Lady Hornets’ season ended by hot-shooting Lady Mounties

By Rob Patrick

ROGERS — The Bryant Lady Hornets ran into a[more] steamroller Thursday afternoon.

The Rogers Lady Mountaineers scorched the nets at a 63 percent clip for the game including 8 of 13 3-pointers on the way to their sixth consecutive win, a 65-45 final that ended the Lady Hornets’ season in the first round of the Class 7A State Tournament at Heritage High School.

All five Rogers starters hit 3’s led by Lydia Wilkerson’s trio of them. Four of the five scored in double figures for the game led by sophomore post Taylor Strickland’s 22 that included, yes, one of those 3’s.

Bryant’s own sophomore sensation McKenzie Adams matched that with 22 and junior wing London Abernathy added 15 including a trio of treys but no one else scored more than 4 for the Lady Hornets. Sophomores Kiara Moore and Courtney Davidson managed that. No one else scored.

It didn’t help that Bryant’s lone senior Abbi Stearns was recovering from a week-long illness which limited her playing time. But there was little the Lady Hornets could do to counter or slow down the Lady Mounties’ impressive inside-and-out attack.

Bryant head coach Blake Condley knew coming in what Rogers was capable of in that regard. He’d hoped his team could slow down Strickland and close out on the shooters at the arc to keep them from going off. It proved to be difficult to do.

“They did shoot it well,” he acknowledged. “We were talking about it. We felt like Strickland inside is pretty good. We’ve got to make sure we’re giving help in, but who do you help off of. When they’ve got three and four girls that are hitting from everywhere, it just makes it tough.

“There were breakdowns defensively for us,” he allowed. “There were times where we weren’t getting where I wanted us to get quick enough but, at the same time, even when we had hands up, they were still knocking shots down. My hat’s off to Rogers. They played great.”

To start the game, Wilkerson and Abernathy traded 3’s. Abernathy’s bomb may have been from downtown London. Madeline Fusillo answered for Rogers.

The Lady Mounties led 10-6 and had a chance to add to that margin when Abernathy made a steal that led to a basket by Davidson. Strickland hit a free throw then Adams drained a triple to tie it at 11 with 2:35 left in the opening quarter.

But Strickland banked in a jumper and Nicole Scott joined the 3-point brigade and Rogers led 16-11 going into the second period.

Bryant was unable to pull even after that. In fact, after Adams’ 3 tied it, the Lady Hornets were unable to score again for almost six minutes. Rogers took advantage to build the lead to 10.

Adams broke the silence with a drive up the baseline and the teams traded baskets for a while. It was 29-19 after a steal and layup by Adams at the 1:50 mark.

But, along the way, both Moore and starting post Breanna Blundell picked up their third fouls and, again, the Lady Mounties closed strong as Scott drained another triple and, after Abernathy couldn’t get her trey to go, Strickland connected from long range to give her team a 35-19 halftime advantage.

“The first half, the majority of their points were coming from behind the 3-point line,” Condley noted. “Our shots weren’t from the 3-point line and it’s tough to trade 3 for 2 and stay in the game.

“I told the girls at halftime, ‘Hey, surely they can’t keep shooting like this,’ but here they came, they hit the first two or three out of the locker room,” he added.

Wilkerson got the first one and, after Davidson hit a pair of free throws, Sarah Grace Groves hit the offensive glass for a basket. Moore drove for a basket and Adams turned in an old-fashioned three-point play as Bryant seemed to be gaining momentum. But another Rogers 3 stretched the lead to 43-26.

The lead was 18 with 4:30 left in the quarter. Bryant tried to rally, as in the stands the girls teams from fellow Central Conference teams Conway then Cabot tried to help cheer them on amidst the large boisterous gathering of Rogers fans. Adams hit a baseline jumper then drove for a three-point play. Fusillo interrupted the run with a bucket but when Abernathy poured in a 3 with 1:03 left in the period, the Lady Hornets had whittled the lead to 12, 48-36.

Once more, however, Rogers closed the quarter well. Groves took her turn to make a 3 and, after Adams misfired, Strickland got behind the Bryant press for a layup at the buzzer to stretch the lead back to 17, 53-36.

Groves started the fourth quarter with a basket that Abernathy answered. But, with Bryant going into a cold spell again, the Lady Mounties built their largest lead of 25.

The loss and the illness made it a rugged end to Stearns’ career at BHS.

“I hate it for Abbi,” Condley said, “the timing of it. We were hoping to come and make a good showing and end the season well for her but she got sick on Monday and she hasn’t been able to be at school or practice or do anything until today. Her fever finally broke last night so she was trying to get up and around but she told me a couple of times, ‘Coach, my legs and arms just feel like noodles.’ She said, ‘I’ll try to give you what I’ve got,’ but she said there just wasn’t much there. And you could tell. Late in the game, she took a shot from four or five feet and didn’t even draw iron because she just didn’t have the strength. I wanted to let her play some towards the end and just finish out.”

Looking ahead, the coach stated, “It’s evaluation time. It’s, ‘Hey, are we ready, do we want to take that next step? Do we want to make strides to try to be one of the upper-level teams next year in our conference and in the state or are we happy just getting to the State Tournament?’

“I’m glad we’re here, glad we get the experience but we just didn’t understand that we had to turn it up a notch,” he continued. “When you come out of non-conference and into conference, the level of play rises. When you come out of conference into the State tournament, the level of play rises again. And if you’re not ready to meet that challenge, what happened today ends up happening to you.

“Hopefully, we have this and we’ll learn from it and we’ll be able to come back and be ready to make a strong showing next year.”


Score by quarters

BRYANT 11 8 17 9 — 45

Rogers 16 19 18 12 — 65

LADY HORNETS (18-10) 45

Moore 2-8 0-0 4, Adams 9-18 3-4 22, Abernathy 5-10 2-2 15, C.Davidson 1-2 2-4 4, Blundell 0-2 0-0 0, Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Hogancamp 0-2 0-0 0, Stearns 0-1 0-0 0, Meyer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-45 7-10 45.


Fusillo 4-9 2-2 12, Scott 2-4 0-0 6, Groves 6-10 0-1 13, Wilkerson 4-4 0-0 11, Strickland 9-13 1-2 22, Gregory 1-1 0-0 2, Hawley 0-0 0-0 0, Walsh 0-0 0-0 0, McCullough 0-0 0-0 0, H.Davidson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-41 5-7 65.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-12 (Abernathy 3-7, Adams 1-1, Moore 0-2, Hogancamp 0-1, Blundell 0-1), Rogers 8-13 (Wilkerson 3-3, Scott 2-3, Fusillo 1-4, Strickland 1-2, Groves 1-1). Rebounds: Bryant 20 (Blundell 5, Abernathy 3), Rogers 26 (Groves 11). Turnovers: Bryant 6, Rogers 8. 

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