RUSSELLVILLE — Bryant’s three-games-in-three-nights gauntlet, forced by the winter weather of late, began on Thursday with a trip to Russellville where the Lady Hornets hoped to avenge a tough 61-57 loss at home on Jan. 20.
It will continue tonight after a long bus ride to Siloam Springs then conclude with Senior Night at home on Saturday against the talented Conway Lady Wampus Cats, which will conclude the regular season.
The Lady Hornets are already set as the third-seeded team from the Central Conference at the Class 7A State Tournament. They’ll open play on Thursday, March 5, at 1 p.m., after a long trip to Springdale Har-Ber where they’ll most likely play either the host team or Bentonville.
Game one didn’t quite go they way they hoped. Though they were able to out-quick Russellville’s Lady Cyclones forcing them to foul enough to produced 32 free throws for them, the Lady Hornets couldn’t put the stops on the trio of Shameka Ealy, Addy Hicks and Alyssa Owens enough to sneak off with a win.
That trio combined for 49 points in Russellville’s 65-54 win.
A 13-2 run by the Lady Cyclones in the first quarter put the Lady Hornets in a hole that they could never quite climb out of, though, for the longest time, Russellville could not shake them. Bryant cut the lead to 3 late in the first half then again midway through the third quarter. But each time, the Lady Cyclones, celebrating their own Senior Night, responded, thwarting the Lady Hornets.
Senior Jakeria Otey led all scorers with 19 points. Freshman Raija Todd scored 13 and senior Lauren Carroll 11.
“We did not execute very well on defense,” commented Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “We could not get enough defensive stops tonight.”
Russellville shot 48 percent from the floor (29 of 60) but when they pulled away in the fourth quarter, they knocked down 9 of 12 shots (75 percent). They hit 16 of 27 (59 percent) from the field in the second half.
“Our offense, we scored in the low 50’s; that should give you a chance to win most nights,” Matthews noted. “Tonight, it didn’t. We couldn’t get stops when we needed it and we couldn’t get rebounds when we needed them and, consequently, we gave up a lot of points.”
Russellville out-rebounded the Lady Hornets 36-24 with 12 offensive boards. Ealy had 12 rebounds including four on the offensive end to go with her 17 points. She was a tough match-up for Bryant; tall enough she could post up a smaller player and quick enough that she could out-maneuver a taller player.
Owens had nine rebounds, all on the defensive end, to add to her 16 points. Hicks had five rebounds with her 16 points.
“They’ve got a really good big (Ealy) and she can step out,” Matthews noted. “They’ve got three really good players that can score. Tonight, I thought their number 10 (Tori Underhill) came up with some big shots. They’re a good team. They’ve got a chance to make a good run at the 6A State tournament.
“To beat teams like that on the road, you have to play well,” he continued. “Defensively, we did not play near well enough to put ourselves in position to win a game on the road.”
Russellville’s first-quarter run turned a 5-4 deficit into a 17-7 lead. It was interrupted only by a jumper in the lane by Todd, who went to her off hand to bank one in.
Otey beat the buzzer ending the first quarter and the score was 17-9.
The Lady Cyclones pushed the margin to 10 again three minutes into the second quarter. Otey cut into the margin with a free throw than Todd nailed a 12-footer. Hicks misfired and Carroll muscled to the rebound. She took off for the other end and drove for a layup that forced Russellville to take a timeout, with the lead down to 22-17.
When play resumed, Underhill popped a 15-footer but free throws by Carroll and Todd had the margin down to 3. The Lady Hornets missed a chance to cut it further. Ealy scored but Emily Ridgell answered for Bryant and it was 26-23 until Owens drove for a layup to make it a 5-point edge at the half.
Hicks and Bryant’s Maddie Baxter traded baskets to start the third quarter. Baxter’s came on a nice drove to the rack, pulling up short to toss it in after avoiding Ealy.
But Hicks drilled back to back hoops to push the lead back to 9.
Bryant rallied to get within 3 again. Otey and Baxter hit free throws then Otey drove for a basket that had the Lady Hornets within 36-33 with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
And they had a chance to get closer only to have a shot rim out. Ealy’s three-point play at the other end, frustrated the Lady Hornets further.
By the end of the quarter, the Lady Cyclones held a 45-36 advantage.
Ealy opened the fourth quarter with a basket but Otey answered with a four-point play, hitting a 3 as she was fouled then converting the free throw. That had Bryant within 47-40 at the 7:29 mark.
But it was as close as they’d get. Owens sparked a run in which the lead ballooned to as much as 16. Todd sank a 3 and Ridgell knocked down a pair of free throws after making a steal to set the final score.
LADY CYCLONES 65, LADY HORNETS 54
Score by quarters
BRYANT 9 14 13 18 — 54
Russellville 17 11 17 20 — 65
LADY HORNETS (14-11, 6-6) 54
Otey 4-16 10-11 19, Carroll 3-8 5-8 11, Baxter 1-3 2-2 4, Todd 4-9 4-5 13, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Ridgell 1-4 3-6 5, Martin 1-2 0-0 2, Rogers 0-1 0-0 0, McDowell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-44 (32%) 24-32 (75%) 54.
LADY CYCLONES (11-14, 7-5) 65
Owens 6-15 1-2 16, Phillips 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 0-3 0-0 0, Hicks 7-14 2-4 16, Ealy 8-11 1-1 17, Looper 4-6 0-0 8, Wilbers 1-3 0-0 2, Underhill 3-4 0-0 6, Posey 0-1 0-0 0, Prochazka 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-60 (48%) 4-7 (57%) 65.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-12 (Otey 1-7, Todd 1-2, Carroll 0-1, Baxter 0-1, Martin 0-1), Russellville 3-19 (Owens 3-7, Hicks 0-2, Phillips 0-2, Ealy 0-2, Brown 0-2, Looper 0-1, Underhill 0-1, Posey 0-1, Prochazka 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 8, Russellville 9. Rebounds: Bryant 6-18 24 (Miller 0-5 5, Carroll 0-4 4, Todd 0-3 3, Ridgell 1-2 3, Martin 2-0 2, McDowell 1-1 2, Baxter 0-1 1, Rogers 1-0 1, team 1-2), Russellville 12-24 36 (Ealy 4-8 12, Owens 0-9 9, Hicks 2-3 5, Brown 3-1 4, Wilbers 2-0 2, Looper 1-1 2, Posey 0-1 1, team 0-1 1). Team rebounds: Bryant 9, Russellville 21.