NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The scrambled and they scrapped; they hustled, and they ran and busted it as hard as they have all year.
But, in the end, the same problem occurred for the Bryant Lady Hornets in their Class 7A State Tournament game on Wednesday night against the Van Buren Lady Pointers. They just couldn’t get their shots to fall consistently. Extended dry spells undermined their effort as they shot just 27 percent from the field (13 of 48).
And, despite their defensive disruption, which produced 18 Van Buren turnovers, they couldn’t shake up the veteran Lady Pointers who broke the game open late in the second quarter and wound up with a convincing 61-32 victory.
The loss ended the season for the Lady Hornets. As mostly sophomores with a pair of juniors, they’ll all be back next year except for senior reserve Paige Adams, who admirably stuck it out for three seasons despite little varsity playing time.
For Bryant, no one had more than Kalia Walker’s 8 points. India Atkins, Celena Martin and Ivory Russ had 5 each.
Van Buren’s junior post player Kayleigh Evans led all scorers with 16 including 10 in the first quarter when she was often the target of passes from all-everything point guard Jamilyn Kinney who added 13 points, 11 in the break-out second quarter. Lexi Miller came off the bench to add 11 points.
“They’re really skilled,” acknowledged Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “They do a good job making teams play in the half-court. We just couldn’t get out and run like we needed to. We’re at our best when we’re in transition but Van Buren is as good as anybody in the state at making you play half-court.
“I thought we gave great effort,” he acknowledged. “I think we did a lot of good things defensively, especially in the first half.
“Give them credit, (Evans) got off to a really good start,” the coach continued. “Obviously, when they get in transition, they’re so dangerous once they get it inside 30, 35 feet. They hit at least four 3’s in the first half, in transition.
“That’s hard to guard,” he said. “We don’t see that. That is something that is unique to them. We’re usually worried about giving up layups in transition so you’ve really got to try to change the way you do things in transition and it’s tough to do on such short notice. Against the teams in the Central (conference), we’re worried about getting back and protecting the rim. Against Van Buren, if you protect the rim, they’re going to drain 3’s.”
Despite Evans’ output, the Lady Hornets stayed with the Lady Pointers as India Atkins took on Kinney man-to-man in Bryant’s scurrying defense. Kinney didn’t score until over a minute into the second quarter.
Trailing 6-0, the Lady Hornet got on the board with a drive by Martin. After Evans hit a free throw, Walker scored as she was fouled. Though she missed the free throw, Atkins hustled for the rebound and got it back to Walker for a 3 that tied the game.
Free throws by Irasema Sandoval and Evans made it 11-7 and Kinney fed Emmalee Greebe for a basket in the final minute of the quarter to make it 13-7.
But, to start the second quarter, Bryant’s Lexi Taylor banked in a 3 to cut the margin to 13-10. The Lady Hornets forced a held ball but this time, Taylor’s 3-point try wouldn’t go.
That’s when Kinney bombed in the first of her trio of 3’s in the quarter, starting a 15-1 blitz. Tierra Trotter interrupted with a drive to the rack, but the onslaught continued until it was 34-15 going into the final seconds of the half. Atkins hit a 3 and it was a 16-point margin at the half.
“We hung in there for a little while but once they started getting into the transition and got those 3’s, that gave them a little separation and they were able to play a little more comfortable,” Matthews commented. “I thought we did a really good job on Kinney for the most part. They’re a good team, give them credit.”
It was aggravating, however, that, though Bryant attempted 19 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, they drove the ball as well and only ended up attempting four free throws in the game while Van Buren went 15 of 21.
Van Buren started the third quarter with a 16-3 blitz interrupted only by a 3 from Walker. Martin, Russ and Atkins scored late in the quarter to trim the margin to 52-27 but two free throws by Sandoval in the final minute increased the margin going into the fourth.
With 5:13 left, the margin reached 30 points and the “mercy” rule went into effect with the clock running the rest of the game except during a brief timeout in which Van Buren coach Chris Bryant emptied his bench.
After the game, Matthews reflected on his team’s 11-15 season, saying, “I thought as the season went on our kids got better in a lot of areas. We’ve still got some shortcomings, but our kids got better.
“There’s a different environment,” he said of the State tourney. “It’s a different level of discomfort that goes with the State tournament, a different level of intensity and expectations that go with the State tournament. Getting beat is never good but the experience, hopefully, will carry over to the spring and summer and fall of next year.
“As we look back to November and December, our consistent effort wasn’t always there,” he asserted. “We thought we were trying but trying is a different level in the 7A-Central. I thought, as the season went on, that got better and better and better.
“Tonight, we forced a five-second count on an inbounds play,” the coach noted. “I thought their attention on prep, on scouting reports, got better and better as the season went on. It’s still not perfect but compared to where we were in November, with consistent effort — the idea that we just can’t be out there — I thought that got better and better. Then, playing to a scouting report we got better and better as the season went on.
“That’s things you hope to see out of young kids but, just because they’re young, doesn’t mean it’ll change,” he concluded. “It changes in practice, practice, practice.”
LADY POINTERS 61, LADY HORNETS 32
Score by quarters
BRYANT 7 11 9 5 — 32
Van Buren 13 21 20 7 — 61
LADY HORNETS (11-15) 32
T.Trotter 2-4 0-0 4, Walker 3-12 0-1 8, Atkins 2-13 0-0 5, Martin 2-4 1-2 5, Gordon 0-1 0-0 0, Russ 2-5 1-1 5, Baker 0-2 0-0 0, Taylor 1-6 0-0 3, Scifres 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 0-0 0-0 0, S.Trotter 0-0 0-0 0, Deaton 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 13-48 (27%) 2-4 (50%) 32.
LADY POINTERS (18-10) 61
Kinney 5-8 0-0 13, Ryan 1-2 1-2 4, Myers 1-2 0-0 3, Sandoval 2-3 5-6 9, Evans 6-10 4-6 16, Greebe 2-2 1-2 5, Frazier 0-2 0-0 0, Miller 3-5 4-5 11, Porter 0-0 0-0 0, Fey 0-0 0-0 0, Schnakenberg 0-0 0-0 0, Merechka 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-34 (59%) 15-21 (71%) 61.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-19 (Walker 2-8, Atkins 1-5, Taylor 1-5, T.Trotter 0-1), Van Buren 6-10 (Kinney 3-4, Ryan 1-2, Myers 1-2, Miller 1-2). Turnovers: Bryant 18, Van Buren 18. Rebounds: Bryant 9-14 23 (Martin 2-5 7, Russ 3-4 7, Atkins 1-2 3, T.Trotter 0-2 2, Gordon 0-1 1, Baker 0-1 1, team 2-0 2), Van Buren 8-27 35 (Evans 4-3 7, Sandoval 1-6 7, Kinney 1-4 5, Ryan 0-4 4, Miller 0-4 4, Frazier 0-3 3, Greebe 1-1 2, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 17, Van Buren 13.