Bryant Lady Hornets basketball coach Brad Matthews wanted to see how far along his team is so he went out and set up a pre-season scrimmage against one of the best teams in the state. In an Arkansas Activities Association benefit game at the Hornets Nest on Saturday, that’s just what he got from the North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats.
The Lady Hornets were outscored 59-34 in the contest but it wasn’t the score so much that Matthews was emphasizing with his team, which lost its two top scorers from last year.
“It was a really good day for us,” he said. “I thought there was a lot of things that we saw that we’ve been working on that we still didn’t execute under the pressure of playing another team. There was a lot of good stuff, a lot of stuff that we didn’t do at all in the summer that we saw today. We rebounded better than I expected against a team with the size and athleticism of North Little Rock. So compared to where we were in the summer to where we are now, a lot of good things to build on there.
“That’s the thing about playing North Little Rock,” he continued. “When you make mistakes, they make you pay for it, whether it be transition defense, offensive rebounding. They’re a really, really talented team. But, for the first day, for the first scrimmage, I think we did some good things and we learned what we need to work on.”
Both teams struggled to score in the first quarter. The Lady Cats hit a couple of 3’s to help produce a 10-0 lead by midway through the period but then was stymied until early in the second period. In the meantime, the Lady Hornets got going a bit. Sophomore Kelly Williams, playing off the bench, broke the ice with 2:47 left in the quarter with a free throw. Sophomore Raija Todd added a pair from the line to make it 10-3 going into the second quarter.
Todd then opened the scoring in the new period with the first of her trio of 3’s in the game, cutting the margin to 10-6.
“To hold a team like that to 10 points, as explosive as they are and as well as they shoot the 3, as good as they are on the boards and in transition, I thought our defense gave us a chance,” Matthews related.
“We didn’t shoot it well early,” he acknowledged. “I think we were a little nervous, a little anxious, playing out of our rhythm. (North Little Rock) can do things to us defensively that we can’t simulate in practice so it took a little while to get into a rhythm, in a routine, to play at a high level, to play at a high speed yet to be comfortable — that’s one reason we want to play teams like this early. So we see that. So we know what that’s going to look like.”
Bryant had a chance to cut it further when Kendal Rogers made a steal but a missed 3 resulted. At the other end, North Little Rock forward Kyra Collier banked in a 3, which sparked a run that made it 17-6.
That surge was interrupted when Bryant’s Destiny Martin made a nice feed to Rachel Miller for a basket. But Amber Hawkinson answered with her second triple and North Little Rock built a lead of 30-11 before Williams hit a 3 at the buzzer to get Bryant a little closer.
The Lady Cats opened the second half by scoring the first 6 points before Todd knocked down a pair of 3’s, the first set up by Martin’s steal. The lead ballooned again from 16 to 21 then Bryant senior Emily Ridgell sparked a resurgence for Bryant. She hit a 3 and, after a free throw by Hawkinson, converted twice at the line. Collier’s basket was countered by two free throws from Annie Patton for Bryant then a three-point play off a drive by Ridgell had the margin down to 15 going into the fourth quarter.
And when Todd opened the final period with a 15-footer, the margin was down to 13.
But that’s as close as the Lady Hornets could get down the stretch.
Todd finished with 15 points and Ridgell had 9 to lead Bryant, which wound up shooting just 25 percent from the field (10 of 40). The Lady Hornets officially open the regular second on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Benton.