Bryant Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews has often observed that, when his team is hitting shots, everything else seems to go better — rebounding, defense, etc.
Conversely, of course, when the shots aren’t falling, it definitely has an effect on how everything else is going too.
In the second quarter of the Lady Hornets’ 6A-Central Conference contest against the Little Rock Central Lady Tigers at Hornet Arena, they were just 1 of 8 from the floor including 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
So, the Lady Hornets were out-rebounded 9 to 6 during the quarter, forced just three turnovers (the lowest total of any period in the game) while committing six themselves, and fouled the Lady Tigers who were 4 of 5 at the free-throw line.
Fortunately, Central was just 2 of 12 from the field. Still, they out-scored the Lady Hornets 9-2 to forge a 19-17 halftime lead.
Things changed in the second half, particularly, in the fourth quarter as the Lady Hornets ran off with a 50-31 victory that officially clinched a bid to the 2020 6A State Tournament, which will be held at Bryant’s new arena.
“We’re pretty excited,” Matthews stated. “It’s a good win.”
The Lady Hornets improved to 14-8 overall this season and 6-4 in league play, tied for fourth with North Little Rock, just a game behind Conway (7-3) which lost at home to Cabot on Friday night.
Little Rock Central is now 6-13 and 2-8, clinging to the sixth and final bid to State, just a game up on Mount St. Mary Academy.
Bryant travels of Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday then closes out the regular season against the teams they are contending with, Cabot, at North Little Rock and Conway.
Tierra Trotter led all scorers with 24 points, including several on layups following turnovers. Bryant forced Central into 22.
Parris Atkins and India Atkins each added 8 points. McKenzie Muse had 5 but hauled down 11 rebounds in the game. Parris Atkins had seven steals and four assists. Trotter had four steals.
“I thought McKenzie Muse really controlled the boards for us,” Matthews said. “And when we’re able to rebound, we’re able to get out in transition. We just had that spurt in the second quarter where we couldn’t rebound and, on top of that, we were missing shots that we usually make. So, the second quarter was a little down.
“But, overall, I thought our defense was good, rebounding much better in the second half,” he added. “I think they got frustrated a little bit and turned it over some, which also led to some transition. Once we got into transition, we started making shots.”
Jordyn Head paced the Lady Tigers with 12. The Lady Tigers’ star Lauryn Pendleton was held to 10.
“(Pendleton) is a high Division I player for them,” said Matthews. “We know to beat Central you’ve kind of got to contain her. She’s too talented to stop. I thought India and Parris did a really good job on her, limiting her clean looks.”
The game was back-and-forth early. With 3:15 left in the opening period, the Lady Tigers held an 8-6 lead. But, with 3:03 to go, Muse hit her only 3 of the game to spark a Bryant run.
Off a Parris Atkins steal, India Atkins wound up scoring off an inbounds play. Parris then scored inside, made another theft, and fed Trotter for a layup that had the Lady Hornets ahead 15-8.
Pendleton hit a 15-footer to make it a 5-point game.
Central drew within a point, 15-14 before Madi Scifres fed Parris Atkins for a basket. However, Pendleton hit two free throws and, with 1:17 left in the half Aniya Curry knocked down a 3 to give the Lady Tigers to halftime edge. Bryant had not scored over the final four minutes of the second quarter.
The Lady Hornets came out in the second half with a little more defensive intensity, but the game held at 19-17 almost two minutes into the third quarter.
Finally, India Atkins broke the ice with a clutch 3. Younger sister Parris followed with a steal and a trip to the free-throw line. She converted twice and, moments later, Trotter added a charity toss to make it 23-19.
Two free throws by Head had the margin back to 2. But a 3 by Trotter followed off a feed from India Atkins. Following a pair of Central misses, India Atkins assisted on a 3 by Lexie Taylor that suddenly had the Lady Hornets up 29-21.
The Lady Tigers called timeout and, when play resumed, Curry hit a 3. But Central was never that close again.
Bryant led 30-24 going into the fourth quarter, which opened with the Lady Hornets going on a 12-0 run to take control of the game. The surge started with Muse connecting from 15 feet. Trotter then scored the next 10 points as the Lady Hornets started to turn the Lady Tigers over.
It was 42-24 before Central could score again on a pair of free throws by Pendleton with 3:35 to go.
LADY HORNETS 50, LADY TIGERS 31
Score by quarters
LR Central 10 9 5 7 — 31
BRYANT 15 2 13 20 — 50
LADY TIGERS (6-13, 2-8) 31
Stuckey 0-1 0-0 0, Head 4-9 4-6 12, Jackson 0-6 0-0 0, Pendleton 3-15 4-6 10, Woods 0-2 0-0 0, Linwood 0-1 0-0 0, Curry 3-8 0-0 9, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 10-43 (23%) 8-13 (62%) 31.
LADY HORNETS (14-8, 6-4) 50
Trotter 9-16 5-8 24, P.Atkins 3-5 2-2 8, I.Atkins 2-3 3-4 8, Martin 0-3 0-0 0, Muse 2-9 0-0 5, Russ 0-3 0-2 0, Scifres 0-1 2-2 2, Taylor 1-3 0-0 3, Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-43 (40%) 12-18 (67%) 50.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-18 (Muse 1-7, Trotter 1-5, Taylor 1-3, I.Atkins 1-1, P.Atkins 0-1, Scifres 0-1), LR Central 3-10 (Curry 3-6, Head 0-2, Pendleton 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 14, LR Central 22. Rebounds:Bryant 8-20 28 (Muse 1-10 11, Trotter 1-4 5, P.Atkins 1-3 4, I.Atkins 1-1 2, Russ 2-0 2, team 2-2 4), LR Central 15-19 34 (Jackson 5-6 11, Woods 5-3 8, Pendleton 0-4 4, Head 2-1 3, Stuckey 0-2 2, Curry 0-2 2, team 3-1 4). Team fouls: Bryant 15, LR Central 14.