For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
If only the Bryant Lady Hornets had started the way that they finished.
But it wasn’t until things looked most desperate for Bryant that the Lady Hornets revved it up into a frantic comeback. Led by junior point guard Tierra Trotter, the Lady Hornets whittled a 17-point deficit midway through the third quarter down to 2 points in the final minute. And they gave themselves a chance to pull even in the end. Three times in the last 20 seconds, they had a shot at tying the game. But a contested layup came off the rim, two free throws refused to fall and, with :02.2 to go, a bad inbounds pass left them behind in excruciating fashion, 47-45.
It was the first 6A-Central Conference win for Central, who had previously played against two top teams. The Lady Tigers improved to 6-8 while the Lady Hornets fell to 10-4 overall and 1-2 in conference.
Missed free throws hurt. Bryant finished 16 of 28 at the stripe including 10 of 18 in the fourth quarter as they made their push. It helped that Central converted just 17 of 31 with some big misses late that gave the Lady Hornets opportunities to draw closer and closer.
Central closed out the first half with an 11-2 run that turned a wobbly 12-10 lead into a 23-12 halftime advantage. Then the Lady Tigers opened the second half with an 8-2 surge to create that 17-point difference.
The Lady Hornets turned the ball over and head coach Brad Matthews called a timeout. When play resumed, Bryant deployed in a trapping half-court defense that started to turn the Lady Tigers over.
Allison Steen made a steal that Trotter turned into a layup. Kalia Walker came up with a loose ball and India Atkins cashed in by banking in a jumper.
With his team’s lead still in double digits at 31-18, Central coach Michael B. Green called timeout. When play resumed the teams traded turnovers before Trotter scored and was fouled. The three-point play followed by another turnover and layup by Trotter had the Lady Hornets within 31-23.
But Central’s Lillian Jackson hit a jumper in the lane to make it a 10-point game going into the fourth quarter.
Lauryn Pendleton, who led Central with 19 points, hit a 12-foot jumper to start the final quarter. Atkins canned a 3 and the whittling commenced. Trotter converted a pair at the line and, after a Pendleton miss, Trotter’s shot was denied on a drive to the hoop.
But Atkins made a steal and a layup, and the lead was down to 7.
It was back to 39-30 when Steen scored on a drive. Trotter and Atkins combined to turn the Lady Tigers over and Atkins went to the free-throw line. Though she missed both shots, McKenzie Muse came up with the rebound off a tap-out by Steen. Walker drained a 3 and the lead was down to 4 with 3:41 left to play.
It was 41-38 as the two-minute mark approached. Pendleton hit two free throws then Trotter, who led all scorers with 24 points, converted a free throw. It was a mad scramble for a while after that until, with :55.5 left, Trotter was fouled again. This time, she hit both shots and the Lady Hornets trailed by just 2.
After a Central timeout to avoid a 10-second back-court violation, Pendleton added two free throws with :34 left. In turn, Trotter drove for a layup to make it 45-43.
Pendleton and Trotter traded free throws, and, after a Bryant timeout, freshman Kelsey Johnson was fouled before the Lady Tigers could inbound the ball. Johnson missed both shots.
With a chance to tie or take the lead, the Lady Hornets got a good drive from Trotter only to have her miss.
At the other end, Central kept the door open when Ariyanna Hall missed both free throws with :06 left. On the rebound, Muse was fouled. In the double bonus, Muse would get two shots and, if she could’ve made them both, it would’ve tied the game. But both shots just refused to go in.
The Lady Hornets fouled again with :04.6 to go and, once again, they sent Johnson to the line. And, again, she missed both shots.
Bryant pushed the ball up and, with :02.2 left, Matthews called timeout to set up a play. But the inbounds pass was off target and the Lady Hornets were denied a chance at a last shot.
Atkins finished with 9 points, Walker had 5, Steen 3 with Martin and Robyn Gordon adding 2 each.
It was a seesaw battle early. Bryant had an 8-6 lead on a three-point play by Trotter, who scored all 8 of the Lady Hornets’ points in the first stanza. But Central managed a 10-8 lead going into the second period.
When they were down 12-10, the Lady Hornets had a chance to tie it, but Gordon missed the front end of the one-and-one, moments after she had blocked a shot by the Lady Tigers’ Jahkaiya Woods at the other end.
Central’s closing run was only interrupted by a bucket inside by Martin.
The opening blitz in the third quarter was all Central except for a pair of free throws by Gordon. The Lady Tigers scored the next 6 points to push it to 31-14.
Bryant will try to get its second conference win next Tuesday at Fort Smith Southside.
LADY TIGERS 47, LADY HORNETS 45
Score by quarters
LR Central 10 13 10 14 — 47
BRYANT 8 4 11 20 — 45
LADY TIGERS (6-8, 1-2) 47
Lewis 3-6 0-2 6, Hall 3-8 3-6 9, Jackson 2-5 0-0 4, Pendleton 4-9 11-12 19, Woods 1-2 1-2 3, Linwood 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 1-2 2-9 4. Totals15-35 (43%) 17-31 (55%) 47.
LADY HORNETS (10-4, 1-2) 45
Trotter 6-12 11-12 24, Atkins 4-13 0-3 9, Martin 1-3 0-0 2, Gordon 0-1 2-3 2, Muse 0-5 0-2 0, Russ 0-2 0-4 0, Walker 1-7 2-2 5, Steen 1-1 1-2 3. Totals13-44 (30%) 16-28 (57%) 45.
Three-point field goals:Bryant 3-14 (Walker 1-4, Trotter 1-3, Atkins 1-3, Muse 0-3, Martin 0-1), LR Central 0-3 (Hall 0-2, Lewis 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 16, LR Central 19. Rebounds: Bryant 13-21 34 (Muse 4-7 11, Steen 3-3 6, Martin 0-5 5, Russ 2-1 3, Walker 0-3 3, Gordon 1-1 2, Trotter 1-1 2, Atkins 1-0 1, team 1-0 1), LR Central 10-20 30 (Pendleton 3-5 8, Hall 0-5 5, Lewis 0-2 2, Woods 0-2 2, Jackson 0-1 1, Linwood 1-0 1, Johnson 1-0 1, team 5-5 10). Team fouls:Bryant 21, LR Central 18. Fouled out:Bryant, Atkins; LR Central, Lewis.