MORRILTON — After trailing early in the championship game of the 11thannual Petit Jean Classic at Devil Dog Arena at Morrilton High School on Saturday afternoon, the Bryant Lady Hornets put together a charge that had them ahead of the Russellville Lady Cyclones, 47-33, late in the third quarter.
The Lady Cyclones made a run back at them and, with 6:36 left in the game, that 14-point margin had been whittled to 4, 47-43. It had been almost three game minutes since the Lady Hornets had scored.
And Russellville had a chance to get closer only to have Bryant’s Tierra Trotter make a steal.
Bryant head coach Brad Matthews called a timeout and, whatever he said worked as the Lady Hornets surged again on the way to a 63-58 victory and the tournament championship.
“Sometimes, we get in a hurry,” Matthews said when asked about the timeout. “And sometimes we try to force things when it’s not there. When we’re playing best is when we’re sharing the ball. One thing we talk about often and try to emphasize is team and teammates first. When we do that, we play much, much better.”
In the end, with the Lady Hornets protecting a 58-53 lead in the final minute, senior Kalia Walker knocked down four free throws and India Atkins added another to protect the advantage as the Lady Hornets improved to 6-1 on the season going into the annual Saline County Showdown against the rival Lady Panthers in Benton on Tuesday, which will wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule.
“This is early December,” Matthews said. “To be put in a situation on Wednesday where we have to come back from 10 or 15 down (against Morrilton), that’s awesome. That will serve us well down the line. Today, we had a big lead. They cut into it. We had to respond. That will serve us well down the road again.
“Morrilton had great guards,” he noted. “Today, (Russellville’s) post players were really good. So, a lot of these things are just building, building. Hopefully, we’re learning the lessons that we need to have so, come January, February those things will pay off.”
January is when play in the 6A-Central Conference gets underway.
The Lady Hornets were led by Walker’s 18 points off the bench including and 8 for 8 day from the free throw line. India Atkins added 13 and Allison Steen, also off the bench, picked up 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Trotter had 8 and McKenzie Muse 6.
Russellville was led by their 6-foot post Anna Myers with 17 points and 5-10 forward Makayala Ealy with 10 points. Ealy also gathered nine boards.
Often during their best minutes, Matthews would call a play and the Lady Hornets would run it to perfection and get a great shot.
“We’re getting there,” the coach acknowledged. “I thought we executed better today than we certainly did against Morrilton. Russellville’s a really good team. They’ve got a lot of quality wins already. So, to execute against a well-coached — I mean, Sherry White’s going into the Hall of Fame this year — to be able to execute against a well-coached team like that I think says something for our kids. They’re growing up a little bit in terms of execution.”
With long-range bomber Zee McCallister tossing in a pair of 25-foot 3’s, the Lady Cyclones built a 12-4 lead on the Lady Hornets, who were late to the scene because of some of their players taking the ACT test today in Bryant and Little Rock. The game was originally scheduled for 5:30 Saturday evening but, due to the threat of ice and snow, was moved up to 2.
So, the game actually started closer to 2:30 and the Lady Hornets were off to a slow start.
Walker, however, drove for a basket with :07 remaining to make it 12-6 and start a Bryant run.
Ivory Russ scored to start the second quarter then made a steal that led to a 3 by Muse.
With Russellville’s advantage suddenly cut to 12-11, Coach White called a timeout.
But it didn’t slow the Lady Hornets down. A turnover led to a 15-foot jumper by Walker and, another turnover, set up a 10-foot jay by Atkins that had Bryant up 15-12.
Maddy Howerton popped a pair of 3-point howitzers on either side of a basket by Steen as the Lady Cyclones regained the advantage 18-17.
But when Steen, working against a smaller defender, posted up for another basket with 4:58 left in the half, it put Bryant ahead to stay. Atkins made a steal and a layup to extend the margin.
Still, it was 23-22 after a pair of baskets by Ealy on either side a couple of Russ free throws. Walker hit two from the line and Myers countered for Russellville. An offensive-rebound basket by Robyn Gordon made it a 27-24 Bryant lead at the half.
The Lady Hornets started the second half with a 10-2 burst. Trotter had a pair of layups and Atkins added one to make it 33-24. Cara Davis finally scored for Russellville but before the Lady Cyclones could hit again, Steen canned a 12-footer and Atkins made a steal and layup.
That produced the first double-digit lead of the game.
Russellville trimmed it back to 40-33 before Walker hit two free throws and followed up with a 3 off a kick-out feed from Russ. Trotter’s layup with :08 left in the quarter had Bryant ahead 47-33.
But, to end the quarter, McCallister was fouled on a 3-pointer and, with no one on the court, converted all three free throws to fuel Russellville’s rally.
With it 47-43, after Matthews’ timeout, Steen popped a jumper. Russellville’s Sara Velazquez scored then Walker drained a 3. Velazquez hit a baseline jay and it was 52-47 with 4:42 left.
Celena Martin drove for a basket, Steen made a steal and Atkins popped an 8-footer and the lead was back to 9, 56-47.
After a Russellville timeout, the teams started trading points. Hillyn Vardeman scored for Russellville bit Martin fed Steen for a layup. Ealy answered off the offensive boards. The teams traded turnovers and, with 1:25 left to play, Russellville called a timeout with Howerton going to the line down 58-51.
At that point, the Lady Cyclones has only fouled five times in the half, so they needed to foul twice to get Bryant into the bonus. After Howerton connected on both her free throws, the Lady Hornets were able to eat up some time against the Russellville trap.
Finally, the seventh foul came with :44.5 left and it sent Walker to the line where she coolly knocked down both ends of the one-and-one.
With :33 left, Myers hit a jumper and Russellville took another timeout. When play resumed, the Lady Hornets inbounded to Walker and she was fouled immediately. At the other end, she drilled both shots once again to extend the margin to 62-55.
Akins’ free throw came after a Russellville miss with just :13.6 showing. She made the first one and the buzzer-beating 3 by Davis wound up just window dressing.
LADY HORNETS 63, LADY CYCLONES 58
Score by quarters
Russellville 12 12 12 22 — 58
BRYANT 6 21 20 16 — 63
LADY CYCLONES (4-2) 58
McCallister 2-6 3-3 9, Davis 2-6 0-0 5, Howerton 2-4 2-2 8, Myers 6-13 5-6 17, Ealy 5-12 0-0 10, Velazquez 2-2 0-0 4, Vardeman 2-3 1-2 5, B.Walker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals21-46 (46) 11-13 (85%) 58.
LADY HORNETS 63
Trotter 4-9 0-1 8, Atkins 6-10 1-4 13, Martin 1-7 0-0 2, Gordon 1-1 0-0 2, Muse 2-9 0-0 6, Steen 5-8 0-0 10, K.Walker 4-7 8-8 18, Russ 1-3 2-2 4, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0. Totals24-54 (44%) 11-15 (73%) 63.
Three-point field goals:Bryant 4-13 (Muse 2-7, K.Walker 2-4, Trotter 0-1, Atkins 0-1), Russellville 5-14 (McCallister 2-6, Howerton 2-4, Daivs 1-4). Turnovers:Bryant 12, Russellville 15. Rebounds:Bryant 13-20 33 (Steen 2-4 6, Russ 2-2 4, Trotter 0-3 3, Martin 1-2 3, Muse 1-2 3, Atkins 0-2 2, Gordon 1-1 2, K.Walker 1-1 2, team 5-3 8), Russellville 9-22 31 (Ealy 3-6 9, Myers 2-5 7, Howerton 0-2 2, B.Walker 0-2 2, Davis 0-1 1, Velazquez 0-1 1, Vardeman 1-0 1, team 3-2 5). Team fouls:Bryant 9, Russellville 17.