MORRILTON — Sometimes it’s bit by bit, but the 2016-17 Bryant Lady Hornets are gradually learning just what they might be capable of.
In their latest lesson against the Russellville Lady Cyclones in the first round of the 9th annual Northwestern/Modern Woodmen Invitational Tournament, they learned that they can play they kind of scrambling defense and aggressive offense that can produce a comeback.
The Lady Hornets trailed 34-25 with just 2:22 to play but came all the way back to get within 2 with eight seconds left. They ran out of time, though, and the Lady Cyclones were able to hang on for a 38-36 win.
Russellville advances to the winners bracket of the tournament. The Lady Hornets will now play a consolation game on Thursday at 7 p.m., against the loser of Monday’s game between Morrilton and Alma.
Kasey Heath, in off the bench, made sure the Lady Cyclones didn’t blow it as she hit four free throws in the final minute to help hold off the Lady Hornets.
Heath finished with 9 points, all in the second half. Bailey Wilbers led the Lady Cyclones with 13 points.
Bryant was paced by Kelly Williams with 13 points. Raven Loveless added 12 points and nine rebounds.
The late comeback began with two free throws by Loveless. The Lady Hornets jumped into a press and right away, Williams made a steal but, before a shot could be taken, the ball was turned back over.
Russellville’s Zee McCalister wound up at the free throw line where she missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Lady Hornets a chance to whittle on the margin some more. And a 15-foot jumper by Riley Hill with 1:00 left, trimmed the margin to 34-29.
Bryant head coach Brad Matthews called a timeout and, when play resumed, Williams made another steal and, this time, cashed it in by hustling after the carom off her initial miss. Her basket made it 34-31 with :53 showing.
Again Matthews called timeout. Heath was fouled with :45.6 to go and promptly converted both ends of the pressure one-and-one. In turn, an illegal screen cost Bryant a chance. But Russellville turned the ball over again.
Williams couldn’t get a 3-point try to go. The rebound went out of bounds to Bryant and, on the inbounds play, Kendal Rogers couldn’t get her shot to go.
With :21.2 showing, Heath hauled down the rebound and was fouled. Her free throws bumped the margin to 38-31. Williams, however, attacked the basket and came through with a three-point play and, after Russellville threw it away against the Bryant press, Loveless scored inside to make it 38-36.
The Lady Hornets tried to deny the inbounds pass but the Lady Cyclones threw it in deep and time ran out.
Bryant struggled early, managing just two baskets in the first quarter while turning the ball over nine times, nearly half of the total number of turnovers they sufferend in the entire contest.
Russellville built a 10-4 lead going into the second quarter.
To start the scoring in the period, Lania Ratliff made a nice pass to get Loveless an open look and a bucket inside. In turn, Russellville’s Tamera Rhode missed and M.K. Byrd grabbed the offensive rebound only to have Loveless block her follow shot.
Williams drove for a layup at the other end and Russellville needed a timeout with its lead down to 2.
With 5:10 left in the half, Ratliff tied it and was fouled. Though she couldn’t get the free throw down to complete the three-point play, she hustled after the rebound. But the Lady Hornets were unable to take advantage. They forced another turnover but returned the favor, spoiling another chance to gain the lead.
Williams made a steal but Loveless couldn’t get a shot to go in traffic. A held ball resulted in Russellville gaining possession and Wilbers took advantage by knocking down a short jumper as the Lady Cyclones avoided giving up the lead.
With a basket by Mary Catherine Selig and a free throw by Williams, the Lady Hornets whittled the margin to 14-13 but two free throws by Wilbers made it 16-13 at the half.
Russellville surged to its largest lead of the game, 11 points, in the third quarter. The Lady Hornets whittled it down again. Williams drained a 3 and, after misses at both ends, converted a pair of free throws to make it 26-20.
Selig appeared to trim another point off the difference with a free throw but a lane violation negated it. But a 3 by Rogers with :47 left in the quarter had the Lady Hornets within 26-23.
After timeout, Russellville got a big shot from Heath, a 3 with :21 left in the period, to push the margin back to 6 going into the final eight minutes.
Selig converted two free throws to start the fourth quarter but Russellville pushed it back to 9 before Bryant’s final push.
LADY CYCLONES 38, LADY HORNETS 36
Score by quarters
Russellville 10 6 13 9 — 38
BRYANT 4 9 10 13 — 36
LADY CYCLONES 38
McCalister 1-3 0-1 2, Looper 1-6 4-6 6, Rhode 2-11 2-2 6, Wilbers 5-7 3-4 13, Posey 0-4 0-0 0, Myers 1-2 0-0 2, Heath 2-4 4-4 9, Byrd 0-1 0-0 0, Russell 0-0 0-0 0, Ealy 0-2 0-0 0, Sparks 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-40 13-17 38.
LADY HORNETS 36
Loveless 5-10 2-2 12, Ratliff 1-2 0-1 2, Williams 4-11 4-6 13, Hill 1-4 0-2 2, Rogers 1-4 0-0 3, Gordon 0-0 0-0 0, Selig 1-3 2-3 4, Walker 0-4 0-0 0, Rayford 0-1 0-0 0, Steen 0-1 0-0 0, Adams 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-41 8-13 36.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-14 (Williams 1-4, Rogers 1-2, Hill 0-3, Walker 0-3, Rayford 0-1, Adams 0-1), Russellville 1-8 (Heath 1-3, Looper 0-2, Posey 0-2, McCalister 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 20, Russellville 19. Rebounds: Bryant 14-17 31 (Loveless 3-6 9, Williams 1-2 3, Gordon 1-2 3, Ratliff 2-0 2, Selig 1-1 2, Rayford 1-1 2, Adams 1-1 2, Hill 0-1 1, Rogers 0-1 1, Walker 0-1 1, team 4-1 5), Russellville 11-19 30 (Wilbers 3-4 7, Rhode 3-2 5, McCalister 1-3 4, Looper 1-2 3, Heath 0-3 3, Posey 0-1 1, Myers 1-0 1, Byrd 1-0 1, Russell 0-1, Ealy 0-1 1, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Russellville 13.