By Rob Patrick
Photo by Kevin Nagle
Their coach took another job, their best player moved away, their best 3-point shooter decided to commit[more] fulltime to another sport and, of their two top post players, one graduated and the other decided not to play anymore.
That meant that the Bryant Lady Hornets, with a new coach, would have several players thrust into roles they hadn’t played before and would be relying on sophomores to contribute right away. The prospects, as many saw them, were not good.
But, as it turned out, on Tuesday, Feb. 14 — a day for big hearts — the Lady Hornets clinched a return trip to the Class 7A State Tournament with a win that required those big “valentines”. Without leading scorers Kiara Moore (saddled by foul trouble) and Taneasha Rhode (after suffering a horrific injury near the end of the first quarter), the Lady Hornets outscored the gunners from Conway, 75-60.
Not only did it give Bryant its first-ever season sweep of the Lady Wampus Cats, it improved them to 6-5 in the 7A/6A-Central Conference, tied for fourth place in the league with three games to play while punching that ticket to State.
“It was just a great win,” declared Bryant coach Brad Matthews who said he didn’t think he’d ever coached a team that scored 75 points in a game. “It gets us in the tournament and now it’s all about seeding as we move forward. It’s a great accomplishment for our kids.
“I think back to the Spa City (Shootout) when we lost back-to-back games against CAC and Texas High,” he reflected. “That game against Texas High was kind of our low point. We didn’t play very well at all. Since then, we’ve had some ups and downs but I think we’re getting a little bit closer to being as effective consistently as we can be.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids playing roles and doing things that they hadn’t been asked to do before,” he acknowledged. “I think Logan Davis is a great example. I think you see her growing into having more confidence offensively and really being able to be productive offensively for us. For us to beat good, quality teams, we’ve got to have all hands on deck. We’re fixing to face a lot of good teams towards the end. But that’s what you play for, to be playing at the end and to have something on the line when you play.”
Davis, a junior, finished with 13 points while sophomore Dezerea Duckworth had 18. But it was junior Courtney Davidson, who had scored a season-high 17 points at Conway earlier in the season, who came through with 22 to lead the team including 10 of 10 from the free-throw line. Moore, another junior added 9 and sophomore Aubree Allen gave the team a lift off the bench with 8 points and four offensive rebounds all in the second quarter.
Rhode, before suffering a dislocated ankle in the final seconds of the first quarter, had scored 3 points, blocked two shots and already grabbed seven rebounds.
Indications were, Matthews said, that Rhode had escaped without breaking any bones. An orthopedist happened to be at the game and popped the ankle back into place in one of the dressing rooms before Rhode was taken to the hospital for x-rays.
“As long as it’s not broken at least she’ll have a shorter recovery,” Matthews related. “Hopefully she’ll be all right.”
The 75 points were the most a Lady Hornets team had scored since the 24-5 team of 2009-10 which scored 81 against Cabot on Jan. 22, 2010.The thing was, it seemed like Bryant never had a comfortable lead though it was double digits much of the way. Conway kept pushing the ball and jacking up shots. The Lady Cats attempted a whopping 79 field goals including 33 from 3-point range to go with 25 free throws. Their 27 offensive rebounds and 23 Bryant turnovers helped them get that many shots but Bryant’s defense was good enough to force them to convert just 20 of the 79, just over 25 percent from the field. And the Lady Hornets collected 52 rebounds in the game to Conway's 44.
“We asked Logan and Dezerea to guard their best guards,” Matthews mentioned, referring to Conway's Enjonae Chambers and Madison Foster. “When we played them before (at Conway), Chambers had 31 and Foster had 18. Defensively, Logan and Dezerea did a tremendous job. Then we relied on them so much to handle the ball. We put so much on them tonight, especially with Kiara in foul trouble. I thought they stepped up and really played well.
“Courtney did a great job on the boards, great job of being aggressive,” he added. “I thought she was really effective in transition when they pressed us. We broke the press and got her some shots in transition.
“Aubree Allen came in in the second quarter and really sparked us, got some putbacks when it seemed like we had hit a lull there offensively,” he concluded.
Conway missed its first 16 shots before Claire Hobbs finally scored with 2:28 left in the first quarter. By then, the Lady Hornets had built an 8-1 lead on baskets by Davidson, Duckworth and Rhode who also had a free throw.
Duckworth fed Davidson for a two more jumpers inside as the lead grew to 12-3 then Duckworth drove for a layup to give Bryant its first double-digit advantage.
McCall Wilkins hit a 3 for Conway but a layup by Callie Hogancamp made it 16-6. Hobbs, who finished with 21 points, scored off the offensive glass then, seconds later, Rhode suffered her harrowing injury.
Though Conway would cut the lead to 3 late in the half, Bryant never relinquished the lead. The Lady Hornets answered Conway’s run to cut it to 25-22 with a 12-1 run of their own to close out the half with all the momentum.
Davis hit a free throw to start the surge. Allen grabbed the rebound off her missed second shot, scored and was fouled extending the lead to 29-22. Davis added two more free throws before Conway’s Deborah Downs interrupted with a free throw with 1:36 left in the half.
Another putback by Allen followed and, after a Conway turnover, Davidson went to the line and sank both shots. Bryant forced a turnover again and, off Duckworth’s miss from 3-point range, Allen grabbed the rebound and got a shot to go just before the buzzer to give Bryant a 37-23 lead at the break.
In the second half, every time Conway started to make a run, the Lady Hornets would come up with a clutch basket or free throws. They cut it to 10 early in the third but Davis nailed a driving jumper, made a steal then converted twice at the free-throw line.
Conway’s Kiahna Doby drove for a bucket then Davis drove the baseline, pulled up and popped a jumper. Moments later, Duckworth drained a triple and the Lady Hornets had their largest margin, 48-31.
After a Conway timeout, the Lady Cats whittled the lead to 50-38 in the final minute but another clutch shot by Davis had the Lady Hornets ahead by 14 going into thefourth quarter.
Conway, however, was relentless. Sparked by Hobbs, they finally got the lead back under 10 with 5:15 to go, 60-59. A reverse layup by Duckworth helped stem the tide though Hobbs scored to get it back to 9. Again Duckworth drove for a basket. And Bryant’s Haley Murphy stepped in defensively and took a charge on a drive by Hobbs with about four minutes left. It was Hobbs’ fifth foul.
Still, Chambers hit a 3 and Conway was within 8 at 64-56. The Lady Cats had two chances to get closer but Chambers missed on 3-point tries both times. Moore was fouled with 2:14 left only to miss both shots. The carom off the second went out off of Conway and, on the inbounds play, Moore drove for a basket as she was fouled again. Though she missed the subsequent free throw, the lead was back to 10 and Conway couldn’t get any closer than that the rest of the game.
Moore found the range for 5 of 6 free throws in the final 1:18. Davidson added a pair and so did Duckworth as Bryant closed out the win.
The Lady Hornets now face the top two teams in the league. They go to Cabot on Friday then host North Little Rock in the final home game of the season on Tuesday, Feb. 21, before finishing up the regular season at Little Rock Central on Friday.
LADY HORNETS 75, LADY WAMPUS CATS 60
Score by quarters
Conway 8 15 15 22 — 60
BRYANT 16 21 15 23 — 75
LADY WAMPUS CATS (11-12, 3-8) 60
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Foster 1-19 2-6 2-3 5 3 4
Chambers 4-21 0-0 2-1 3 0 10
Wilkins 2-5 0-2 1-2 3 3 5
Cozzens 1-7 1-2 4-0 4 5 4
Benton 1-1 0-0 1-3 4 2 2
Strickland 0-1 0-0 0-2 2 0 0
Hobbs 8-15 4-5 4-1 5 5 21
Sanders 0-0 0-0 1-2 3 1 0
Boyd 0-1 2-2 0-0 0 2 2
Doby 2-6 3-6 3-1 4 4 8
Downs 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 1 4
Kelley 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 2 0
Total 20-79 13-25 27-17 44 29 60
LADY HORNETS (14-11, 6-5) 75
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Moore 2-5 5-9 0-5 5 4 9
Duckworth 7-9 2-4 2-6 8 4 18
Davis 4-15 5-6 1-4 5 2 13
Davidson 6-11 10-10 4-4 8 2 22
Rhode 1-2 1-2 2-5 7 1 3
Hogancamp 1-2 0-0 0-2 2 3 2
Allen 3-5 2-3 4-0 4 2 8
Meyer 0-0 0-0 0-4 4 2 0
Nichols 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Murphy 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 3 0
Team 4-4 8
Total 24-49 25-34 17-35 52 23 75
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-8 (Duckworth 2-3, Davis 0-3, Davidson 0-1, Hogancamp 0-1), Conway 7-33 (Chambers 2-9, Cozzens 1-4, Hobbs 1-4, Wilkins 1-3, Doby 1-3, Downs 1-1, Foster 0-8, Boyd 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 23, Conway 10.