Lady Hornets answer first AAAAA-Central challenge
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
After scouting around their new conference, the AAAAA-Central, Bryant Lady Hornets coaches Carla Crowder and Mark Scarlett came to the conclusion that the move wasn’t as beneficial to their program as some may have suspected.
“There’s no doubt in my mind this is going to be a tough league,” Scarlett said. “You look at the speed and athleticism that (Little Rock Central) has and they’re considered the sixth best team in our (eight team) conference. I’m scared to see what’s considered to be the second, third and fourth best teams.”
So, it was with plenty of respect that the Lady Hornets opened league play against Central’s Lady Tigers on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at the Bryant gym. And it showed in their focus. Bryant, now 12-2, rolled to a 8-0 lead early and never trailed on the way to a 56-37 romp in which everyone played.
“We played a pretty good game,” commented Lady Hornet senior forward Jennifer Slack. “We just had to hustle and play defense. It’s basically our defense. If we can stop them, we can score. We have so many people that can score.”
“We had to come out focused,” Scarlett said. “It’s a new season and it doesn’t matter what we did in the first 13 games. It all starts all over. If they want to play in the state tournament, they have got to go out and take care of business, especially at home. What’s the old saying? You’ve got to win all of them at home and split on the road? I think that’s the way it’s going to be. I think 12-4 will win it. Of course, if we can do better than that, that’s great. But our goal right now is 12-4. You just don’t know what’s going to happen on the road.”
The Lady Hornets will play their first road game in league play on Friday at Little Rock McClellan.
“We could’ve played better,” Slack added, concerning Tuesday’s win, “but I don’t think (Central) is ranked very high in our conference. We’re playing (Little Rock) McClellan Friday and they’re second so we’ll see how well we do against them.”
McClellan, 11-4, was upset on Tuesday at Conway, 48-39.
Sparked by Renee Finn’s play off the bench, Central rallied from the early Bryant outburst. When Finn beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer, the lead was whittled to 15-11.
But Bryant held the Lady Tigers to just 4 points in the second quarter, taking control of the game. Amanda Grappe’s steal and pull-up jumper to start the quarter set the tone, starting a 12-0 run.
Grappe accounted for 8 points in that blitz. She finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Slack added 14 points and seven boards. She converted a pair of free throws to make it 27-11 with 2:52 left in the half.
Central finally got their first points of the quarter with 2:39 left on a jumper from the corner by Jackie Backis.
Jeanne Randall, who came off the bench to pitch in 7 points and four rebounds, countered with a baseline jumper. Ashley Grappe took advantage of a Central turnover with a driving layup then Slack, after grabbing a defensive rebound and getting fouled, converted a pair of free throws as Bryant’s lead ballooned to 20, 33-13.
Sharmine Surratt scored on an inbounds play for Central but Bryant retained the 20-point edge at the half when Randall came through with a sparkling assist for a basket by Kalin Dreher.
The Lady Hornets picked up where they left off in the third quarter. Amanda Grappe hit a short jumper, Rachel Blakley made a steal and Ashley Grappe threaded a feed to Amanda for a layup and a 39-15 bulge.
Bryant led 46-23 at the end of the third quarter then established their largest lead of 27 early in the fourth quarter on baskets by Megan Kennedy and Dreher.
Central continued to press as Bryant gradually emptied the bench but was never closer than the final 19-point margin thanks to a pair of free throws by Amie Hubbard and a basket by Elizabeth Farish, who also pulled down four rebounds in a little over two minutes of playing time.
“I’m pleased because Central did most of their scoring in the fourth quarter when we called off the dogs,” Scarlett mentioned. “And they still pressed us and that’s all right. It’s good for the younger kids to be able to face some of that.
“I thought the team played real well, played with a lot of heart, got after it.”