Photos by Kevin Nagle
Sophomore Raija Todd pumped in 23 points and the Bryant Lady Hornets held the Mount St. Mary Belles to just 6 points in the second half as they clinched a spot in the Class 7A State Tournament with a 50-27 win on Tuesday night at the Hornets Nest.
“I don’t know about all the math,” said Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “I’ll leave that to my assistant Coach (Joanna) Curtis. She’s the math guru. Obviously, 2-0 against (Mount), we hold the tiebreaker. I think that gets us in so we can check that off the list.”
With senior Emily Ridgell limited to 3 points by foul trouble, junior Destiny Martin added 9, senior Rachael Miller added 6 and junior Kendall Rogers scored 5 while hauling down a game-high 10 rebounds.
But it was the defense that Matthews raved about.
“In a really important game, it’s good to play the best defense we’ve played in a while,” he related.
The Belles’ top scorer was Lizzie Allgood with 10, below her average in conference games this season. Mary Rhinehard scored 7 and no one else had more than 3. The Belles shot 28 percent from the floor.
“I thought the key to the game was our defense in the second half,” Matthews emphasized. “Allgood is a really good post player. Her and the girl at Russellville are probably two of the best post players in the league and I thought Rachael Miller played really, really well on her.
“We were able to get a lot of help,” he added. “I thought that was the difference. We got out of a zone, which we had a lot of success with the first time we played them. We went to man and I thought that was really the difference. Our kids played really well defensively in the second half, limiting their best player. Great job by Miller, great job by the other kids getting there and getting in position to help, making it really hard to get the ball to their best player.”
The game was pretty close until the Lady Hornets put together a 20-2 run in the second half. The Belles went the last 6:03 of the third quarter and the first 4:18 of the fourth without a field goal. Allgood and Kara Rogers hit a free throw apiece during the stretch.
After the game was tied 21-21 at the half, Miller opened up the second half with a 3. Allgood scored inside with 6:03 left in the third to make it 24-23. After a Bryant turnover, Martin made a steal and was fouled going the other way. She converted one free throw.
At the other end, Martin blocked a shot by Allgood. Though she grabbed the deflection, the Belles forced a turnover only to have Martin make another steal. This time, she got the ball to Todd who got it back to her on the baseline where she knocked down an 8-foot jumper.
Todd made a steal and though she missed, Miller grabbed the rebound and drilled a 10-footer to make it 29-23.
Kara Rogers interrupted with her free throw but Martin drove for a basket then fed Todd for a 3 that made it 34-24 going into the fourth quarter, the largest lead of the game to that point.
The onslaught continued as the fourth quarter began. Kendall Rogers hit a 10-foot jay. Martin made another steal and earned a trip to the line where she converted twice to extend the margin to 38-24.
Todd and Martin combined to force a Mount St. Mary turnover and Todd cashed in with a jumper from the baseline.
After a timeout by the Belles, Todd made another theft. Though her free throws refused to fall, Mount missed at the other end and it led to a free throw for Raven Loveless after she rebounded.
Miller added a free throw moments later and, after Allgood’s free throw with 5:15 left, Todd drilled a 15-foot jumper to make it 44-25.
Loveless stole an errant pass but when Martin was fouled she was unable to convert. Finally, with 3:42 to go, Mount’s Payton Grice ended her team’s drought with a baseline jumper that fell.
Loveless added a free throw then scored of a nice feed from Todd to produce the game’s first 20-point lead with 2:39 left. A basket off a drive by Todd and a free throw from Kendall Rogers set the final score.
The Belles had gotten out to a 5-3 lead early in the game but Todd’s second 3 put Bryant ahead. Ridgell made a steal to set up another basket by Todd. Another theft by Ridgell led to a trip to the free throw line for Kendall Rogers, who rebounded Ridgell’s miss. Though Rogers came up empty at the stripe, after Allgood scored, she beat the buzzer with a stickback to make it 10-7 going into the second quarter.
Though Martin scored the first basket of the new period, the Belles then went on an 11-1 run to build an 18-13 lead by the 2:38 mark.
After a timeout by Matthews, Todd drilled a 3, made a steal and fed Ridgell who popped a triple to get the Lady Hornets back on top 19-18. Though Valerie Kauffman countered with a 3 for the Belles, Todd’s running jumper at the buzzer left the game tied.
This Friday, the Lady Hornets will travel to Van Buren with hopes of improving their seeding for State. Both teams are 2-2 against 7A teams in the 7A/6A-Central Conference.
LADY HORNETS 50, BELLES 27
Score by quarters
Mt. St. Mary 7 14 3 3 — 27
BRYANT 10 11 13 16 — 50
BELLES (5-16, 0-9, 0-4) 27
Ka.Rogers 1-5 1-2 3, Norris 0-4 0-0 0, Kauffman 1-4 0-0 3, Allgood 3-7 4-7 10, Rhinehart 3-5 0-0 7, Sagar 0-3 0-0 0, Bingenheimer 1-4 0-2 2, Crawford 0-0 0-0 0, Grice 1-3 0-0 2, Randall 0-1 0-1 0, Clark 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-36 (28%) 5-12 (42%) 27.
LADY HORNETS (8-12 3-6, 2-2) 50
Todd 9-19 1-3 23, Ridgell 1-4 0-0 3, Martin 3-3 3-8 9, Ke.Rogers 2-4 1-4 5, Miller 2-4 1-2 6, Loveless 1-2 2-4 4, Patton 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-37 (49%) 8-21 (38%) 50.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-16 (Todd 4-9, Ridgell 1-3, Miller 1-2, Ke.Rogers 0-1, Patton 0-1), Mount St. Mary 2-14 (Kauffman 1-3, Rhinehart 1-2, Ka.Rogers 0-2, Allgood 0-2, Sagar 0-2, Bingenheimer 0-1, Grice 0-1, Randall 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Mount St. Mary 18. Rebounds: Bryant 8-22 30 (Ke.Rogers 3-7 10, Ridgell 2-3 5, Miller 1-4 5, Loveless 2-2 4, Todd 0-2 2, Martin 0-2 2, team 0-2 2), Mount St. Mary 7-19 26 (Allgood 1-7 8, Rhinehart 1-4 5, Bingenheimer 2-2 4, Ka.Rogers 0-3 3, Norris 0-3 3, Sagar 1-0 1, team 2-0 2). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Mount St. Mary 20. Fouled out: Mount St. Mary, Ka.Rogers.