NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Lady Hornets dug deep. Playing their third game in as many days, they found themselves trailing the Central Arkansas Christian Lady Mustangs 31-20 early in the fourth quarter as they wrapped up the OrthoArkansas/CAC Invitational Tournament on Saturday.
They’d hung around against the host Lady Mustangs much of the game but it looked like it might get away as CAC began to spread the floor. But, sparked by a 3-pointer from senior Annie Patton and an opportunistic half-court trap defense, the Lady Hornets found their second wind and methodically cut the margin to 34-32 with 1:27 left in the game.
By forcing a held ball, Bryant got a chance to tie or take the lead too. Senior Emily Ridgell got inside for a shot at the tie only to have 5-10 post Alexa Mashburn get a couple of fingers on the shot to knock it off target.
The Lady Mustangs worked the clock down to :37.8 and head coach Steve Quattlebaum called a timeout. When play resumed, they moved the ball around and avoided being fouled until the :14.6 mark. Jenna Davis went to the line and converted twice to make it a two-possession game.
With time running out, CAC’s star sophomore Christyn Williams stole the ball and drove for a layup to make the final score 38-32.
The setback was the second in the tourney for the Lady Hornets, now 3-2. In both of those losses, they were unable to produce 40 points. On Thursday, they suffered a 41-39 loss to Valley View before they bounced back on Friday with a 75-61 victory over Maumelle.
“The good thing about playing in a tournament early in the year is the same mistakes tend to show themselves on film,” said Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “I thought tonight some of the same mistakes we saw against Valley View, we saw again. We’ve got a young team. It’s early in the year. We have to address those — execution on offense, execution on defense.
“But I thought we played as hard tonight as we’ve played in a while,” he said. “I was proud of our effort. We fought.”
Williams, an all-state player as a freshmen last year, led all scorers with 15 points. She also had nine rebounds. She was coming off a 40-point performance the night before against Valley View. Reportedly, there were scouts from the University of Texas and LSU among others on hand to watch her play.
But Williams was frustrated by the Lady Hornets’ defense, with Ridgell taking her on in the man-to-man, and foul trouble.
“Christyn Williams is extremely talented,” Matthews said. “I thought Emily did a great job. I thought we, as a team, guarded her fairly well and made her work for everything she got. Give CAC credit. Their other players stepped up and made some plays.
“But it’s the third game in three days, fifth game overall,” he concluded. “There are things that we see that we know we have to work on and we know that when we get on the practice court, that is where we get better. We have to get better in practice.”
The Lady Hornets will practice Monday and Tuesday in advance of their first game in a tournament in Morrilton. They’ll play Clarksville at 4 p.m.
Raija Todd, coming off a 31-point performance on Friday, led Bryant with 9 points. Raven Loveless came off the bench to score 7. Destiny Martin had 5, Ridgell and Kendal Rogers 4 each to go with Patton’s 3. The Lady Hornets shot just 31 percent from the field (12 of 39) and went just 6 of 9 from the free throw line.
CAC gradually established an early lead. But it was 4-2 for more than four minutes of the first quarter before Lauren Peoples hit a turnaround jumper to start a spurt at the end of the period that built a 9-2 edge.
The Lady Hornets were just 1 of 9 from the field in the opening quarter but the second quarter, things loosened up a bit. Rogers hit an 8-footer. Mashburn and Martin traded free throws then Kelly Williams fed Loveless for a basket to make it 11-7 with 5:13 left in the half.
Neither team scored again until less than three minutes remained. CAC managed a 15-10 lead at intermission.
Todd and Christyl Williams traded three-point plays to open the third quarter. Williams then pulled down a defensive rebound and took it coast to coast for a basket. But Todd answered with a 3 and it was 20-15.
Moments later, Martin set up to take a charge as Williams slashed to the basket. After a Bryant turnover, Williams misfired then fouled trying to get the ball back. So with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, she went to the bench with four fouls.
Despite her absence, however, the Lady Hornets were unable to make any headway. In fact, CAC extended the lead to 29-19 before Ridgell hit a free throw with less than a second left in the quarter, to make it a 9-point difference.
Free throws by CAC’s point guard Brittney Higgans pushed the lead to 31-20.
After Patton’s 3, the Lady Hornets forced a turnover and Rogers hit a short jumper. Matthews called a timeout and Christyl Williams returned to the Lady Mustangs’ lineup.
When play resumed, Patton made a steal but Ridgell’s 3-point try refused to go. The carom went out of bounds to Bryant but, on the inbounds play, Ridgell got inside for a shot only to have it blocked.
Davis scored for CAC to slow her team’s fade. At the other end, however, Ridgell fed Loveless who came through with a three-point play.
With Bryant within 33-28, Quattlebaum called a timeout. But, with time back in, Martin kept the Lady Hornets’ rally going with a steal. Again, however, Ridgell’s shot inside was rejected by one of the taller CAC defenders.
Bryant forced yet another turnover and, this time, Martin drove for a basket to trim the margin to 33-30 with 2:21 left. Williams hit one of two free throws so when Loveless scored inside with 1:27 to go, the Lady Hornets were within 34-32.
LADY MUSTANGS 38, LADY HORNETS 32
Score by quarters
BRYANT 2 8 10 12 — 32
CAC 9 6 14 9 — 38
LADY HORNETS (3-2) 32
Todd 4-11 0-1 9, Ridgell 0-13 4-6 4, Martin 2-3 1-1 5, Rogers 2-4 0-0 4, Patton 1-2 0-0 3, K.Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Loveless 3-5 1-1 7. Totals 12-39 (31%) 6-9 (67%) 32.
LADY MUSTANGS (4-3) 38
Miller 1-5 0-3 3, C.Williams 6-16 3-5 15, Peoples 1-2 0-0 2, Davis 2-3 2-2 8, Higgans 0-3 6-8 6, Mashburn 1-5 2-2 4, Swede 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 12-35 (34%) 13-20 (65%) 38.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-9 (Todd 1-4, Patton 1-1, Ridgell 0-3, K.Williams 0-1), CAC 1-8 (Miller 1-2, C.Williams 0-4, Higgans 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 20, CAC 19. Rebounds: Bryant 11-14 25 (Ridgell 5-2 7, Martin 1-4 5, Rogers 1-4 5, Loveless 1-4 5, K.Williams 0-1 1, team 2-0 2), CAC 10-19 29 (C.Williams 3-6 9, Mashburn 2-5 7, Miller 2-2 4, Davis 2-2 4, Peoples 1-1 2, Higgans 0-2 2, team 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 19, CAC 14.