By Rob Patrick
VILONIA — After trailing by as many as 7, the Bryant Lady Hornets had rallied to inch ahead[more] of the Vilonia Lady Eagles in the second half of their game on Tuesday night. But the home team was hanging around and, with just over three minutes to play, the Lady Eagles had the ball after a disputed call on an over-and-back violation.
Vilonia worked a play to free up its post player, Ashlyn Hightower, for a 3-point try. She had already hit a trio of them and she nailed a fourth to apparently give the Lady Eagles the lead. But the basket was wiped out by a foul on an illegal screen, which was set to get Hightower open.
Vilonia head coach Alvin Riley was livid, charging that Bryant had been running illegal screens all night without a call. His protest was such that he was assessed a technical foul.
So the Lady Hornets had a golden chance to expand their tenuous 2-point lead. Bryant head coach Brad Matthews sent his best free-throw shooter, senior guard Logan Davis, to the line to shoot the technical but her shots refused to go through.
On the ensuing possession, the Lady Hornets worked the ball, hoping to get something out of the opportunity.
That’s when junior guard Peyton Weaver came through. From the left baseline, Weaver took a kick-out pass from Dezerea Duckworth and drilled a 3-pointer. Bryant went from possibly down 1 to up 5 just like that. Vilonia never got back within 2 again as the Lady Hornets came away with a 43-40 win in their 2012 debut.
Duckworth finished with 21 points and Davis with 15 to lead the effort offensively. Defensively, the team forced Vilonia into a 2-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter including just 1 of 8 from 3-point range after they’d combined for eight triples over the first three periods.
“I thought our kids played well,” said Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “Our kids fought. You’re down seven, you’re on the road, Vilonia’s got great tradition here, Coach Riley does a great job; for our kids to fight back and make plays — it’s not like they gave us anything — I’m proud of our kids. They’ve been working really hard and I’m proud they were able to fight back and we were able to get a win. It’s a good start to a long season.
“We’ll go back, watch film and improve where we messed up,” he added. “I thought all the kids that played contributed.”
Davis wound up the one that tracked the much bigger Hightower down the stretch. Early, the Vilonia senior had posted up inside and Matthews went to a rotation of Whitney Meyer, Kristen Scarlett, Courtney Davidson and Haley Murphy to combat her inside. In the second half, Hightower started stepping out on the perimeter and firing treys, hitting her first three tries. She was one of five different Lady Eagles that hit 3’s along the way.
“It’s a tough match-up defensively when they’ve got five girls that can spread you out,” Matthews noted. “It’s tough for our post kids to get out there and get on it. To tell them to get out there is one thing but they haven’t done it enough. We had some match-up issues but I thought our kids adapted well and did better down the stretch.”
The Lady Eagles took a 9-4 lead early on 3’s by McKenzie Morris, Laci Rios and Audrey Moran. In the final 30 seconds of the opening quarter, however, Duckworth scored as she was fouled. Though she missed the free throw, she got another chance after making a steal. She converted once with :02.1 showing on the clock to cut the lead to 9-7.
It was in the second quarter, however, that the Lady Eagles surged, building an 18-11 advantage. It was 20-13 when Davis drained a 3, Bryant forced a turnover and Murphy went to the line and converted once to make it 20-17 at the half.
And when Duckworth opened the third quarter with a three-point play, the game was tied.
With Hightower catching fire, the Lady Eagles pushed the lead back out to 28-23. Bryant’s counter was sparked by Duckworth’s 3. Davidson made a steal and Duckworth got to the line where she converted once to cut the margin to 1.
A flurry of turnovers by both teams followed before, with 2:49 left in the third quarter, Davis canned a triple and Bryant had its first lead since it was 2-0.
The game was tied at 32 going into the fourth quarter. Two quick baskets by Duckworth gave the Lady Hornets a 36-32 advantage and they did not trail again.
After the scenario that resulted in Weaver’s clutch 3, the Lady Hornets went to a delay game.
“That (basket) was good for Peyton,” Matthews stated. “We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t been in this spot before and I think it speaks well of their character that they were able to make plays down the stretch to win the game because it could’ve easily gone the other way.”
The wrap-up didn’t go as smoothly as the coach said he would’ve liked.
“First game of the year, you could tell the delay game — that’s my fault,” Matthews related. “We didn’t work on the delay game near as much as we should have, and it showed. But our kids fought through it and got the win.”
Actually, it might've been easier at the end if the Lady Hornets hadn't struggled so much at the free-throw line. They converted less that 50 percent (13 of 28).
Bryant returns to action on Thursday at North Little Rock.
LADY HORNETS 43, LADY EAGLES 40
Score by quarters
BRYANT 7 10 15 11 — 43
Vilonia 9 11 12 8 — 40
LADY HORNETS 43
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Davis 6-12 1-4 0-3 3 1 15
Duckworth 6-13 8-15 2-6 8 1 21
Weaver 1-4 0-0 0-3 3 3 3
Scarlett 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 4 0
Meyer 0-1 0-2 2-1 3 0 0
Davidson 0-1 3-4 1-2 3 4 3
Murphy 0-0 1-2 1-0 1 0 1
Nichols 0-0 0-1 0-1 1 1 0
Anderson 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Smith 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Baxter 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Team 2-3 5
Totals 13-32 13-28 8-21 29 16 43
LADY EAGLES 40
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Gray 0-3 2-2 1-4 5 3 2
Loggins 2-4 0-0 1-1 2 2 5
Moran 2-7 0-0 0-1 1 2 5
Hightower 3-7 1-2 0-6 6 4 10
Morris 3-7 2-3 1-6 7 2 10
Rios 2-6 0-0 0-0 0 1 6
Schnebelen 0-2 2-3 0-0 0 4 2
Evans 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Benton 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 1 0
Team 3-3 6
Totals 12-39 7-10 7-21 28 19 40
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-11 (Davis 2-5, Weaver 1-4, Duckworth 1-2), Vilonia 9-28 (Hightower 3-5, Rios 2-6, Morris 2-2, Moran 1-6, Loggins 1-3, Gray 0-2, Evans 0-2, Schnebelen 0-1, Benton 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Vilonia 13. Technical fouls: Vilonia coach Riley.