Though they are seniors, Friday night’s game was probably the first varsity start in the careers of Carolyn Reeves, Taylor Hill and Anna Turpin. And a rare one for Annie Patton. They joined Emily Ridgell in the starting five and were introduced along with senior Rachael Miller who, along with Ridgell has started almost every game this season.
And the reaction among the rest of the Bryant Lady Hornets team was tremendous. The underclassmen on the team may have been more charged up about it than those seniors.
Together, they played against the Siloam Springs Lady Panthers for about half of the first quarter, played them to a 2-2 draw. The big crowd and their teammates gave them a warm ovation when they checked out at the 4:16 mark.
Everybody was having fun and the vibe carried over to a most satisfying 44-32 victory, avenging a tough 54-51 loss in overtime at Siloam back on Jan. 29.
The Lady Hornets now advance to the Class 7A State Tournament in Cabot next week. They’ll meet the Bentonville Lady Tigers in a rematch of last season’s first round. Bentonville is the No. 4 seed from the 7A-West after losing to Fayetteville on Friday night. Bryant won last year, 64-59 in overtime. This year’s game is set for Wednesday, March 2, at 7 p.m.
Ridgell and sophomore Raija Todd, the Lady Hornets’ 1-2 scoring punch all season, combined for 36 points. Todd finished with a game-high 19. Miller scored 6 and junior Destiny Martin added 2.
But as well as the Lady Hornets played on offense, their defense was even better, limiting the Lady Panthers to just 12 field goals including just two 3’s. Bryant also finished with a 27-17 rebound advantage.
Post player Haley Stewart led Siloam Springs with 14 points. Morgan Vaughn had 7, Hadlee Hollenback 6 and Abby Cox 5.
“I thought we played well,” said Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “I thought, defensively, we did well. I think we were able to keep them out of rhythm. The number of clean looks, especially their guards. (Cox and Vaughn) had a combined 30 points when we went up there. Tonight, we got hurt in the post a little bit but I thought we did a really good job of limiting their clean looks.
“Anytime you can limit the other teams’ best offensive players, make them work harder, get them out of rhythm, that was really important,” he added. “They had one run in the third quarter.”
It was a 10-0 run after Martin scored to open the half, extending Bryant’s lead to 25-16. Before Ridgell’s offensive-rebound basket with 1:12 left in the third quarter, the Lady Panthers had taken a 26-25 lead, their first since it was 3-2 with 4:00 left in the opening quarter.
Ridgell put Bryant back on top but Stewart scored to get her team ahead, 28-27. But it was the Lady Panthers’ last lead. Todd canned a 15-footer and, at the other end, Miller blocked Stewart’s shot inside and, with :27 left in the period, Ridgell tacked on a pair of free throws after attacking the basket.
It was 31-28 going into the fourth quarter.
Miller was fouled as she followed a teammate’s miss and opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a pair of free throws. Stewart answered with a drive to the rack only to have Todd knocked down a short jumper off an up and under move. Bryant forced a turnover and Todd cashed in with a drive up the left-baseline, making it 37-30.
Stewart hit two free throws with 4:38 left but that was the last of Siloam Springs’ scoring.
Bryant finished off the victory with a 7-0 run, starting with another drive up the baseline by Todd. She followed with a 15-footer then Ridgell made a steal and layup.
After a Siloam timeout, Ridgell again swiped the ball. She was fouled with 2:12 left and converted one of her free throws to complete the scoring in the game.
Bryant worked on the clock over the final couple of minutes and with :18.8 left in the game, Matthews called a timeout to get those seniors back on the floor to finish it.
“I’m really happy for our seniors to get a win on Senior Night,” he said. “It’ll be a good memory for them. We have such good kids. All six of those seniors are just tremendous high-character kids. It’s good to see kids like that have success.”
Early in the contest, Miller snapped a 6-6 tie with a jumper in the lane off a feed from Todd. Moments later, Martin and Ridgell combined to force a turnover that Ridgell cashed in.
Bryant led 12-8 going into the second quarter. Vaughn hit a 3 to cut the gap to 1 in the first few seconds of the second period. But Todd knocked down a jumper, Miller scored off the offensive glass and, to cap a possession in which the Raven Loveless and Ridgell each came down with offensive boards, Ridgell connected twice from the line to make it 18-11.
Siloam struggled from the free throw line (6 of 15 for the game) and managed just one conversion on five attempts over the next few minutes in the second quarter. They cut the lead to 18-14 but could’ve been much closer or ahead before Todd drained a 3 off a kick-out from Martin.
Hollenback answered but Todd hit a running jumper with :03.8 showing to make it 23-16 at intermission.
As the second seed from the 6A half of the 7A/6A-Central Conference, Siloam Springs will open play in the Class 6A State Tournament in Russellville against Pine Bluff on Thursday, March 3, at 1 p.m.
LADY HORNETS 44, LADY PANTHERS 32
Score by quarters
Siloam Spgs 8 8 12 4 — 32
BRYANT 12 11 8 13 — 44
LADY PANTHERS (16-11, 7-7, 4-2) 32
Duffy 0-0 0-0 0, Cox 2-8 0-0 5, Vaughn 2-4 2-4 7, Stewart 5-13 4-8 14, Hollenback 3-3 0-2 6, Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Hufford 0-2 0-1 0. Totals 12-30 (40%) 6-15 (40%) 32.
LADY HORNETS (10-15, 5-9, 2-4) 44
Hill 0-1 0-0 0, Reeves 0-0 0-0 0, Turpin 0-0 0-0 0, Patton 0-0 0-0 0, Ridgell 6-13 5-6 17, Miller 2-3 2-2 6, Todd 9-17 0-0 19, Martin 1-2 0-0 2, Rogers 0-2 0-0 0, Loveless 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-39 (46%) 7-8 (88%) 44.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-10 (Todd 1-6, Ridgell 0-3, Rogers 0-1), Siloam Springs 2-7 (Cox 1-2, Vaughn 1-2, Stewart 0-2, Hufford 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Siloam Springs 13. Rebounds: Bryant 10-17 27 (Ridgell 4-5 9, Loveless 3-4 7, Rogers 1-3 4, Miller 2-0 2, Hill 0-1 1, Patton 0-1 1, Martin 0-1 1, team 0-2 2), Siloam Springs 3-14 (Stewart 0-6 6, Hollenback 2-2 4, Hufford 0-2 2, Duffy 1-0 1, Cox 0-1 1, team 0-3 3). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Siloam Springs 9.