For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here
Playing their fourth game in five days, the Bryant Lady Hornets had a hard time fending off the scrambling, aggressive, physical defense of the Little Rock Southwest Lady Gryphons on Tuesday night at Hornet Arena.
A little worn, perhaps, the Lady Hornets had difficulty begin strong enough with the ball and wound up suffering 23 turnovers.
Yet, they found a way to win, 55-50, their fourth victory in a row, which has secured for them at least a 5 seed from the 6A-Central Conference to the State Tournament in Fayetteville next week. The Lady Hornets have an outside chance to improve to a 4 seed with a victory over Little Rock Central on Thursday in a final regular-season game.
If they’re a 5 seed, the Lady Hornets would open tournament play at 10 a.m., on Tuesdaey, March 9. As a 4 seed, they would play on Wednesday, March 10, at 10 a.m.
“I thought their physicality had us on our heels,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Brad Matthews. “Credit to them. They’re very athletic and very physical. Coach (Charlie) Johnson does a great job with them.
“I thought they were the attacking team tonight,” he added. “We never really got into a rhythm.
“I thought our kids fought hard,” the coach asserted. “That’s four games in five days. We found a way to win all four. So, that’s good.
“This game was tight late, and we found a way to win,” he stated. “It wasn’t pretty. There were still some mistakes. But we made enough plays in the last two minutes to come out with a win. That’s really good this time of year. So, we’ll take it, try to get some rest; get rest and rejuvenated tomorrow and play a very talented Central team on Thursday.”
Tuesday’s victory might’ve been a little more comfortable had the Lady Hornets converted more than half of their free throws. They were 11 of 22 at the stripe, including just 3 of 8 in the fourth quarter when Southwest kept cutting into the lead but never actually took a lead.
Bryant led 52-50 with 1:53 left in the game. The Lady Hornets’ defense held them scoreless from that time on as Lauren Lain hit a free throw and, after making a steal, Parris Atkins converted twice to seal the victory.
Atkins, playing off the bench after sitting out of Monday’s win at Mount St. Mary Academy, came through with 14 points and nine rebounds. Emileigh Muse had 13 points and 10 boards while Lain, coming off a 21-point performance on Monday, finished with 11 points and nine boards.
Bryant outrebounded Southwest 40-32 including 17 rebounds off the offensive glass.
The Lady Gryphons, playing their final game of the season, were determined to go out on a winning note.
Taya Bridgewater led them with 13 points. Tykyra Miles had 12.
The game was tight for much of the first half. A basket by Muse off a feed from Lain in the final seconds gave the Lady Hornets a 9-6 lead at the first break.
With baskets by Miles and Asia Yarbrough to start the second quarter, Southwest had a 10-9 lead.
But a layup by Atkins, an offensive rebound bucket from Lain and a layup by Brilynn Findley had Bryant up 15-10 and the Lady Hornets never trailed again.
Yarbrough and Bryant senior Lauryn Taylor traded baskets then Atkins pulled down a long rebound off a Lady Gryphon miss and went coast-to-coast for a layup and a 19-12 edge.
After Nariah Samuels scored inside to Southwest, Atkins scored off an inbounds play under the Bryant basket. She would later add two free throws to make it a 23-14 lead at the half.
The Lady Gryphons cut the lead to 4 by the final 1:33 of the third quarter. But a clutch 3 by Natalie Edmonson pushed it back to 37-30.
Southwest missed three shots and Bryant responded with a layup by Lain that burned the Lady Gryphons’ press. Findley added two free throws with :00.5 showing on the clock.
That gave Bryant its largest lead of the game to that point, 41-30, going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Hornets just could not shake the Lady Gryphons. But they always seemed to get a big basket when they needed one down the stretch.
Southwest cut the margin to 45-40 then Muse hit a 3. The Lady Gryphons cut it to 48-45 after Jazz Crisps hit a 3 with 3:40 left but Lauryn Taylor fed Lain for a basket in response.
Two free throws by Adreona Green cut it back to a 3-point difference only to have Muse assist on a jumper by Lain in response.
With 1:53 left, Crisps hit a 3 to make it 52-50 before the Lady Hornets closed it out.
LADY HORNETS 55, LADY GRYPHONS 50
Score by quarters
LR Southwest 6 8 16 20 — 50
BRYANT 9 14 18 14 — 55
LADY GRYPHONS (5-15, 2-12) 50
Crisps 2-7 1-2 7, Miles 5-8 0-1 12, Samuels 3-6 0-1 6, Bridgewater 5-12 2-3 13, Thomas 0-6 4-4 4, Cunningham 0-1 0-0 0, Yarbrough 3-4 0-0 6, Green 0-8 2-2 2. Totals 18-52 (35%) 9-13 (69%) 50.
LADY HORNETS (13-9, 6-7) 55
Lain 5-10 1-5 11, Edmonson 2-10 0-3 6, Findley 2-7 2-3 7, Muse 5-7 2-2 13, Taylor 2-7 0-0 4, Atkins 4-9 6-9 14. Totals 20-50 (40%) 11-22 (50%) 55.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-15 (Edmonson 2-9, Findley 1-5, Muse 1-1), LR Southwest 5-20 (Crisps 2-7, Miles 2-3, Bridgewater 1-4, Green 0-4, Cunningham 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 23, LR Southwest 21. Rebounds: Bryant 17-23 40 (Muse 5-5 10, Lain 5-4 9, Atkins 1-8 9, Edmonson 1-4 5, Taylor 3-1 4, Findley 0-1 1, team 2-0 2), LR Southwest 12-20 32 (Green 2-6 8, Samuels 2-4 6, Thomas 1-3 4, Yarbrough 1-3 4, Miles 1-2 3, Bridgewater 0-2 2, Crisps 0-1 1, team 3-0 3). Team fouls: Bryant 9, LR Southwest 18.