LITTLE ROCK — Despite a 31-point performance by Jacksonville’s Shy Christopher, the Bryant Lady Hornets earned a 58-51 victory over the Lady Titans with more balanced scoring and a big rebound advantage on Saturday at the Mills Classic.
Tierra Trotter scored 15, India Atkins 12, McKenzie Muse 10 and, off the bench, Ivory Russ had 9 as the Lady Hornets improved to 3-1 on the season going into the 11thannual Petit Jean Classic in Morrilton on Monday.
Bryant was spurred by fast starts to each half. The Lady Hornets scored the first 10 points of the game but trailed 28-25 at the half. Outscoring Jacksonville 15-4 in the third quarter, they established a lead they never relinquished despite Christopher.
Freshman Brooklyn Roland added 12 points for the Lady Titans but no one else had more than 4.
Celena Martin had 6 points and 12 rebounds for the Lady Hornets, who finished with a whopping 44-24 advantage on the boards.
“(Christopher) is a really good player,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Brad Matthews. “We thought we had a good plan and we had to go to Plan B then Plan C. She’s really good in transition. If you give her the slightest gap, she’s so good finishing and today she made a lot of free throws. I give her credit. They do a great job of creating space for her.
“We ended up in a box-and-one,” he continued. “Honestly, we thought she would be at the high post more. On the tapes we had, when people played them zone, she went to the high post. So, we worked all week on having her at the high post.
“Once we got them in the half-court, we did okay,” the coach noted. “It was just, when she was in transition, any kind of transition, she was just so good. She could be 1 on 3 back there and she’s going to find little slivers of gaps.”
The second half started with a free throw by Trotter. For the game, the Lady Hornets converted just 13 of 27 at the line, which helped the Lady Titans to keep it close.
Christopher, who was 11 of 18 at the stripe by herself, countered with a free throw then added another one and Jacksonville led 30-26.
But a drive by Martin and a layup off a steal by Atkins pulled the Lady Hornets even. Martin made a steal and fed Trotter for a layup and Bryant had its first lead since midway through the second period.
Christopher drove for a layup to tie the game but, at the other end, Muse popped a clutch 3. She followed up with a reverse layup with 1:17 left in the quarter.
And the frenzy heightened in the final minute when Kalia Walker bombed a 3 to make it 40-32 going into the fourth.
Basia Brown hit two free throws to start the final stanza only to have Trotter answer with a 3 to make it 43-34.
On free throws by Christopher and Brown, the Lady Titans closed within 43-39 with 3:53 left.
But Bryant, by then, was starting to spread things out on the offensive end. Russ took advantage to drive for a back-to-back baskets.
Christopher scored off the offensive glass and the Lady Titans took a timeout with 2:34 to go.
When play resumed, Russ fed Atkins for a layup and, moments later, Muse got free and pushed the lead to 10 for the first time since the opening stanza.
Bryant converted just often enough at the line to retain the lead. In the final minute, Russ, Muse, Atkins and Trotter converted free throws to help close it out.
“I was proud of our kids,” said Matthews. “We came out and really executed well early.”
The Lady Titans were just a bit tardy coming out of the dressing room to start the game.
Bryant took advantage. Atkins scored off an inbounds play. Moments later, Atkins took a charge and, eventually, Trotter added a free throw.
After a Jacksonville miss, Muse scored inside. Consecutive buckets by Trotter extended the run to 10-0.
Christopher got the Lady Titans on the board with a three-point play, but Martin countered off a dribble drive. Free throws by Trotter and Jade Deaton had the margin at 13-5. But Roland drilled 3 then, beat the clock with another triple as she was being fouled. She misfired, and Bryant led 13-11 going in at half.
The game was tied four times in the second quarter. Christopher snapped a 22-22 tie, sparking the Lady Titans to surge to 28-25.
That set up a strong flourish by the Lady Hornets in the fourth.
“We’ve got to continue to work on execution on both ends,” Matthews stated. “We’re young. It’s our fourth game.
“Today, we saw a full-court pressure man,” he noted. “We hadn’t seen that. Lake Hamilton played us man, but it was a little softer, a little bit more position oriented. Today, when they’re up on you, you’ve got to make plays, make decisions. We did that early. I thought in the second half, we did a decently good job of it a lot. But, in the middle, there were some empty possessions. We were up 5, 6, 7 and could’ve pushed it up to 9 or 10.
“You’ve got to be able to play fast and be on balance,” said Matthews. “There were a couple of possessions where we were not on balance, which led to some poor shots, which led to them in transition, which led to some missed shots, which led them into transition. We worked on that and I thought, for the most part, I could see us growing and doing better and better. There’s still a long way to go but there’s a lot of good things there.
“Playing this kind of team — this will be what Central is, what other teams in our conference are?” Matthews related. “These kind of intense, athletic games are what we need getting ready for January, February. There’s quite a few players like (Christopher) in our league. It’s a good win and a good learning opportunity.”
LADY HORNETS 58, LADY TITANS 51
Score by quarters
BRYANT 13 12 15 18 — 58
Jacksonville 11 17 4 19 — 51
LADY HORNETS (3-1) 58
T.Trotter 4-6 6-10 15, Atkins 5-12 2-2 12, Martin 3-4 0-4 6, Gordon 0-0 0-2 0, Muse 4-10 1-2 10, Steen 0-2 0-0 0, Walker 1-6 0-0 3, Deaton 1-2 1-2 3, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0, Russ 3-4 3-5 9. Totals21-47 13-27 58.
LADY TITANS (3-2) 51
Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Roland 4-12 1-4 12, Mathis 1-3 0-0 2, Morant 0-2 2-2 2, Christopher 10-19 11-18 31, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 0-1 4-4 4.Totals15-50 18-28 51.
Three-point field goals:Bryant 3-12 (Walker 1-5, Muse 1-3, Trotter 1-1, Atkins 0-2, Taylor 0-1), Jacksonville 3-14 (Roland 3-9, Jackson 0-4, Christopher 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 21, Jacksonville 18. Rebounds:Bryant 15-29 44 (Martin 4-8 12, Muse 1-5 6, Deaton 3-1 4, Trotter 0-4 4, Atkins 2-1 3, Gordon 0-3 3, Steen 1-2 3, Russ 1-2 3, Taylor 0-1 1, team 3-2 5), Jacksonville 8-16 24 (Mathis 1-5, Roland 0-5, Christopher 2-2 4, Evans 1-2 3, Brown 2-0 2, Jackson 1-1 2, Morant 0-1 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls:Bryant 25, Jacksonville 23. Fouled out:Bryant, Steen; Jacksonville, Morant, Christopher.