WHITE HALL — The bad news is that the Bryant Lady Hornets’ 6-2 sophomore McKenzie Muse, who figured to make a major contribution, was lost for the season due to an injury suffered in Tuesday’s Tip-Off Classic.
The good news is that the Lady Hornets went out and overwhelmed the White Hall Lady Bulldogs anyway as they opened the 2017-18 season on Thursday night.
Eleven different players contributed to the scoring, led by Ty Robinson’s 19 points and 12 off the bench from Lexie Taylor, in a 72-46 victory. Kalia Walker and Tierra Trotter each added 7 points.
The Lady Hornets, who struggled at the free-throw line in their pre-season scrimmages against Maumelle and Arkadelphia last Saturday, knocked down 14 of 17 from the line against White Hall. They also drilled 8 of 20 3-point tries, led by Taylor who had four.
“We had some really good runs,” noted Lady Hornets’ coach Brad Matthews. “I thought we finished much better than we did Saturday. We still have some things in that area to clean up.
“There were some valleys,” he mentioned. “Defensively, some fundamental things, closing out, blocking out — things that we have worked on that we, obviously, haven’t worked on enough. But it’s the first game. You expect there to be a bunch of things and the film will show us.
“Still, there were a lot of spurts tonight where we played well,” the coach asserted. “We’ve just got to build on those and start to eliminate some of our mistakes, got to start reducing mistakes. But, overall, it’s a very good win.”
The Lady Hornets built a 12-0 lead right off the bat. Celena Martin made a steal and Walker cashed it in with a 3. Gordon blocked a shot at the other end and it led to a trip to the free-throw line for Robinson, who drained both shots. Later, she drained a trey to make it 8-0 and, when the Lady Bulldogs turned it over again, they had to have a timeout.
White Hall finished with 24 turnovers in the game. Bryant had nine in the first half but only six in the second half.
When play resumed, the Lady Bulldogs forced a turnover but then gave it right back as Robinson made a steal and a layup to make it 10-0.
Martin, off an offensive rebound, got fouled on the follow shot. Her free throws completed the 12-0 burst.
White Hall cut into the margin with free throws as the Lady Hornets were plagued by fouls. Still, the Lady Bulldogs didn’t get closer than 15-5. That’s when Taylor entered and poured in back-to-back 3’s to push the margin to 16.
The first field goal for the Lady Bulldogs came in the final seconds of the quarter as Gabby Mealer hit a jumper to make it 21-7 going into the second stanza.
The teams traded points for the first half of the quarter. When MeKeycia Baker hit two free throws with 4:39 left, Bryant led 27-13. That’s when the Lady Bulldogs got hot from the outside. Hailey Hendrix hit a 3 then Camry Garner splashed a pair.
The double-digit lead was whittled to 29-23, forcing a timeout by Matthews with 2:10 left in the half.
Whatever the coach said was the right thing because the Lady Hornets responded by closing out the quarter on a 10-0 run thaet made it 39-23 at the half. Robinson, Walker, India Atkins and Tierra Trotter each had layups during the spurt. Robinson had a steal and Atkins two along the way.
“Defense is about execution,” Matthews said when asked what he told the team at the timeout. “We were trying to play some zone and we weren’t moving. We were standing and not moving while the ball was in the air. Because of that, there were a lot of gaps.
“Give White Hall credit,” he added. “They made some 3’s in that run they had. But we were playing on our heels defensively, waiting for them to do something as opposed to what we practice, which is being aggressive, being active with our hands and our feet.
“We had some turnovers at the same time,” the coach mentioned. “But it’s a really young team. They’re going to have peaks and valleys. We’ve got to extend the peaks and start to reduce the depths of those valleys.
“The kids are working hard and we played really hard, competed hard for a lot of the game,” Matthews concluded. “There’s a lot of good stuff to build on, a good win.”
As the second half unfolded, White Hall was within 41-26 when Gordon followed her own miss and scored to start another surge. Martin drained a 12-foot jumper in the lane. Later, Gordon, playing high-low with Ivory Russ, found her on the block for a layup. Taylor’s 3 pushed the margin to 50-28 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs got it back to 52-37 before Russ hit a pair of free throws, Taylor knocked down a 3 and, at the buzzer, Tierra Trotter banked in a triple to make it 60-37, a lead that would only be topped in the final minutes of the game.
Bryant finished the game by scoring the last 7 points. Martin scored inside then Sierra Trotter drilled a 3 and Jada Deaton converted two free throws to set the final score.
The Lady Hornets figure to face a stern test when they return to action on Thanksgiving day at 3 p.m., when they’ll open the North Little Rock Thanksgiving Classic against Nettleton.
LADY HORNETS 72, LADY BULLDOGS 46
Score by quarters
White Hall 7 16 14 9 — 46
BRYANT 21 18 21 12 — 72
LADY HORNETS 72
Robinson 7-12 4-4 19, Walker 3-5 0-0 7, Atkins 2-6 0-0 4, Martin 1-5 3-4 5, Gordon 2-4 0-0 4, T.Trotter 3-8 0-0 7, Russ 1-3 3-4 5, Baker 1-2 2-3 4, Taylor 4-6 0-0 12, K.Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 0-0 0-0 0, E.Williams 0-1 0-0 0, S.Trotter 1-1 0-0 3, Scifres 0-0 0-0 0, Deaton 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 25-53 14-17 72.
LADY BULLDOGS 46
King 3-11 5-7 13, Jackson 0-5 2-2 2, Garner 3-10 3-4 12, Jefferson 5-6 0-4 10, Burks 0-1 0-0 0, Mealer 1-4 0-0 2, Hendrix 2-3 1-2 7, Moltz 0-1 0-2 0, Barber 0-0 0-0 0, Reddin 0-0 0-0 0, Everett 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-41 11-21 46.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 8-20 (Taylor 4-6, T.Trotter 1-4, Robinson 1-3, Walker 1-2, S.Trotter 1-1, Atkins 0-3, E.Williams 0-1), White Hall 7-11 (Garner 3-5, King 2-4, Hendrix 2-2). Turnovers: Bryant 15, White Hall 24. Rebounds: Bryant 16-12 28 (Martin 4-2 6, Robinson 3-2 5, Atkins 0-3 3, Baker 2-1 3, Gordon 1-1 2, T.Trotter 0-1 1, Russ 0-1 1, Taylor 1-0 1, Adams 0-1 1, Deaton 1-0 1, Team 4-2 6), White Hall 17-14 31 (Jefferson 2-6 8, Garner 3-4 7, Jackson 3-0 3, Burks 1-1 2, Mealer 1-1 2, King 1-0 1, Hendrix 1-0 1, Moltz 1-0 1, Team 4-2 6). Team fouls: Bryant 17, White Hall 12.