Lady Hornets step up to earn win at Central
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 — The Bryant Lady Hornets are hungry for success. It’s a group that hasn’t seen much and their confidence level was affected. Last season, the juniors and seniors were part of the first Bryant team in ages that didn’t make State. The seniors witnessed a State Tournament run as sophomores on a senior-laden team two years ago, but as freshmen, neither group posted winning records.
The determination to return to State has been evident since the start of the 2006-07 season and, lately, with some success, it is readily apparent that the confidence that may get them there is starting to build. Even in a loss it improved. Of course, that loss came to top-ranked, nationally-rated North Little Rock on Tuesday, Jan. 23. The Lady Hornets competed — held a lead in the second half — and that may be where the seeds of a vital 7A-Central Conference road win over Little Rock Central, 42-39, on Friday, Jan. 26, were sown.
Jasmine Carter followed her own miss to snap a 39-39 tie with :19 left then Brittany Mills added a clutch free throw with :09.2 to go to provide the winning margin. In between, the Lady Hornets forced a turnover. After, the Central scoreboard keeper was slow posting Mills’ free throw so the Lady Tigers’ Rakara Debrow attempted a 2-point shot that would’ve left her team a point shy of tying. She missed and so did Taylor Smith on the rebound and the Lady Hornets prevailed.
Head coach Blake Condley acknowledged his team’s improved confidence and mental toughness.
“It’s been because of a little success and just talking about it,” he said after the game. “We’re talking about building each other up and working together, and knowing and believing. I really think that us being able to compete Tuesday with the No. 1 team in the state, I think that raised our confidence level a bit to say, ‘Hey, you know what? If we’ll play hard, if we’ll do the things that we’ve been working on, we can compete with anybody that we play.’ The girls are playing hard and competing and that’s a big key for us.
“I didn’t think we ever, for any extended time, had that look that we couldn’t win the game or that we were out of the game,” he said of the win over Central. “When it started to happen, the girls rallied each other together and said, ‘It’s not going to happen. We can win this game.’ They pulled together and that’s one thing that we’ve really been trying to work on in practice, talking about ‘It’s either all or none. We’re either all going to have to do it or none of us are going to be able to accomplish anything.’ And, of course, we’re talking about getting to the State tournament. We’re going to have to win a few more games, but the girls are starting to realize what it’s going to take.”
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 2-5 in conference play, tied with Central and Russellville for fifth (the top six teams make State this year) with their next game against fourth-placed Mount St. Mary’s (3-4) on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
After leading most of the first half, the Lady Hornets trailed much of the second half. Senior Brittany Grant tied the game at 35 with a pair of free throws with 5:25 left to play. It stayed that way until Grant took a feed from Carter and knocked down a 12-footer from the left wing to put the Lady Hornets back on top.
Central’s Breanna Barnes missed an opportunity at the line at the 3:08 mark and Anna Simpson was fouled pulling down the carom for Bryant. Simpson took advantage by sinking both shots of the bonus chance, making it 39-35.
At the other end, sophomore Courtney Mosley rejected a shot but Carter couldn’t get a 3 to fall at the Bryant end. Debrow cut into the lead with 1:41 left and it became a mad scramble for awhile. With :48 left, Central’s Jalisa Montgomery hit a jump hook to tie the game at 39.
“I really felt like our defensive intensity and our defensive rebounding are what got it,” Condley stated. “We gave up a few offensive rebounds to them but when the shots went up I thought we were blocking out well and I thought we were rebounding. We made a few bad decisions down the stretch but we didn’t let that affect how we were going to play after that. We shook it off and kept plugging along.”
Bryant actually out-rebounded the Lady Tigers 32-29. It also helped that the Lady Hornets went 18 of 25 from the free-throw line including 7 of 9 in the first quarter when they built a lead of as much as 18-10.
Carter had 8 of her game-high 18 points in the period and Simpson had 5 of her 9 including a basket inside that made it an 8-point lead. Montgomery scored at the end of the quarter to make it 18-12 going into the second.
Central scored the first 7 points of the quarter to take the lead. Carter hit a short jumper to put Bryant back on top 20-19 with 4:23 left in the half and the lead seesawed fro awhile with Amber Westbrook then Carter countering Lady Tigers’ baskets along the way.
The game was tied 25-25 at the half.
Central built a lead of as much as 33-27 in the third quarter. But Mills hit a 3 and Carter and Simpson added free throws as the Lady Hornets drew even again by the end of the period.