Photos by Kevin Nagle
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The season’s young but the Bryant Lady Hornets have already faced some adversity. For one thing, senior post Rachael Miller is out with an illness for another week or two. Another came on Thursday in the opening round of the OrthoArkansas/CAC Invitational Tournament at Central Arkansas Christian High School. Early foul trouble, marked by repeated block/charge calls that didn’t go their way, left them without their two most experienced players who have also been the team’s top two scorers, senior Emily Ridgell and sophomore Raija Todd, for most of the first half. In fact, Todd, coming off a 23-point performance in a win over Rogers Heritage, hardly played at all due to four quick fouls. She attempted just one shot that, if it had gone, would’ve actually won the game.
The Lady Hornets, trailing by 2, had the ball in the front court after a timeout with :03.4 left in the game. Todd got a look from the right wing but the shot rimmed out and the Valley View Lady Blazers held on for a 41-39 win.
It was the first loss for Bryant in three games. They Lady Hornets play Maumelle on Friday at 4 p.m., as the tourney continues.
Valley View, a Class 5A quarterfinal team last season, also went to 2-1, with the win.
Ridgell still led the Lady Hornets with 11 points and nine rebounds. Destiny Martin, who missed some time with a leg injury in the game, added 10 points (8 in the first half) while Kendal Rogers added 10, all in the second half.
“We had some kids play a lot of minutes tonight who had not gotten to play at any point in their career really, that kind of minutes,” noted Bryant head coach Brad Matthews. “I thought there were some good things. I’ve got to do a better job getting them in positions to score more. Our offense was not very good tonight and that’s on me.
“I thought we played hard,” he added. “When you’re playing that many minutes for the first time, there’s going to be some lack of execution. That’s to be expected.”
“I told our kids, we’ve got to learn,” the coach said. “It’s about us getting better. We’ve got to continue to develop physically, skill-wise, mentally, emotionally, toughness-wise. That’s what this next couple of weeks is about, playing six, seven, eight games and learning as we go.”
The CAC tournament will be followed up next week with a tourney in Morrilton.
“We want to win every game but we’ve got to make sure that we develop as we go,” Matthews said. “We cannot just get caught up in did we win or not. We’ve got a lot of kids that are developing. I thought we saw some signs tonight of some good stuff. We’ve just got to get more consistent, that comes with toughness and maturity, things you can work on in practice but, until you’re in a game, it’s just different.”
The Lady Hornets trailed 33-25 going into the fourth quarter of the game but showed some of that toughness in fighting back to tie the game on an offensive-rebound basket by Rogers with :33 left.
Valley View’s top scorer Rachel Wilson hit two free throws with :25.7 showing. With :10.4 to go, Rogers, playing despite a fever, had a chance to knot it back up. But neither of her free throws would fall.
Bryant got another chance when Valley View’s Lauren Hathcock missed the front end of a one-and-one with :06.8 left. The Lady Hornets got the ball into the front court and Matthews called timeout to set up the final play with :03.4 to go.
“I was proud of our kids,” Matthews asserted. “We were down 8 and we fought back and had a chance at the end. Valley View’s a good team. They’ve got really good post kids. I thought their guards played well.”
Lady Blazer posts Reagan Dodd and Amanda Meister scored 10 and 9, respectively. Despite a disadvantage in size, however, the Lady Hornets out-rebounded them 31-21.
Bryant took a quick 5-0 lead on a 15-foot jumper by Ridgell and a 3 from Annie Patton. But quickly, Todd got into foul trouble including a couple of them on charges that wiped out Bryant baskets.
Valley View surged to a 7-5 lead and, after a Bryant timeout, Ridgell picked up her second foul on a charging call that wiped out yet another hoop. But sophomore Kelly Williams made a steal and Ridgell buried a 3 with her substitute at the scorer’s table ready to check in.
Meister put Valley View back on top then Wilson converted two free throws to make it 11-8. But Martin, whom the Lady Blazers struggle to stop when she attacked the basket, drove for a bucket and, when Williams banked in a 3 in the closing seconds, the Lady Hornets led 13-11.
Another drive to the rack by Martin increased the lead to 15-11. The game was eventually tied at 15 and 17. Martin broke the latter deadlock with a pair of free throws with 2:48 left in the half.
But, with 1:35 to go, Wilson hit a 3 and Valley View held the 20-19 edge until the half.
Free throws by Ridgell to start the second half, had Bryant back in front but, after Dodd scored, Ridgell picked up her third foul on a charge and had to come out. Dodd drained a 3 and the Lady Blazers were in the middle of an 11-0 run that produced a 31-21 lead.
Rogers, who had only attempted two shots to that point, knocked down back-to-back jumpers from the baseline, the second off a nice drive-and-dish from Martin. A running jumper from Wilson made it 33-25 going into the fourth.
Continuing to spark the Lady Hornets, Rogers scored inside off a Martin feed and, after a Valley View turnover, hit the offensive glass to cut the margin to 33-29.
The Lady Blazers got a timeout and, afterwards, the two teams traded buckets for a while with Martin, Ridgell and sophomore Raven Loveless providing Bryant’s points.
Along the way, however, Martin came down with the rebound off a Valley View miss and started upcourt. Pressing, the Lady Blazers stole the ball as Martin was knocked to the floor without a call. A layup by Anna Reddell resulted, giving them a 39-33 advantage.
Martin came out the game in some pain. Though she returned later, the Lady Hornets no doubt missed her offense. They trailed 39-35 with 3:36 left and had several chances to cut into the margin. Finally, with 2:02 remaining, Ridgell sank a pair of free throws to make it a two-point game.
After a timeout, Valley View spread the floor and made the Lady Hornets chase. With just three team fouls in the second half to that point, Bryant had to start fouling. With :51.9 to go, the Lady Blazers’ Molly Poe missed the front end of a bonus opportunity. Moments later, Rogers pulled down an offensive rebound and scored to tie the game at 39.
LADY BLAZERS 41, LADY HORNETS 39
Score by quarters
Valley View 11 9 13 8 — 41
BRYANT 13 6 6 14 — 39
LADY BLAZERS (2-1) 41
Hathcock 1-2 0-2 2, Wilson 4-12 5-6 14, Dodd 4-8 1-4 10, A.Reddell 1-2 0-0 2, Meister 3-4 3-5 9, Poe 2-4 0-1 4, Guyton 0-2 0-0 0, L.Reddell 0-0 0-0 0, Frank 0-0 0-0 0, Carroll 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-34 (44%) 9-18 (50%) 41.
LADY HORNETS (2-1) 39
Todd 0-1 0-0 0, Ridgell 3-8 4-4 11, Martin 3-11 4-7 10, Patton 1-5 0-0 3, Rogers 5-9 0-2 10, Williams 1-2 0-0 3, Loveless 1-4 0-3 2, R.Hill 0-0 0-0 0, T.Hill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 14-41 (34%) 8-16 (50%) 39.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-8 (Patton 1-4, Ridgell 1-2, Williams 1-1, Martin 0-1), Valley View 2-9 (Wilson 1-4, Dodd 1-2, Hathcock 0-1, A.Riddell 0-1, Poe 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, Valley View 13. Rebounds: Bryant 13-18 31 (Ridgell 6-3 9, Martin 0-5 5, Rogers 4-1 5, Loveless 2-3 5, Todd 0-2 2, Williams 0-2 2, Patton 0-1 1, team 1-1 2), Valley View 6-15 21 (Guyton 3-4 7, Dodd 1-5 6, Meister 0-3 3, Wilson 1-1 2, Poe 0-1 1, Frank 0-1 1, team 1-0 1). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Valley View 16. Technical foul: Bryant, Todd.