With an impressive group of 14 sophomores, the Bryant Lady Hornets appear to have the deepest trove of talent on one team in all the years that Brad Matthews has been head coach. And they showed flashes of that ability in a pre-season jamboree on Saturday at the Hornets’ Nest, playing a half against Maumelle and another against Arkadelphia. As might be expected over the season as a whole, the Lady Hornets played better and better as the day went along.
They wound up edging Maumelle 26-22 then topped Arkadelphia 32-22.
Seventeen players saw action for the Lady Hornets who will be play a split-squad scrimmage along with the rest of the teams in the Bryant program at Tuesday’s Tip-off Classic then open the 2017-18 season for real on Thursday, Nov. 9 at White Hall.
“We feel comfortable going 9, 10, 11 deep at this point,” Matthews said. “As the season goes on, hopefully, it stays like that. We’ll have some opportunities to play some kids and that allows us to play a pace that, hopefully, we get comfortable with while other people get uncomfortable with it.
“We do have a lot of young kids and even the kids we have back are, at some level, inexperienced,” he noted.
“It’s really good to get out here and play other people — with people in the stands, referees here,” the coach added. “It presents different issues. Kids feel different in this environment so it’s good to get out here and see how we play, see how we execute, see how we carry over the things we do in practice to the game.
“There were some really good things today and then, obviously, there were some breakdowns that we’ll watch on tape and go back and fix. It’s a good start. I thought our kids competed really hard, which is a good sign; a lot of things to build on.”
The Lady Hornets rebounded well, led by 6-2 sophomore McKenzie Muse with seven and 6-1 junior Robyn Gordon with six. They forced 14 turnovers in the first half then 13 in the second half. Though they gave it back with 13 first-half turnovers of their own, they cut it to seven in the second scrimmage.
Sophomore point guard Tierra Trotter led the scoring with 13 point points including a trio of 3-pointers. Sophomore Ty Robinson scored 10 and Muse had 9. Gordan scored 6 and junior Kalia Walker had 5 including a 3. Ivory Russ, India Atkins, Lexie Taylor, Sierra Trotter and MeKeycia Baker — all sophomores — also added to the scoring.
Against Maumelle, the Lady Hornets led most of the first quarter but a pair of free throws in the final seconds had Bryant down by a point.
Trailing 15-13 early in the second stanza, Bryant tied it as Tierra Trotter scored off a steal and was fouled. Though she missed the free throw, Muse rebounded and got the ball to Gordan for a layup that had them back on top 17-15.
Though Maumelle (also the Lady Hornets) tied it, a free throw by Robinson and a 3 from Tierra Trotter pushed Bryant ahead to stay. A driving jumper by Taylor and another triple from Trotter extended the lead to 26-17 going into the final two minutes.
After taking off a while as Maumelle and Arkadelphia scrimmaged, the Lady Hornets came back to start the half against the Lady Badgers with a 7-0 start. Atkins hit a 12-footer then combined with Robinson on a steal that led to a post-up move by Muse. Arkadelphia missed a 3-point try and, at the other end, Gordon yanked down an offensive board and scored as she was fouled.
Though she missed the free throw, Atkins rebounded. Robinson misfired but there was Gordon again for the carom. She was fouled and, this time, converted one free toss to make it 7-0, forcing an Arkadelphia timeout.
Arkadelphia cut it to 7-5 but Walker drilled a 3 and the Lady Hornets stayed ahead all the way.
Up 10-8, Bryant got a driving basket by Muse then back-to-back hoops from Russ and a quarter-ending 3 off a bank shot by Tierra Trotter to make it 19-10.
In the second quarter, the Lady Badgers were within 22-18 when Matthews called a timeout with just under four minutes to play.
When the teams returned to the floor, Robinson drilled a 3 then followed up with a 10-foot jumper and it was never that close again.
“The second game was a little bit cleaner,” Matthews assessed. “We’ll go back Monday trying to build good practice habits and carry those practice habits over to the floor.”