursday. They were 3 of 9 at the free-throw line.
As Bryant coach Nathan Castaldi noted, the only time Benton used a man-to-man defense, the Lady Hornets took advantage, winding up with a layup. The Lady Panthers stuck to the zone the rest of the time and cut off any inside threat the Lady Hornets might’ve hoped for.
It was key that Bryant’s best at driving to the hoop, guard Destiny Martin picked up charging fouls on three moves to the basket, all taken by Withers.
Despite the foul trouble, Martin led the Lady Hornets with 4 points. Gardner finished with 10 of the Lady Panthers’ 20.
Martin’s first basket came after Gray and Anna Davis had put Benton up 4-0 early in the game. After Martin’s hoop off a drive at the 4:05 mark, neither team could score until early in the second quarter when Gardner hit a driving jumper to make it 6-2.
The Lady Hornets’ second basket came nearly a full quarter since the first. Sarah Kennedy hit a short jumper to make it 6-4 with 4:28 left in the half.
After that, Gardner and Martin traded free throws to make it 7-5 at the half.
In the opening moments of the second half, Martin drove and dished to Riley Hill who scored, tying the game at 7. The rest of the quarter was scoreless except for a free throw apiece by Gardner and Deja Rayford.
The loss was the first in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference for the Lady Hornets. They are 8-9 overall going into a trip to Lake Hamilton on Monday, Jan. 27.
LADY PANTHERS 20, LADY HORNETS 12
Score by quarters
Benton 4 3 1 12 — 20
BRYANT 2 3 3 4 — 12
LADY PANTHERS 20
Gardner 3-9 3-6 10, Davis 1-2 0-0 2, Newman 0-2 0-0 0, Gray 1-2 2-4 4, Withers 1-2 2-4 4, Garlington 0-2 0-0 0, Hopper 0-1 0-0 0, Bryant 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 0-0 0-0 0, Armbrister 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 5-18 9-14 20.
LADY HORNETS 12
Martin 1-6 2-6 4, Rogers 0-7 0-0 0, Jaramillo 1-7 0-0 3, Kennedy 1-2 0-0 2, Hill 1-2 0-1 2, Ratliff 0-1 0-0 0, Kubiako 0-1 0-0 0, McCormick 0-0 0-0 0, Rayford 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 4-26 3-9 12.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-7 (Jaramillo 1-7), Benton 1-4 (Gardner 1-2, Gray 0-1, Garlington 0-1). Rebounds: Bryant 19 (Kennedy, Rogers 7), Benton 23 (Newman 7). Turnovers: Bryant 15, Benton 20. Team fouls: Bryant 15, Benton 15. Fouled out: Bryant, Hill.