For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
Coming into Thursday night’s Central Arkansas Junior High Conference showdown, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team and the Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves were among three teams tied for third place with 7-3 records. While the third of those teams, Conway White, was dismissing Mount St. Mary Academy of Little Rock, the Lady Hornets and Lady Wolves were battling for the third time this season.
And for the third time, Bryant forged a victory 34-24 to stay even with Conway White and knocking Lake Hamilton back a notch in the league standings. All three teams are chasing league-leading Conway Blue and second place North Little Rock.
And, as it happens, those are the next two opponents for the Lady Hornets, starting with a trip to North Little Rock on Monday.
“This one was a big one tonight,” noted Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “North Little Rock on Monday and then Conway Blue. We’re going to prepare the next couple of days and, hopefully, be ready for them.”
It was the second win for Bryant over Lake Hamilton by 10 points in league games. They also played in a holiday tournament at Lake Hamilton and the Lady Hornets prevailed by 9.
“They’re a good team,” said Castaldi. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. We came out and had a lot of energy and shot the ball well in the first half.
“We got lost sometimes on defense but, when we get matched up and guard, we’re tough to score on. The breakdowns we had gave them some easy buckets but once we got those corrected, talked them out, we played good defense.”
And it wasn’t so much the full-court pressure defense that has served the Lady Hornets so well this season, either.
“We’re a little bit thinner now with our injuries,” Castaldi acknowledged, referring to sidelined players McKenzie Muse, Mekeycia Baker and Maddie Thompson. “So we kind of backed them off a little bit. But, even in the halfcourt, we were aggressive and we were getting after them.”
Celena Martin led the effort on offense with 11 points. Usually a slasher, attacking the basket, Martin set up and drilled a pair of rare 3’s in the first half to help open things up inside where Ivory Russ was doing some work. Russ, who got into some foul trouble later, scored all 7 of her points in the first half as Bryant forged a 22-13 lead at the break.
Russ also had 10 rebounds including eight on the offensive end as the Lady Hornets out-boarded the Lady Wolves 30-24.
Lake Hamilton’s lone lead was 3-2 after Russ’ opening basket was countered by a three-point play from Hayleigh Wyrick, who was on her way to a game hit 16 points.
Russ answered with her own three-point play and the Lady Hornets were ahead to stay. A driving layup by Tyianna Robinson made it 7-3 and, after a basket inside for the Lady Wolves’ Aryn Hughes, Martin canned her first trey to make it 10-5 going into the second quarter.
Lexi Taylor popped a 3 to start the second quarter for Bryant but Wyrick dropped back-to-back treys to pull the Lady Wolves within 13-11.
Castaldi called a timeout and Martin made a steal that led to a drive to the rack by Russ. Lake Hamilton’s Aspen Thornton missed on a 3-point try but Martin drained her second triple to push the lead to 18-11.
Hughes and Tracey Bershers hit free throws then so did Robinson before Tierra Trotter finished the scoring in the first half with a 3.
Wyrick helped trim the margin to 23-18 early in the second half. Martin came through with a clutch bucket inside then followed up with a 15-footer. Bershers and Jada Deaton traded baskets after that to make it 29-20 going into the final stanza.
The Lady Wolves were unable to scored over the final 1:57 of the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth as the Lady Hornets expanded their lead. Bryant too had trouble scoring but Taylor’s second 3 and two free throws by Trotter extended the advantage of 34-20 going into the late stages of the quarter.
Lake Hamilton finally broke through with two minutes left on a drive by Thornton. In the final minute, Wyrick hit a layup to set the final score.
LADY HORNETS 34, LADY WOLVES 24
Score by quarters
Lake Hamilton 5 8 7 4 — 24
BRYANT 10 12 7 5 — 34
LADY WOLVES 24
Higginbotham 0-4 0-0 0, Thornton 1-6 0-0 2, Harrison 0-1 0-0 0, Hughes 1-1 1-2 3, Wyrick 6-10 1-1 16, Bershers 1-4 1-2 3, Mullinix 0-1 0-0 0, Humphries 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-27 3-5 24.
LADY HORNETS 34
Trotter 1-5 2-2 5, Martin 4-13 1-2 11, Russ 3-12 1-1 7, Oholendt 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 1-5 1-2 3, Taylor 2-7 0-0 6, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Scifres 0-0 0-0 0, Deaton 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 12-46 5-7 34.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-13 (Taylor 2-5, Martin 2-3, Trotter 1-4, Deaton 0-1), Lake Hamilton 3-7 (Wyrick 3-5, Thornton 0-1, Harrison 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 4, Lake Hamilton 11. Rebounds: Bryant 16-14 30 (Russ 8-2 10, Deaton 3-1 4, Martin 0-3 3, Robinson 2-1 3, Oholendt 1-1 2, Trotter 0-2 2, Taylor 0-2 2, Allen 0-1 1, team 2-1 3), Lake Hamilton 5-19 24 (Bershers 3-2 5, Higginbotham 0-5 5, Hughes 0-4 4, Harrison 0-3 3, Thornton 0-2 2, Wyrick 0-1 1, Mullinix 1-0 1, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 9, Lake Hamilton 5.