By Rob Patrick
LITTLE ROCK — It figures that a gymnasium that was once a church might prove to be a tough place for visitors to succeed in. That’s certainly been the case for the Bryant Lady Hornets who have always struggled to win at Mount St. Mary’s Academy.
In fact, no Lady Hornets team had won there since February of 2005 until the 2008-09 squad got it done in their 7A-Central Conference opener on Friday, Jan. 9.
Sparked by a big fourth quarter from junior guard Haley Montgomery, Bryant rolled to a 71-54 victory, their first after going without a league win in 14 games last season, and just the team’s second in its late 20 conference outings.It was a win that, no doubt, seniors Anna Simpson and Taylor Hughes relished after being part of teams as sophomores and juniors that had gone 3-25 in the 7A-Central.
“We don’t have to think about that anymore,” said Lady Hornets head coach Blake Condley. “I didn’t know if it was just me worrying about it or not. But I called some of the girls aside today and talked to them about it. And it was in the back of their minds too. They wanted to go ahead and get this out of the way and get that first win.”[more]
What contributed to it being so imperative was the fact that last year, the team came into conference with a sparkling 10-2 record. Similarly, they came into Friday’s game with a 9-2 mark. A loss, even at the Mount, would’ve made it easy to start thinking about the possibility of it all unfolding again.
A fast start helped. The Lady Hornets raced to a 9-0 lead. The Belles gained their footing and by the end of the opening period had rallied to within 15-10. Bryant maintained the advantage throughout the second quarter and it was 31-23 at the half.
The Belles stayed close in the third quarter and made a run near the end, eventually, taking a 45-44 lead. But a late basket by Alana Morris put Bryant back on top before Montgomery came to life, scoring 11 of her 14 points in the final period.
“I can’t speak enough about our effort and our tenacity coming back,” Condley stated. I was so proud of the way they responded when (Mount St. Mary’s) came back and took the lead in the second half. We just withstood their run and we had one of our own.
“This is a really hard place to win,” he acknowledged. “It’s a great homecourt advantage for them because the gym’s so different. They’ve got bleachers on just one side, the wall is close at one end and there are those big windows on the other side. And it gets so loud. There’s really no other gym like it. I’m just so proud of the girls for going on the road and getting a win.”
Hannah Goshien finished with a game-high 16 points including a pair of 3-pointers. Morris added 15 to go with 10 rebounds, five steals and five assists. Simpson finished with 13 points.
“Everything we do is predicated on our defense,” Condley stated. “I’m comfortable with our half-court offense but it’s those easy shots that we get that come off of our defense, that’s what fuels our runs and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”
The Lady Hornets, who were ranked in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Super Six after the victory, were set to host conference newcomer Van Buren on Tuesday, Jan. 13.