Blakley, bench lift Bryant past McClellan
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
LITTLE ROCK — Senior guard Rachel Blakley and sophomore forward Kalin Dreher have earned reputations as defensive stoppers for the Bryant Lady Hornets (and, with Dreher, the Bryant Junior High Lady Mustangs last season).
But on Friday, Jan. 10, when the Lady Hornets needed a lift offensively, both stepped up to help their team to a 52-40 win over the Little Rock McClellan Lady Lions in AAAAA-Central Conference play.
It was no small victory either. McClellan came into conference play with an 11-2 record, the same as Bryant (now 13-2 and 2-0 in the league). But the Lady Lions dropped their conference opener at Conway and desperately sought to get back on track at home against Bryant.
They were denied when Blakley sparked a 10-2 run at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth after McClellan had pulled within a point of the Lady Hornets.
She wound up scoring all of her team-high 11 points in the second half. Dreher finished with 10 to lead a bench effort that produced 19 points for Bryant.
The Lady Hornets’ leading scorers for the season, Amanda Grappe and Jennifer Slack were held to 6 each.
It was Grappe’s last bucket, a spinning jumper with 6:32 left in the third quarter, that had Bryant ahead 30-21, as big a lead as the Lady Hornets had enjoyed all night.
But Bryant didn’t score again for four full minutes. McClellan, led by freshman phenom Nyeshia Stevenson (19 points), and a 3-pointer by Shaunelle Campbell, rallied, cutting the margin to 30-29.
That’s when Blakley drilled a jumper from the corner and, after a series of McClellan misfires, hit a free throw after an aggressive drive down the baseline.
Bryant forced a turnover and guard Ashley Grappe fed Dreher for a layup against the scrambling McClellan press. And, before the quarter was through, Blakley hit another free throw to make it 36-29.
Stevenson scored inside to start the fourth quarter but Ashley Grappe canned a 3-pointer and, after a McClellan turnover, Blakley followed suit. The Lady Hornets led 42-31 with 6:14 left to play.
McClellan’s Ashley McDonald posted up for a basket after her coach Gwen Walker had called a timeout but when Dreher scored inside at the other end, the Lady Hornets’ lead was never less than 10 again.
With Blakley adding a pair of free throws and a layup and Dreher getting free for another easy bucket off a feed from Blakley, the lead ballooned to as much as 50-34.
The Lady Hornets struggled early, falling behind 7-4. But when junior center Yousra Elhagemoussa came through with a three-point play with 3:35 left in the opening quarter, it tied the game at 7. It was 9-9 at the start of the second period.
A 15-foot jumper by Haley Stobaugh put the Lady Hornets on top early in the quarter. After Stevenson tied it at the free throw line, Bryant turned the ball over. But Dreher blocked a shot by Stevenson and, at the other end, was fouled going up for a shot. Her free throws put the Lady Hornets back in front.
They’d never trail again.
Senior Jeanne Randall, who came in off the bench for one of her best performances of the season, scored all 5 of her points in the final 4:16 of the half. Her first bucket came after the McClellan turnover that followed Dreher’s free throws.
Campbell interrupted Bryant’s run but Blakley fed Slack for a short jumper and Randall hit a free throw to make it 18-13.
Missed free throws hurt the Lady Lions. They converted just 13 of 26 in the game. Though they had five trips to the line in the final three minutes of the half, they converted just four times. Bryant held a 24-19 halftime edge, an advantage that Amanda Grappe and Slack added to before the former got into foul trouble and McClellan made its run.