Sophomore Natalie Edmonson hit a 3-pointer in transition with :06 showing on the clock to give the Bryant Lady Hornets a thrilling 40-39 victory over the Marion Lady Patriots on Monday.
The bomb capped a remarkable comeback by the Lady Hornets who once trailed in the game 21-3.
“I was proud of our kids,” stated Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t a beautiful painting of how to play basketball. But, when you keep score, you’ve got to find a way to win.
“That’s a good win against a good team,” he asserted.
“That was by far the tallest, most athletic team we’ve played,” the coach said. “There’s a reason they beat North Little Rock. There’s a reason they played Conway super-close.”
Regarding the slow start, Matthews said, “We just haven’t seen that up to this point (in the season), so I thought we were a step behind. Our passes were rushed at times, late at other times. I thought we were timid. That’s to be expected when you play somebody, and you haven’t seen that yet. And we’re young. You add all of that together . . .
“But to our kids’ credit, we fought,” he related. “When it was 21-3 at one point, we easily could’ve laid down and we didn’t. We found a way to cut it to 13 at the half and, gosh, what an awesome third quarter.”
The 21-3 lead for the Lady Patriots was with 3:26 left in the first half. Edmonson’s 3 to open the game was the lone basket for the Lady Hornets to that point.
With 1:20 left in the half, Emileigh Muse found the range from beyond the arc to start a late run for Bryant. Parris Atkins hit two free throws and, after Marion’s Daedrianna Cail scored on a driving layup, Edmonson dropped another triple to make it 23-11.
Though Kiera Neal added a free throw in the closing seconds, the Lady Hornets seemed to have found a spark.
And that led to a 19-6 blitz in the third quarter that produced their first lead since it was 3-0.
“There was a comfort level,” Matthews said. “They did not let us play comfortable in the first half. And, when you miss a few open shots like we did early, you have a few turnovers like we did early, then it starts weighing on you. They’re young. That’s going to happen. I thought it happened at Benton.
“There’s an old saying, you’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” he mentioned. “I thought as the game went on, we got better and better at that.”
“I told them it’s not supposed to be easy,” the coach added. “Marion’s a good team.”
Edmonson finished with a team-high 12 points. Atkins had 10, Lauren Lane 8 to go with nine rebounds. Muse finished with 6 and Brilynn Findley 4.
The Lady Hornets suffered 30 turnovers but force 24 including 10 in the third quarter. Bryant wound up with a 34-32 edge on the boards.
“Like I’ve said all year, I think we have good pieces,” Matthews said. “We’ve just got to find a way to put them together every game.
“Tonight, obviously, Natalie hit a big shot,” he continued. “I thought we really rebounded so much better today especially considering who we’re playing than we did against Benton, than we did against Chapel. Those are really good teams, but I thought, today, we really fought and went and got rebounds.
“That was the biggest deal. We knew coming in if we could keep them out of transition and we could keep them off the boards, we’d have a good chance. We did that in spurts. And, in spurts, they were really good.”
The 21-point run in the first half showed that. While the Lady Hornets were struggling to score, Marion was rebounding and getting into transition often.
After finding their bearings a bit at the end of the half, the Lady Hornets’ third-quarter rush started after Jala Henderson opened the third quarter with a basket inside.
Lain started the Bryant comeback with a 10-foot jumper. A Marion turnover led to a 3 by Muse off a feed from Findley. Edmonson made a steal, and, after a Marion timeout, Muse fed Atkins for a 3 that cut the lead to single digits.
After a flurry of action both ways, Atkins canned another trey. And when she hit two free throws with 3:52 left in the quarter, the Lady Hornets were down just 2, 26-24.
Cail, who led her team with 14 points ended Bryant’s 13-0 run, but it wound up being just an interruption. Findley answered with a pull-up jumper on the baseline. And, after being unable to capitalize on steals by Lain and Muse, a turnover by the Lady Patriots led to a basket on a jumper by Lain with 1:10 showing, evened the score at 28.
Lain made another steal that led to a 3 from Edmonson and a 31-28 lead.
Henderson made it a one-point game going into the fourth quarter.
Findley scored again on a driving jumper to make it 35-32 with 5:07 to go but then Marion made a charge back into the lead. Ny’Asia Jackson drove for a layup then, off a Bryant turnover, Dionna Woodson drove for a layup to give her team a 36-35 edge.
Cail scored with :46 left to make it 38-35 but, at the other end, Lain got free inside for a basket to make it a one-point game with :26 left.
Marion called timeouts with :25.7 showing then again at :19. Henderson was fouled with :14.4 to go but only made one free throw to make it a 39-37 lead.
Bryant pushed the ball up the floor and Edmonson took a feed from Findley and knocked down the game-winner.
The Lady Hornets will play a final non-conference game on Tuesday at 4 p.m., against Greene County Tech, which stepped up to play after Little Rock Hall had to bow out.