By Rob Patrick
There was a time, back in the day, when it was pretty much automatic for the Bryant Lady Hornets to[more] head to the State Tournament. In fact, they reached State around 30 years in a row and, along the way, won four championships.
A lot has changed since then, however. There are lot more athletic opportunities for female high school athletes, not only volleyball but soccer and softball and swimming and, in a more recent explosion, the increasingly competitive nature of dance and cheer.
Those things and others contributed to what amounted to a three-year drought for the basketball program that ended in 2009.
And, since then, the Lady Hornets have started a new streak.
Now, if there was going to be a break in that new run, many might’ve suspected that it would be this year. Three would-be starters didn’t return for one reason and another and a popular head coach took another job.
But today, new head coach Brad Matthews and a sophomore-junior heavy group of Lady Hornets — many of whom took on newly defined roles — make their return to State in Cabot against the Bentonville Lady Tigers.
The Lady Hornets include lone senior Callie Hogancamp; juniors Courtney Davidson, Logan Davis, Whitney Meyer, Kiara Moore, Haley Murphy and Kristen Scarlett; and sophomores Aubree Allen, Dezerea Duckworth, Destin Nichols, Taneasha Rhode, Erica Smith and Peyton Weaver. Rhode, one of the team’s leading scorers and top rebounders, was unfortunately lost for the season a couple of weeks ago when she dislocated her ankle.
Game time tonight is 7 o’clock. (The game will be broadcast live on KEWI 690 AM in Benton if you can't be there.)
“We’re excited,” said Matthews. “I think that we can go out there and play well. Obviously when you get to the State tournament you need to play well.
“Bentonville’s a good team,” he noted. “They’ve beaten some really good teams this year but I think we’re capable of beating really good teams too. We’ve just got to go over there and play good defense, rebound and take care of the ball and hopefully make some shots along the way.”
The two teams met on the second day of a three-day tournament in Bentonville, the Crabtree Invitational, on Dec. 2, 2011. The Lady Tigers handed the Lady Hornets their first loss of the season, 53-44.
“It’ll be a little bit different game,” Matthews said. “We have Taneasha out and they’ll be without one of their kids. Hopefully, we’re a lot better than we were the first of December.
“They’re going to be really guard-oriented,” he related. “They’ve got a couple of big kids but their best players are guards. They like to shoot a lot of 3’s and get out in transition. So we’ll have our hands full making sure we don’t give up easy baskets in transition. We’ll try to limit their three-point shooters’ looks and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity at the end of the game to make some plays and get one.”
Matthews said he looks at State as a new season.
“We told the girls after we finished our tournament at Hot Springs that that part of our season was over,” he said referring to the non-conference portion of the campaign. “And we told them after Central Friday night, that part of our season is over. This is a new week for every team in the state, whether it’s us or Cabot or North Little Rock or Northside or Bentonville. Every season starts anew this week and, hopefully, we can learn from the things we’ve done well in conference, correct some of the mistakes we’ve had, and try to keep building on what we’ve been doing.
“It’s a one-shot deal,” he concluded. “Everybody’s in the same boat now and we’ll go over and take our swings and see where we end up.”
CLASS 7A STATE TOURNAMENT
Wednesday, Feb. 29
Game 1 — Springdale Har-Ber (21-9) (West 4) vs. West Memphis (15-14) (Central 5), 1 p.m.
Game 3 — Little Rock Hall (20-5) (Central 3) vs. Fayetteville (12-14) (West 6), 4 p.m.
Game 5 — Bryant (14-14) (Central 4) vs. Bentonville (19-9) (West 5), 7 p.m.
Thursday, March 1
Game 7 — Fort Smith Southside (16-11) (West 3) vs. Conway (12-14) (Central 6), 1 p.m.
Game 9 — Cabot (24-5) (Central 1) vs. game 1 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 11 — Rogers (22-5) (West 2) vs. game 3 winner, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 2
Game 13 — Fort Smith Northside (27-1) (West 1) vs. game 5 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 15 — North Little Rock (25-3) (Central 2) vs. game 7 winner, 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
Game 17 — Game 9 winner vs. game 11 winner, 12 p.m.
Game 19 — Game 13 winner vs. game 15 winner, 6 p.m.
Class 7A State championship game
Summit Arena, Hot Springs
Game 21 — Game 17 winner vs. game 19 winner, TBA