Lady Hornets’ defense keys conference-opening win over Mount St. Mary Academy
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By Rob Patrick
You’ve heard of a patient offense. You know, one of those that works the ball and works the ball until there’s a breakdown in the defense that creates an opening for a high percentage shot. It takes some discipline and, yes, patience to make it effective.
But there’s also patient defense. It’s one that, when confronted with a disciplined, patient opponent keeps up the effort it takes to never let one of those breakdowns occur and, instead of giving up an easy basket, staying solid until the offense makes a mistake, like forcing a pass or dribbling into a corner or into a crowd, taking an ill-advised shot.
There were extended stretches during the 7A-Central Conference opener between the patient offense of the Mount St. Mary’s Belles and the patient defense of the Bryant Lady Hornets, in which that discipline and focus and patience was tested by both teams. But, in the end, the Lady Hornets won that battle more often than not and, along with stretches in which they forced the action with full-court pressure, wound up with a 47-30 victory.[more]
They forced 19 turnovers while limiting the Belles’ starters to just 11 points on 3 of 31 shooting from the field.
An 11-0 run in which Bryant held MSM without a point for 10 minutes of the first half produced a double-digit lead and the Belles could never get the margin back under 10 the rest of the game.
Bryant, bouncing back well after their first loss of the season at Sheridan the previous Tuesday, improved to 13-1 on the season and will try to build on its 1-0 league mark at Van Buren on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Mount St. Mary’s, which continues to play gamely after losing junior starter Mary Drake, who remains hospitalized after being involved in a severe auto accident in late November, hosts Cabot on Tuesday.
“I felt like our defensive intensity was really good start to finish,” said Bryant head coach Blake Condley. “I think we had a couple of spots, maybe a minute or two, when our intensity fell off a little bit but just talking to the girls and getting them to re-focus, it went right back up. And I feel like that was the difference for us.
“We didn’t play bad on offense, we just didn’t play great but the girls played defense with a lot of heart and a lot of intensity. I told them after the game, ‘If that can be consistent, if that can be a constant every game then we’ll be okay going through this conference season.”
Though it seems like the Lady Hornets could be purposefully trying to take turns handling the scoring duties from game to game, they really just do a great job of finding the girl who’s hot or who has a match-up advantage or just seems to be able to get open. On Friday, that was junior post Abbi Stearns who finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals. Alana Morris added 10 points, nine boards, six assists, four steals and a blocked shot. Haley Montgomery added 9 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Stearns just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, particularly early. She broke the ice with a layup off a nice inbounds pass from Morris. She blocked a shot then took a no-look pass from Morris and was fouled. Her free throws made it quickly 4-0.
“She’ll put herself in spots so that when the other girls start to drive, start to make a move, they can get her the ball,” Condley said of Stearns. “And the girls are just so unselfish — whoever’s open — and she was in that spot, they’re going to give it to her. Then, she finishes really well around the basket. She catches down low, even with somebody in her face, she’s usually going to score. Even if they foul her, she’s got a good chance of getting an ‘and-one’ because she’s so strong.”
Emily Sprick scored first for Mount St. Mary’s and, after Kaileigh Taylor added a free throw, the Belles were within 4-3. But that’s when their long dryspell began. They didn’t score again until Catie McAlister, who came off the bench to lead the team with 14 points and seven rebounds, scored inside with 3:55 left in the half.
In the meantime, the Lady Hornets had pushed out to a 15-3 lead.
Montgomery drained a 3 to start the run. Moments later, Shanika Johnson fed Stearns for a layup to make it 9-3.
Stearns blocked a shot but the Lady Hornets were unable to cash in immediately. Morris and Brooke Parish, however, combined to force a turnover. Morris, using a jaw-dropping crossover dribble to get to the rack, earned a trip to the free-throw line where she converted once with 1:21 left in the period.
After a Belles’ miss, Morris drove and kicked a pass out to Hannah Goshien who trumped the quarter with a 3, making it 13-3.
Early in the second quarter, Stearns made a steal and worked a give-and-go with Johnson for the bucket that completed the run.
The Belles stayed within 10 with a pair of baskets by McAlister around a layup by Goshien. They had two chances to get closer but Stearns blocked a shot by Amanda Westbrook and, after a trade of turnovers, Montgomery drove into the paint and tossed up a soft shot to make it 19-7.
Morris made a steal and a free throw to get the Lady Hornets to 20 before McAlister got free inside with :20 left to make it 20-9 at the break.
Bryant’s Kenzee Calley hit a baseline jumper to start the second half. Westbrook answered with a layup off a steal but Montgomery fed Morris for an easy deuce. McAlister scored inside to get the Belles with 24-13 only to have the Lady Hornets reel off 8 quick points to expand the margin to 19.
Stearns contributed two free throws then a bucket off another dish from Morris. Parish fed Johnson for a basket underneath then Stearns hit the offensive glass to complete the blitz.
Bryant led 36-19 going into the fourth quarter and a basket by McAlister then two free throws had the Belles back within 15. They had a chance to get closer after a Bryant turnover but Montgomery made a steal and layup to put the Lady Hornets back on track.
Hollyn Hum converted two free throws for Mount but a basket by Morris, via an assist from Montgomery, provided and answer. Montgomery, after collecting an offensive rebound, drove for a basket with 3:47 left that had the Lady Hornets back up by 19.
The teams traded points the rest of the game with Stearns completing her big night with a three-point play off an offensive rebound with two minutes left to play.
LADY HORNETS 47, BELLES 30
Score by quarter
Mount St. Mary’s 3 6 10 11 — 30
BRYANT 13 7 16 11 — 47
BELLES (7-7, 0-1)
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Taylor 0-7 3-4 1-0 1 2 3
Hum 0-3 2-2 1-1 2 2 2
Sprick 1-7 0-0 1-4 5 2 2
Khairi 1-4 0-0 0-2 2 1 2
Wesbrook 1-0 0-0 1-3 4 3 2
McAlister 7-11 0-2 3-4 7 4 14
Stafford 1-1 0-0 1-1 2 0 3
Hugen 1-2 0-0 1-2 3 1 2
Team 2-1 3
Totals 12-45 5-8 11-18 29 15 30
LADY HORNETS (13-1, 1-0)
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Montgomery 4-7 0-0 1-4 5 3 9
Goshien 2-6 0-0 0-0 0 3 5
Calley 1-6 0-2 3-2 5 2 2
Stearns 6-9 6-9 3-6 9 2 18
Morris 3-5 4-7 2-7 9 2 10
Parish 0-4 0-0 2-1 3 0 0
Johnson 1-5 1-2 0-1 1 1 3
Team 0-3 3
Totals 17-42 11-20 11-24 35 13 47
Three-point field goals: Mount St. Mary’s 1-10 (Stafford 1-1, Taylor 0-5, Khairi 0-2, Hum 0-1, Westbrook 0-1.), Bryant 2-9 (Goshien 1-5, Montgomery 1-1, Johnson 0-3). Turnovers: Mount St. Mary’s 19, Bryant 15.