Bryant girls avenge loss to El Dorado
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
EL DORADO — During the Christmas break, when the Bryant Lady Hornets were iced out of hosting their annual holiday tournament, head coach Carla Crowder took her team to Mount St. Mary’s in Little Rock for a pair of scrimmages against the top-ranked Belles and the Watson Chapel Lady Wildcats. In both contests, the Lady Hornets took a physical whipping.
It was about then, according to Bryant assistant Mark Scarlett, that Crowder decided her team needed to be more aggressive, more physical themselves since that seemed to be the trend among the better teams, certainly the ones that the Lady Hornets had been beaten by.
And the new emphasis has fit the Lady Hornets well. They won their first two conference games, including a key win at Sheridan, going into a re-match with one of those teams that had out-muscled them earlier in the season. El Dorado’s Lady Wildcats had edged the Lady Hornets 50-48 in the finals of the Central Arkansas Christian Invitational Tournament back on Dec. 2.
Admittedly, the Lady Hornets hadn’t played well in that game but among the reasons was that they had to do without senior guards Candice Croy, who injured her knee, and Joanie Robideaux, whose nose was bloodied, for part of the rugged contest.
So, it figured the Lady Hornets, with Croy and Robideaux (and everyone else) back in stride, would be better on Friday when they traveled to El Dorado. But, it also figured that the Lady Wildcats would be tougher at home.
Again, it went down to the wire but this time the Lady Hornets prevailed, forging a well-earned 55-49 victory with a 10-1 fourth-quarter surge that erased a one-point deficit.
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 3-0 in the AAAAA-South Conference, tied for the lead with Pine Bluff and one game ahead of Sheridan. And, while the Lady Hornets host 0-2 Texarkana on Tuesday, Sheridan entertains Pine Bluff. If things fall the right way, Bryant could head into Pine Bluff on Friday alone on top.
The Lady Hornets trailed El Dorado (8-5, 0-2) 41-40 with 3:56 left to play. An emotional surge by the Lady Wildcats had gained them the advantage early in the second half though they couldn’t build a lead of any more than 4.
Jennifer Slack’s drive and dish for an easy hoop by Bree Mann gave the Lady Hornets a 42-41 edge with 3:38 left. El Dorado’s Sarah Sullivan missed on a chance to get the seesaw going and, back at the other end, Mann drove up the baseline and drew a foul. When she connected on both of her shots at the free-throw line, Bryant, up 3, had its largest lead since halftime.
Mann then came through with a big defensive play. Despite playing with four fouls, she took a charge guarding El Dorado’s 6-2 center Falundras Sims.
With the ball and the lead, the Lady Hornets began to spread the floor a bit. Finally, with 1:50 left, sophomore Rachel Blakley was fouled. Her clutch free throws gave Bryant a 46-41 advantage.
Blakley, who had dogged El Dorado point guard Kristian Tester all game, continued to frustrate her adversary with a steal. That eventually led to a free-throw opportunity for Slack, who hit one of her shots to make it 47-41. That matched Bryant’s largest lead of the game.
Tester hit a free throw with 1:17 left but Slack trumped that with a three-point play.
Behind the outside shooting of Meshali Marshall, the Lady Wildcats cut the margin to 51-47 in the final minute but Slack and Robideaux, who each finished with a team-high 12 points, hit free throws after that which sealed the victory.
The Lady Hornets converted 14 of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter. Mann finished with 9 points, Kim Jacuzzi 8, Croy 7 and Blakley 5.
All of Croy’s points came in the first quarter when the Lady Hornets built an 11-7 lead before El Dorado rallied to tie it at 11 going into the second period.
Slack snapped a 13-13 tie in the second quarter, driving to the hoop for a basket that she turned into a three-point play. After two free throws by Sims, who led El Dorado with 12 points, Slack fed Jacuzzi for a hoop. Bryant forced a turnover and Jacuzzi cashed in with a 15-foot jumper that made it 20-15.
After an El Dorado timeout, Kensel Spivey missed a chance to cut into the margin and when Blakley hit a free throw with 2:36 left, Bryant had its largest lead of the first half at 21-15.
El Dorado rallied to within 21-20 but a 10-foot jumper by Robideaux with :30 left in the half, gave Bryant a 3-point edge at the break.
The Lady Wildcats opened the second half by scoring the first 6 points to regain the advantage. Though the Lady Hornets tied it at 29 and 31, they still were unable to gain the lead until late in the quarter. With Mann out with her fourth foul, the Lady Hornets teetered on the brink when a basket by Kendra Stegall gave El Dorado a 34-31 lead and a Bryant turnover followed.
But sophomore Starr Crow, on for Mann, set up and took a charge against Tester and, with :44 left, took a feed from Robideaux and scored inside to cut the margin to 34-33.
Blakley made a steal and, with :27 left, El Dorado head coach Brad Slatton, unhappy with the physical nature of the game, was hit with a technical. Robideaux hit both shots and Bryant had a 1-point edge.
Sims erased that with a three-point play that drew the fourth foul on Jacuzzi to start the fourth quarter. April Curley hit a jumper in the lane to make it 39-35. Slack and Sims traded free throws then Jacuzzi cut the margin to 2 by scoring over Sims.
Jacuzzi missed a chance to tie it moments later but battled with Sims for the rebound. While one official called a held ball, another cited Jacuzzi for her fifth foul. The latter ruling prevailed.
But Sims missed both free throws and Bryant took advantage. Robideaux converted a one-and-one with 4:10 left to tie it and, after a free throw by Sullivan gave El Dorado its final advantage with 3:56 to go.