For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
In a showdown between a pair of one-loss teams to open the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference slate, the Conway Blue Lady Cats freshmen snapped the Bryant Lady Hornets’ 11-game winning streak on Thursday night.
Despite committing five more turnovers, being out-rebounded 37-30 including giving up 20 offensive boards and shooting just 24 percent from the field, the Lady Hornets could’ve still won if they had converted enough of their free throws. They finished 3 for 18 at the stripe.
Not that Conway Blue was much better. The Lady Cats shot 29 percent from the field and hit just 4 of 12 free throws. But the turnover advantage and the offensive rebounding led to Conway Blue attempting 42 shots to just 29 for Bryant.
The defense on both sides was just that good.
“That’s their game plan, speed the game up,” said Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi of the Lady Cats. “I thought we did a pretty good job of kind of keeping them contained for the most part. A couple of spurts here and there kind of hurt us when they got out and ran.”
Actually, it was the Lady Hornets who got out fastest initially. With Natalie Edmonson hitting two 3’s, Jaelyn Allen and Emileigh Muse knocking down one each, Bryant built a 12-5 lead in the first quarter.
But Conway’s Salondra Ingraham countered with a triple in the final 35 seconds to make it a 4-point game.
The defense was such that, for the rest of the game, the Lady Hornets were unable to double that score. They added 10 points over the final three quarters.
“We’re struggling against pressure a little bit,” Castaldi allowed. “We work on it and work on it but it’s just one of those things right now we’re just trying to find that right combination of players to handle it. When we get it up the court, I think we handle it okay in the half-court. But, right now, we’re just struggling a little against the full court.”
Conway Blue may have had the quickest team the Lady Hornets have seen this season.
“Once we got by their pressure, we kind of rushed some shots and took the first shot we saw rather than taking a good shot, maybe working the ball for a better one,” the coach added. “From the free-throw line, that’s on us. We shoot better than that in practice. I don’t know if it was just nerves or feeling the sense of the game being a close game. But that’s on us.”
The Lady Hornets maintained an advantage through the second quarter. They held the Lady Cats to just 3 points. But, by going 1 for 5 at the free-throw line, Bryant managed just one point in the period, taking a 13-11 lead into the intermission.
Conway Blue’s Kaidyn Beckwith drove for a basket to start the third period, tying the game at 13. After the Lady Cats came up empty on consecutive trips to the free-throw line, Edmonson buried another 3 to snap the tie. But the game was even again at 17 going into the last three minutes of the quarter.
Allie McMillan hit a free throw to put Conway Blue ahead and, as it turned out, the Lady Cats never trailed again. They led 22-17 going into the fourth quarter but a free throw by Lauren Lain and a driving layup by Jayla Knight whittled the lead back to 2.
The Lady Hornets had several chances to tie it or take the lead, but they converted just 1 of 11 free throws during the quarter as two Lady Cats starters fouled out.
Ingraham and Knight traded baskets to make it 24-22 with 4:01 left to play but the Lady Hornets did not score again.
Conway Blue didn’t score either for a long while. A drive for a layup by Beckwith with :56 left gave the Lady Cats a two-possession lead. In the final 40 seconds, Kyria Harper got behind the Bryant press for a layup and, at the buzzer, McMillan hit a 3 to set the final score.
It was the league opener for both teams. Bryant, now 11-2 overall, will try to get their first conference win next Monday at Cabot South.
LADY CATS 31, LADY HORNETS 22
Score by quarters
Conway Blue 8 3 11 9 — 31
BRYANT 12 1 4 5 — 22
LADY CATS 31
J.Brown 1-3 2-3 4, K.Brown 1-3 0-2 2, McMillan 2-3 1-2 7, Ingraham 3-17 0-2 7, Beckwith 2-5 0-0 4, Corley 1-6 1-3 3, Boudrie 0-1 0-0 0, Ferguson 0-1 0-0 0, Harper 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 12-42 (29%) 4-12 (33%) 31.
LADY HORNETS 22
Lain 0-6 1-2 1, Edmonson 3-10 0-0 9, Muse 1-5 0-0 3, Winfield 0-2 1-8 1, Allen 1-2 0-1 3, Knight 2-3 0-1 4, Johnson 0-1 1-4 1, Gentry 0-0 0-0 0, Winston 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 7-29 (24%) 3-18 (17%) 22.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-13 (Edmonson 3-6, Muse 1-5, Allen 1-1, Lain 0-1), Conway Blue 3-10 (McMillan 2-3, Ingraham 1-5, J.Brown 0-1, Beckwith 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 23, Conway Blue 18. Rebounds: Bryant 14-16 30 (Lain 5-3 8, Johnson 2-5 7, Muse 1-4 5, Winfield 2-1 3, Allen 1-1 2, Winston 0-2 2, Knight 1-0 1, team 2-0 2), Conway Blue 20-17 37 (Ingraham 7-2 9, Beckwith 1-6 7, J.Brown 0-4 4, McMillan 2-2 4, K.Brown 2-0 2, Corley 1-0 1, Boudrie 1-0 1, Ferguson 1-0 1, Harper 0-1 1, team 5-2 7). Team fouls: Bryant 12, Conway Blue 21. Fouled out: Conway Blue, J.Brown, K.Brown.