The first time they played, the Cabot South Lady Panthers downed the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team 37-16. But that was back on Dec. 14.
Bryant’s done some improving since then and, on Monday night, the Lady Hornets made a bid to upset the Lady Panthers. The game ended in a time 24-24 when Kaitlyn Weng drove for a layup and was fouled. Her free throw knotted it up and sent the game to overtime.
But Cabot South, using a physical press defense, out-scored the Lady Hornets, 5-2 in the extra period to extract a hard-earned 29-26 win.
The loss left the Lady Hornets 6-16 overall and 5-11 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference going into their final regular-season game against Conway White at home on Thursday.
Bryant fell behind initially 5-1 but Weng hit a running jumper to end the first quarter then Ashton Inman opened the second-quarter scoring with a drive to the hoop to make it 5-5.
Cabot South scored but Kristyn Weng knocked down a 3 to give the Lady Hornets their first lead at the 2:46 mark.
Free throws provided the Lady Panthers with an 11-8 lead at the half. And a layup opened the second in the second half for the Cabot team.
But Bryant battled back. Kaitlyn Weng was fouled on a 3-point try and went to the line to nail all three free throws. Ryleigh Laughlin hit a free throw to make it a one-point game then, in the final minute, Ashton Inman claimed a long rebound off her own missed free throw and scored to put the Lady Hornets ahead 14-13.
She opened the second half with a pair of free throws to extend the lead and when Addison Funk hit two more moments later, Bryant held an 18-13 lead with 5:35 left to play.
A driving layup for Cabot South cut the lead to 3 then, on consecutive possessions, the Lady Hornets got to the line. But both times, they missed the front end of the one-and-one.
The Lady Panthers surged to a 21-18 lead and it looked like they had the victory when a held ball put it back in the hands of Cabot South.
But the Lady Hornets rebounded a Lady Panther miss and, at the other end, Kaitlyn Weng drilled a 3 to tie it at 21 with :33 left.
With :16.6 to go, Cabot South snapped the tie with two free throws. A Bryant miss led to another trip to the line where two free throws could clinch the win. The first free throw dropped in but the second rimmed out and Lady Hornets’ coach Nathan Castaldi called a timeout with :05.2 showing.
When play resumed, Weng drove from the timeline to the basket. Trailing by 3, it seemed to be a mistake but Weng made the basket and was fouled.
“We really wanted to shoot a 3,” Castaldi said. “We were down 3. But she said that she knew they were going to foul her. She’s got a lot more faith in them that me but we’ll take it. It worked out in our favor.”
The Lady Hornets struggled down the stretch against the Cabot South press, which allowed them to get back in the game.
“Their press is a little different than the North Little Rock’s and Conway’s,” the coach said. “They’re a lot more physical and put pressure on you that way. We’ve handled pressure better against teams with more athletes, getting in the passing lanes and doing some things against that. But tonight, against a more physical team we kind of struggled.
“We played well for a stretch there late third quarter, early fourth quarter,” acknowledged Castaldi. “We kind of had them on the ropes but we missed a few free throws. They tied it then we struggled after that.”