LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Lady Hornets took a big step towards advancing to the Class 7A State Tournament Tuesday night with a 46-34 win over the Mount St. Mary Academy Belles at the unique McCauley Center.
The victory gave the Lady Hornets two wins in the Central Conference against Class 7A teams, two games ahead of Mount in the standings among 7A teams with a tiebreaker. Three of the four 7A teams in the Central advance to State.
Overall, the Lady Hornets are 13-9 and 5-4 in all conference games. Another 7A team is up next for Bryant, at home, against a Van Buren team that handed them a 51-37 loss on Jan. 16.
Senior Jakeria Otey finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the victory. Freshman Raija Todd added 14 points and senior Lauren Carroll 7.
“This time of year, it’s about getting wins,” said Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “Anytime you get a win on the road in league play, it’s good. So we’ll take it.”
The Lady Hornets led just 19-13 with 2:14 left in the first half but a driving jumper by Otey sparked an 8-0 run to end the second quarter. They expanded that to a 13-0 stretch with the first 5 points of the third quarter and eventually led by as much as 22 before a 10-0 run at the end of the game by the Belles.
“This place is tough,” Matthews said of the McCauley Center, which was once a chapel, where the brick wall on one side and wood wall on one end are just a three feet or so from the boundary line. “Historically, it’s a very hard place to play. We sure didn’t talk about that before we came over here. But it’s a different gym, a different environment. I thought our kids responded well, got up early. I thought we executed well in spurts.
“You’ve got to give Mount St. Mary’s credit,” he added. “They play so hard and they are so scrappy. If you’re not intense, they take advantage of it.”
Bryant’s game-breaking run was fueled by defense. Otey and Destiny Martin combined to force a turnover that Todd cashed in with a layup to make it 23-13. Todd then made a steal and wound up at the free-throw line where she converted twice. To cap off the quarter, Maddie Baxter made a steal and layup to set the halftime score at 27-13.
To start the third quarter, the Lady Hornets ran three quick plays. To start the half, Otey got free for a driving hoop. After a Mount turnover, Todd canned a 15-footer. Another turnover and a quick play produced a trip to the free-throw line for Baxter who converted once to make it 32-13 just two minutes deep into the third period.
“We’ve not really run a lot of quick-hitters this year, not near as many as in the past,” Matthews commented. “It enabled us to expand our lead from 14 to 19. We executed well. A couple of those we had not run in probably a month. We run them in practice, obviously, but to run them in a game in the flow — give our kids credit. They executed well. I thought we did a good job of attacking most of the night.”
The Belles made a charge with a 7-0 burst but Bryant answered to finish the third period. Otey hit a free throw then drove and pitched the ball outside to Todd for a 3.
After a flurry, the Lady Hornets had the ball with time running out. Carroll rebounded a miss by one of her teammates and, with her back to the basket, felt contact from behind and flipped the ball over her head toward the basket from midway up the lane on the left side. Though the shot got close, it didn’t fall. However, a foul was called and, with :00.5 showing on the clock, she went to the line and sank two free throws to expand the lead to 38-20.
The Belles’ Monica Alvarez scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter but Mount then went nearly five minutes before managing another field goal. Only a pair of free throws interrupted Bryant’s final salvo, an 8-2 run that included baskets by Otey, Carroll and Rachel Miller and a pair of free throws by Otey.
“We’ve got a big one Friday against Van Buren coming to our place,” Matthews noted. “This is a big week for us. We’ve got two 7A games. We can check one of them off and go to work tomorrow getting ready for Van Buren.”
LADY HORNETS 46, BELLES 34
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 16 11 8 — 46
Mount St. Mary 6 7 7 14 — 34
LADY HORNETS (13-9, 5-4, 2-2) 46
Otey 7-18, 5-9 19, Carroll 2-4 3-5 7, Baxter 1-4 1-2 3, Todd 5-13 2-4 14, Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Ridgell 0-3 0-0 0, McDowell 0-0 0-2 0, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Ke.Rogers 0-1 1-2 1, Hill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 (37%) 12-24 (50%) 46.
BELLES (4-18, 0-9, 0-4) 34
Ka.Rogers 3-6 0-1 7, Weyrens 1-4 0-0 2, Rhinehart 1-4 1-2 3, Kauffman 1-7 0-0 2, Allgood 1-7 7-11 9, Grayson-Norris 0-2 0-0 0, Alvarez 2-4 0-2 4, Wewers 3-4 0-0 7, Walls 0-0 0-0 0, Engnath 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-39 (31%) 8-16 (50%) 34.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-10 (Todd 2-7, Otey 0-1, Baxter 0-1, Ridgell 0-1), Mount St. Mary 2-7 (Wewers 1-2, Ka.Rogers 1-1, Kauffman 0-3, Grayson-Norris 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Mount St. Mary 19. Rebounds: Bryant 14-20 34 (Otey 2-8 10, Carroll 3-3 6, Baxter 4-0 4, Miller 2-2 4, Ridgell 1-2 3, Todd 1-1 2, McDowell 0-1 1, Martin 0-1 1, team 1-2 3), Mount St. Mary 10-20 30 (Allgood 3-4 7, Kauffman 3-2 5, Alvarez 2-2 4, Rhinehart 1-3 4, Weyrens 0-3 3, Grayson-Norris 0-2 2, Ka.Rogers 0-1, Wewers 0-1 1, Walls 0-1 1, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Mount St. Mary 21. Fouled out: Bryant, Ridgell; Mount St. Mary, Ka.Rogers.