RUSSELLVILLE — The Russellville Lady Whirlwinds eighth grade team has an inside-outside duo that is tough to handle. The Bryant White Lady Hornets eighth grade team of Bryant Middle School almost overcame them at home on Jan. 10, but suffered a 28-24 loss in overtime. In the rematch in Russellville on Thursday night, the Lady Hornets were able to keep the inside star quiet but the wing player kept the Lady ‘Winds in it.
Bryant White led 5-4 after a quarter and 10-9 at the half. In the third quarter, however, it didn’t go as well. Russellville surged to a 16-10 lead going into the fourth quarter and finished with a 22-13 victory.
“We played a very good and tough first half,” said Lady Hornets coach Ben Perry. “Our game plan was to do our best to shut down their big post and limit (the wing player’s) free throws. Both of which hurt us in our first meeting.
“It seems that even though we did our best against (the post player), we were unable to stop (the other girl),” he related. “She scored 7 of their 9 points in the first half. We allowed them to get back cuts when we had to play help-side defense. This allowed too many easy shots from the block.
“On offense, we adjusted to them switching from zone to man and were able to go to the locker room ahead,” the coach said. “I liked them playing man because it allowed for back cuts and open looks with good screens.
“In the locker room, I told them they would probably play us man the rest of the game and that we needed to be patient and look for the open layup or open shot,” he continued. “We came out of the locker room and it seemed we came out as a different team. We no longer played help-side defense and we seemed to be frantic on offense instead of taking our time.”
The post player for the Lady Whirlwinds scored all 5 of her points in the third quarter.
“Kaitlyn Weng went hard to the lane and was fouled twice but was unable to convert any of her four free throws,” Perry recounted. “We saw ourselves down by 5 late in the fourth quarter. I called timeout and told the girls that we must press and stay with our man. Go for the steal but with only four fouls committed in the second half, we had to foul quick if we did not get the steal.”
It takes seven fouls in a half to get a team to the free-throw line for the one-and-one. With missed front ends, it can open the door to a comeback.
“I’m not sure if it was because they were tired or if it was because they were young but that did not seem to register,” Perry said. “They go out and nobody is guarding their man close and the time ticks away down to one minute from 2:30. Frustration is not the word.”
“I am not sure if it was the long bus ride or the girls just not being on their game but we cannot play a great team like Russellville and only play a good first half,” he added. “We must put two halves together. We had great sparks on offense and defense but we must be consistent.”
Kaitlyn Weng and Lauryn Taylor led the Lady Hornets with 4 points each. Kyrstyn Weng finished with 3 and Jaiyah Jackson 2.
“We have one game left in the season and it is against a great Lake Hamilton team,” said Perry of the season-finale on the road Feb. 7. “I am hoping that the girls work hard between now and then and get their minds on the task at hand.”