By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — It's got to be hard to shoot free throws at Wampus Cat Arena in Conway. A big scoreboard looms on either end of the court, just above the eye angle from the free-throw line. Not only are there lots of lights for statistics but there's a large video display showing the game. The temptation would have to be, for someone at the line, to look up at that video board at themselves about to shoot a free throw.
It's downright distracting.
And though that may not be the reason (or the only reason), the Bryant Lady Hornets, usually a high percentage free-throw shooting team particularly late in a game, converted only half of their 20 shots at the line when they visited on Friday, Feb. 13.
Whereas, they might get by with that against a lesser (or less desperate) opponent, it proved to be a difference maker as the Lady Cats upset the Lady Hornets, 65-62, in overtime.
It was just Bryant's second loss in 7A-Central Conference play. They are 18-4 overall.
Conway, on the other hand, though without 6-2 center Na'dra Robertson the lone returning starter from the 2007-08 Class 7A State championship team, is fighting just to get back into State to defend its title. The Lady Cats came into the game in a virtual three-way tie for the final two bids to the post-season. They battled back from a 32-20 halftime deficit, tying the game early in the fourth period.
Bryant answered with a clutch run that appeared to be typical of its usual fourth-quarter performances this season, building a 50-41 lead only to have Conway come back and force an overtime with the game tied at 55.[more]
"We had a very poor third quarter, shooting the ball, mental mistakes," said Lady Hornets head coach Blake Condley. "We built ourselves another little lead in the fourth quarter, made some more mental mistakes, poor execution. We didn't shoot the ball real well. I think we missed 12 shots in the lane."
Indeed, it was probably the Lady Hornets poorest shooting game of the season. They converted 22 of 67 (just under 33 percent) from the field.
"I think it's got to come down to, maybe, concentration," Condley considered. "I don't know. Sometimes you just have an off night like that. It wasn't that the girls didn't want to win. They played hard. They left it out here, we just made some mistakes and did some things we haven't done in other games. The breaks just didn't go our way. Some of that comes when you make your own breaks. I think we just didn't make things go the way we wanted them to tonight."
After having beaten Conway 92-85 at home with Robertson in the lineup, the Lady Hornets might have been a little over-confident or even looking ahead to a showdown at home on Tuesday against third-place Cabot.
There was some frustration, however. As usual, the Lady Hornets were attacking the basket but the shots weren't falling and, despite contact — sometimes plenty of it — they attempted just six free throws through the first three quarters.
Both teams had a chance to win it in regulation. Alana Morris tied it at 55 with :10 left. Taylor Gault, who led Conway with 17 points (a far cry from the 36 she scored at Bryant), missed a shot to put her team ahead. Hannah Goshien rebounded the miss for the Lady Hornets and they got a timeout with one second left on the clock.
On the inbounds play, a throw to midcourt was hauled in by Haley Montgomery and Condley instantly called a timeout. They were left with :00.7 on the clock, just enough time to catch an inbounds pass and shoot. From midcourt, they got just that. Montgomery, who hit a game-winning shot against Van Buren just a week before, took the pass about five feet beyond the 3-point arc, turned and fired but only got the front of the rim and overtime commenced.
Morris, who led all scorers with 21 points but was just 8 of 23 from the field and 5 of 10 at the line, converted a free throw less than a minute into the extra period to give Bryant the lead. But the Lady Hornets didn't score again until just about a minute was left. In the meantime, Jasmine Wilkins pulled down one of the Lady Cats' 18 offensive rebounds and scored to put them back up. Tamra Heard hit a free throw after she was sent to the line on a play that Bryant fans contended Taylor Hughes had forced a held ball.
A turnover led to another stickback by Wilkins to make it 60-56. Gault blocked a 3-point attempt by Montgomery and, moments later, Morris tried to drive into the clogged up lane and couldn't get a shot to go.
With 1:17 left, Heard was back at the line, converting twice to give Conway its largest lead of the game, 62-56.
Morris and Conway's Meghan Lewis traded free throws then Hughes drained a 3 with :24.1 left to make it a single-possession game. Trailing 63-60, the Lady Hornets forced a turnover with :15 showing. Anna Simpson cashed it in with :09 to go, cutting the margin to 1.
After a final timeout, play resumed and Conway got the ball in to Gault. It took the Lady Hornets until there was just :02.9 on the clock before getting a foul. Gault went to the line and converted twice to set the final score. Montgomery, apparently confused about the margin, drove the lane at the other end and put up a shot that was after the buzzer.
Conway held the upper hand most of the first quarter. It was 11-7 before Hughes fed Kenzee Calley for a layup late in the period. At the other end, Abbi Stearns blocked two Conway shots to finish out the period.
The Lady Cats led 13-9 after Gault scored but the Lady Hornets answered with a quick 11-0 burst. Morris drove for a bucket and Montgomery made a steal that led to a triple by Goshien that put the Lady Hornets ahead. Shanika Johnson swiped the ball and, again, Goshien cashed it in 3 ways. Another Conway turnover led to a 3 by Johnson and a 20-13 lead.
It was 26-19 going into the final two minutes of the half. Stearns blocked another shot — she had five blocks in just the first half — and Morris hit a jumper in the lane. Lewis and Simpson traded free throws then Johnson beat the buzzer with another trey off a nice kickout from Montgomery to make it 32-20.
Lewis hit a jumper and Gault a free throw to start the third quarter. But Goshien flushed another 3, set up nicely by Calley, and Simpson drained a 15-footer as the lead grew to 37-23 with 6:02 left in the third quarter.
Bryant didn't score again, however, until Goshien hit a free throw in the final seconds of the quarter after Conway had whittled the lead to 1.
The Lady Cats tied it to start the fourth quarter but a three-point play by Morris got Bryant back on track. Wilkins scored to make it 41-40 but Morris hit a free throw then drove the left of the key and hit a scoop shot. Simpson added a free throw and Goshien hit two. And after a Conway free throw, Hughes buried a trey. The Lady Hornets had built back up a 50-41 lead with 3:18 to play.
But, sparked by Gault, Conway responded with a 10-0 run, taking a 51-50 lead. Another three-point play by Morris had Bryant back up 53-51 with :56 left but Conway tied it at 53. Morris drove the lane again, missed her shot but went after the rebound and got it. When she tried to follow, however, she was cited for a charge and, moments later, Gault put Conway back up 55-53. Morris tied it with :10 to go.
LADY CATS 65, LADY HORNETS 62, OT
Score by quarters
BRYANT 9 23 6 17 7 — 62
Conway 11 9 16 19 10 — 65
LADY HORNETS (18-4, 9-2) 62
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb. fls. pts.
Hughes 2-9 0-0 0-5 5 3 6
Goshien 3-6 3-4 4-5 9 1 12
Calley 2-3 0-0 0-2 2 1 4
Simpson 4-14 2-4 0-1 1 4 10
Morris 8-23 5-10 4-8 12 3 21
Stearns 0-1 0-0 0-3 3 2 0
Montgomery 1-5 0-2 2-1 3 3 3
Johnson 2-6 0-0 1-1 2 2 6
Team rebs. 1-3 4
Totals: 22-67 10-20 12-29 41 19 62
LADY CATS (12-10, 3-7) 65
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb. fls. pts.
Gault 6-16 5-7 1-4 5 4 17
Heard 3-9 3-4 2-10 12 3 9
Lewis 3-12 2-4 0-4 4 3 8
Wilkins 4-9 0-2 5-2 7 3 8
Robinson 0-1 0-0 2-9 11 2 0
Allen-Smith 6-8 2-3 3-4 7 2 14
Moore 4-9 0-0 2-4 6 0 8
McNeall 0-2 1-2 0-0 0 3 1
Team rebs. 3-1 4
Totals: 26-66 13-22 18-39 57 20 65
Three-point field goals: Bryant 8-23 (Goshien 3-6, Hughes 2-7, Johnson 2-4, Montgomery 1-4, Simpson 0-1), Conway 0-5 (Lewis 0-2, Heard 0-2, Gault 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Conway 19.