By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
After scoring the game’s first 10 points, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team found[more] themselves clinging to a 16-14 lead going into the fourth quarter against the Mount St. Mary Mounties Monday night.
The 16 points was the same total they’d had at halftime.
They may not have played at the top of their game from start to finish but the Lady Hornets wound up playing at the top of their game at the start and at the finish. Outscoring the Mounties, 8-1, in the fourth quarter, the Lady Hornets closed out a 24-15 win in their home finale.
Bryant closes out the regular season at Conway Blue this Thursday. The Central Arkansas Junior High Conference post-season tournament commences next week. The Lady Hornets will open play in the tournament, held at Cabot, on Wednesday, Feb. 13, probably in the 8:30 p.m. game as a 4 or 5 seed.
On her way to a game-high 12 points, Skylar Davis fueled Bryant’s early surge. She hit a 3 and, off a steal by Britney Sahlmann, hit a layup and was fouled to set up a three-point play. Davis followed up with a steal and a layup to make it 8-0. And when Anna Lowery came up with a steal and Sahlmann cashed it in with a baseline jumper, it was 10-0.
“We started fast. Usually we don’t do that and we have to play from behind,” noted Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “But this one was kind of the opposite.”
Both teams played ball-hawking defense, forcing 39 turnovers between them, many on steals. A theft by Mount’s Jessica Flis led to her team’s first basket, a layup by Amanda Strack to make it 10-2 going into the second quarter.
Flis made another steal and drove for a layup to start the new period but Anne Marie Kieth made a nice feed to Rachel Miller inside for an answering basket for the Lady Hornets and, after a flurry of turnovers, Kailey Nagle made a steal for Bryant and, moments later, drained a high-arching 15-footer to make it 14-4.
A steal and layup by Strack was answered by two free throws from Davis and the Lady Hornets had a chance to increase the lead to 12 or 13 only to have Anna Clare Burnett come up with a theft and a layup. And when the Lady Hornets turned it over again, Emily Engnath cashed it in to make it 16-10 at the half.
Defense prevailed in the third quarter as the Mounties held the Lady Hornets scoreless but they were only able to score 4 points on baskets by Burnett and Engnath. And Bryant still had the lead, though by only 2 points, going into the final six minutes.
“I think when it was 16-14, the girls all of a sudden realized, ‘We better start playing like we’re capable,’ Castaldi related. “Except for that start, we hadn’t done that. I think they realized, ‘We better finish this game like we started it.’”
The teams exchanged turnovers but then Bryant’s Annie Patton found Sahlmann in the post resulting in a basket as the lead increased to 4.
Another series of turnovers occurred before Flis missed a pair of free throws and Nagle responded by knocking down a 12-footer to bump it back to 20-14 with 3:40 left to play.
McKenzie Bridges misfired but the Mounties got another chance when Engnath came up with the rebound. Bryant forced a turnover before they could muster another attempt and, with 2:58 left, Nagle fed Sahlmann inside where she was fouled.
Mount called a timeout but Sahlmann calmly drained both free throws and the lead was 8.
The Mounties' lone point of the quarter came with 2:06 to go. Strack had made a steal and was fouled. She converted the front end. The frustration of missing the second was multiplied when Bridges managed to gather the rebound only to miss a follow. Engnath grabbed the carom but she couldn’t get a follow to fall either.
Moments later, Bridges made a steal and was fouled. She missed the front end and Sahlmann, who finished with 6 points and 11 rebounds, collected the board.
In the final minute, Davis added a pair of free throws.
“We talked about how intense they play and how aggressive defensively,” Castaldi said. “We had to match that and, for about three quarters, we didn’t. We played real passively offensively and kind of let them dictate what we were doing. The last three or four minutes, we retook that from them.”
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 11-12 on the season, 4-3 in league play.
LADY HORNETS 24, MOUNTIES 15
Score by quarters
Mount St. Mary 2 8 4 1 — 15
BRYANT 10 6 0 8 — 24
MOUNT ST. MARY 15
Norris 0-0 0-0 0, Strack 2-7 0-1 4, Kita 0-2 0-0 0, Engnath 2-6 0-0 4, Bridges 0-5 1-4 1, Flis 1-4 0-2 2, Ryles 0-0 0-0 0, Burnett 2-4 0-0 4, Eberle 0-1 0-0 0, Crow 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 7-30 1-7 15.
Davis 3-4 5-5 12, Lowery 0-2 0-1 0, Nagle 2-3 0-0 4, Sahlmann 2-3 2-2 6, Turpin 0-2 0-0 0, Patton 0-1 0-0 0, Moser 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 1-1 0-0 2, Keith 0-0 0-0 0, Reeves 0-0 0-0 0, Bullington 0-1 0-0 0, Gentry 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 0-0 0-0 0, McKnight 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 8-20 7-8 24.
Three-point field goals: Mount St. Mary 0-2 (Kita 0-1, Bridges 0-1), Bryant 1-5 (Davis 1-5). Rebounds: Mount St. Mary 13 (Bridges 4), Bryant 23 (Sahlmann 11, Lowery 3). Turnovers: Mount St. Mary 16, Bryant 23. Team fouls: Mount St. Mary 12, Bryant 10.