January 29 in Bryant athletic history: 1999

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).



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.

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