Late surge lifts Lady Hornets to 61-52 win
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
BENTON — Heather Atkins has a decent shot, a soft jumper from say, 10-feet and in. But there are some Bryant Lady Hornets’ basketball games when she hardly ever uses it. The thing is, she rarely forces a shot. She takes them as they come, when she’s open, when she can’t find center Bekka Middleton with a defender sealed on the block or point guard Ashley Wallis slashing to the basket or Joanie Robideaux wide open at the 3-point line.
Atkins, for instance, only had one basket against the Benton Lady Panthers Friday night. But it was a big one, after she’d flagged down an elusive offensive rebound, after a full evening of trying to put the clamps on Benton’s tough post players Rachel Poe and LaSharon Reed.
In a game in which the Lady Hornets just couldn’t shake the pesky Lady Panthers, Atkins’ basket was the start of the end, sparking an 8-0 run late in the game that spurred Bryant to a 61-52 victory.
Back-to-back baskets by Poe had Benton within 3 of the Lady Hornets with 3:02 to play. The Lady Hornets missed a shot and the rebound ricocheted off hand after hand before Atkins latched onto it just inside the free-throw line. Her follow jumper swished giving Bryant a 51-46 lead with 2:33 left.
At the other end, Poe misfired, trying to shoot over Bryant’s 6-1 sophomore Kim Jacuzzi and the two of them came down with the rebound together. Bryant gained possession and, at the other end, Wallis drove for a layup to make it a 7-point bulge.
And, when Benton’s Charity Mack missed two free throws with 1:54 left, the Lady Hornets kept the run going. Tiffany Kennedy missed a long jumper that had Bryant head coach Carla Crowder up and making sure the Lady Hornets knew it was time to protect the lead and not force a shot.
It helped that Atkins corralled the rebound and got it back to Kennedy who was fouled with 1:28 left. She missed both free throws but Middleton snuck in for the offensive board and scored. Atkins followed with a steal that led to a layup for Kennedy at the largest lead of the game, 57-46, with 1:12 left to play.
Last-minute 3-pointers by Benton’s Sugar Ellis and Jade James were negated by 4-of-4 shooting at the free-throw line by Candice Croy and Wallis as the Lady Hornets nailed down the victory.
The win enabled the Lady Hornets to keep on the heels of AAAAA-South Conference leader Pine Bluff which improved to 7-0 in league play (16-3 overall) with a 50-28 win over Little Rock McClellan. Bryant, 16-4 and 6-1, was set to host third-place Sheridan (8-11 and 4-3) Tuesday.
Friday’s game was a game of surges. Benton led early 7-4 thanks, in part, to a three-point play by Reed who led the Lady Panthers with 15 points.
But Middleton started a Bryant rally with one of her patented turnaround jumpers in the post. After consecutive Benton turnovers, Middleton then Wallis put the Lady Hornets ahead 9-7.
Jamie Guerin tied it for the Lady Panthers before Middleton started a 9-0 run with a bank shot. Wallis followed with a 3-pointer then Middleton scored, made a steal and fed Wallis for a layup.
Middleton, who wound up with a game-high 21 points, and Wallis, who added 17, accounted for all of Bryant’s points in the opening quarter which ended with the Lady Hornets on top 18-11.
But Benton got things going in the second quarter and when Frannie Whipple hit a jumper in the lane and Reed followed it up with a three-point play inside with 2:24 left in the half, Bryant’s lead was down to 21-20. Middleton and Reed traded baskets then Wallis drove for a layup as she continually attacked the Benton defense. Reed hit a pair of free throws and Bryant’s lead was 25-24 at the half.
Benton took a brief lead midway through the third quarter. Poe scored to cut Bryant’s lead to 31-30 then Reed hit a free throw to tie it. She missed her second shot and Poe rebounded and was fouled on a follow attempt. She converted a free throw to give the Lady Panthers a 32-31 edge with 4:34 left in the quarter..
And they forced a turnover to get a chance at adding to the lead. But Bryant got the ball back before they could and Atkins fed Kennedy for a layup to put the Lady Hornets on top again.
They would never trail again. An offensive-rebound basket by Jacuzzi was countered by a free throw from James. Jacuzzi then came through with a three-point play. James hit a 3 and the two teams traded points until the quarter ended with Bryant clinging to a 39-38 lead.
Wallis scored and was fouled to start a fourth-quarter push by the Lady Hornets. She missed her free throw but chased down the long rebound and fed Shannon Amos for a layup and a 43-38 lead.
Robideaux followed with a steal. She was fouled and converted both ends of a one-and-one to give her team a 7-point lead, their largest since the first quarter.
Robideaux finished 8-for-8 from the line in the game.
A three-point play by Poe, however, started Benton on the road back. Middleton and Reed traded free throws before Middleton drilled a baseline jumper to re-establish the 7-point lead.
That’s when Poe scored back-to-back hoops to cut it to 3 prior to Atkins’ clutch bucket.