For the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five, the Bryant Lady Hornets captured the annual Saline County Shootout trophy with a win over the rival Benton Lady Panthers.
Sophomore Raija Todd scored a game-high 19 points and the Bryant defense held the Lady Panthers to just three field goals in the second half as they gradually pulled away towards the 48-32 victory.
“Anytime you can win the Saline County Shootout, it’s good, good for our kids,” stated Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “We work hard all year and games like this make it worthwhile. It was a good team win. I’m proud for the kids.”
The injury-plagued Benton team hit four 3-pointers in the first half and had a 9-8 lead midway through the opening period then trailed just 22-17 late in the half.
But Bryant ratcheted up the defense in the second half.
“They’ve got four or five kids that can make 3’s,” Matthews observed. “On any given night, those kids can get hot. They can light you up from behind the line. The key going in, I thought, was guarding them at the 3-point line. They still hit four in the first half, got us on some flare screens.
“The second half, I thought Rachael Miller being able to play behind the post allowed us to guard the 3-point line much better,” he explained. “I think Destiny Martin probably had one of her better games of the year. Emily (Ridgell) played good. Raija, obviously, played well offensively.
“But I thought Rachael and Raven (Loveless) in the post enabled us to guard the perimeter more because, when you have to front the post, you’ve got to help on the lob. You’ve got to close out more. You’ve got to guard against giving up more penetration kicks.”
No one for the Lady Panthers had more than the 6 points that Kinsey Bryant scored off the bench on a pair of 3’s in the second quarter. Abby Clay, who scored 16 in the previous meeting between the two teams, was hampered by early foul trouble and never quite found her stride.
Martin gave the Lady Hornets a spark with 8 points and at least three steals. Miller finished with 8 points and eight rebounds while Kendall Rogers scored 6 points and finished with a game-high nine boards.
Benton took its 9-8 lead on a 3 by Italei Gray but a Martin scored on a baseline drive to put the Lady Hornets back on top to stay with 4:00 showing on the first-quarter clock.
Martin forced a turnover and it led to an offensive-rebound bucket by Rogers. Following a Benton miss, Todd canned a driving jumper. Martin followed up with a steal that led to a pair of free throws for Ridgell when she tenaciously followed her own miss.
That made it 16-9 going into the second quarter.
The first basket for Loveless resumed the scoring and when Todd pulled up and hit a short jumper moments later, Bryant had its first double-digit lead, 20-9.
Grace Bryant drilled a 3 then Kinsey Bryant followed up a jumper by Loveless with another triple, trimming the Lady Hornets’ lead to 22-15. And when Taylor Oglesby scored inside with 2:32 left in the half, it was a 5-point game.
Two free throws from Todd and a follow bucket from Rogers pushed the margin back to 9 before Benton’s Bella Slaughter hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to make it 26-19 at the half.
Free throws from Lauren Hopper cut it back to a 5-point game at the start of the third quarter but, after Todd hit a jumper, the Lady Panthers were never that close again.
Martin and Ridgell combined to force a turnover and Rogers hit a layup on a nice give-and-go with Miller. After Lenzie Newman converted twice from the line for Benton, Todd scored off a steal and Loveless delivered a nice dump pass to Miller on a high-low post play. That made the lead 34-23.
Benton’s only field goal of the third quarter came with :55 left, a 3 by Kinsey Bryant, but Todd answered with a 15-footer and it was 36-26 going into the final stanza.
Miller hit the offensive glass for a basket then blocked a shot by Hopper. Todd drove for a bucket and it was 41-26 with 5:24 to go.
Hopper hit a jumper and Grace Bryant converted two free throws to get the Lady Panthers back within 11 but any momentum that created was dashed when Todd fed Martin on a back-door cut to the basket resulting in a three-point play.
After Benton cut the lead to 44-32, Martin scored on a baseline drive and, though she missed the subsequent free throw on a try for another three-point play, Ridgell rebounded. Miller scored in the last minute to set the final score, the largest lead of the game for the Lady Hornets.
Both teams open conference play next week. Benton takes on Little Rock Parkview in the 6A-South while the Lady Hornets host defending Class 6A State champion Greenwood in the 7A/6A-Central.
LADY HORNETS 48, LADY PANTHERS 32
Score by quarters
Benton 9 10 7 6 — 32
BRYANT 16 10 10 12 — 48
LADY PANTHERS (3-10) 32
Gray 2-8 0-1 5, Clay 1-2 0-0 2, Oglesby 2-4 0-0 5, Hopper 1-7 3-5 5, K.Bryant 2-3 0-0 6, G.Bryant 1-5 2-2 5, Slaughter 0-1 2-2 2, Newman 0-3 2-2 2, Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-33 (27%) 9-12 (75%) 32.
LADY HORNETS (5-6) 48
Todd 8-18 2-2 19, Martin 3-9 2-5 8, Rogers 3-7 0-2 6, Ridgell 0-2 2-2 2, Miller 2-4 4-4 8, Loveless 2-3 1-3 5, Patton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-43 (42%) 11-18 (61%) 48.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-5 (Todd 1-3, Rogers 0-1, Ridgell 0-1), Benton 5-18 (K.Bryant 2-3, Gray 1-5, G.Bryant 1-5, Oglesby 1-2, Newman 0-2, Clay 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 9, Benton 12. Rebounds: Bryant 15-18 33 (Rogers 3-6 9, Miller 3-5 8, Ridgell 4-2 6, Todd 0-4 4, Martin 2-0 2, Loveless 2-0 2, Patton 0-1 1, team 1-0 1), Benton 9-16 25 (Oglesby 2-4 6, Gray 4-2 6, Newman 1-2 3, Hopper 1-1 2, Slaughter 1-1 2, Clay 0-1 1, K.Bryant 0-1 1, team 0-4 4). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Benton 18.