The Mount St. Mary Academy Mounties had no answer for Bryant’s Raven Loveless Thursday night. Loveless scored in the post, off the offensive boards and, helping to beat the Mounties’ press, drove to the basket on her way to 18 points in the Lady Hornets’ 27-24 win.
It was Bryant’s first Central Arkansas Junior High Conference win after opening the league season against the top teams. Mount, in the middle of the pack (now 3-3), starts a series of games for Bryant against the teams they’re competing with to get into the post-season tournament, which includes eight of the 10 teams in the conference.
“We said we’ve got four winnable games here at the end,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “We keyed this one because it’s at home. It’s always hard to win on the road so it was especially important for us to get this one before getting into these last three.”
The game was the final one at home for the Lady Hornets. They travel to Russellville on Monday then visit Cabot Red on Thursday, Feb. 12, before closing out the regular season at Conway White on Thursday, Feb. 19.
The game with Mount St. Mary was tied 18-18 with 1:12 left in the third quarter. Mount’s Payton Grice, who led her team with 9 points, had hit a 3 to knot it up. With :58.7 showing, Bryant’s Paige Adams snapped the tie with a free throw. On the missed second shot, Loveless pulled down the rebound. She missed but went after her own carom, got it and scored to put the Lady Hornets up 21-18 going into the fourth quarter.
A layup by Daniele Singleton started the scoring in the final stanza, making it 23-18. After a miss by Mount’s Abby Bingenheimer, Kelly Williams rebounded for Bryant. Singleton was fouled on a drive to the basket at the 4:51 mark.
Though Singleton missed both shots, there was Loveless again, claiming the carom, and scoring to give Bryant its largest lead of the game, 25-18.
Bingenheimer converted two free throws in response and, off a Bryant turnover, Grice nailed her second 3, cutting the lead to 25-23 with 3:37 to go. And the Mounties force another turnover only to have Rieves Payne’s shot rim out. Loveless rebounded and, after a timeout by Castaldi, the Lady Hornets worked it in to Loveless who knocked down an 8-footer to make it 27-23 with 2:45 to go.
Both teams missed multiple opportunities to change that score before Grice hit a free throw with 1:02 left. In turn, the Lady Hornets worked the clock before Mount started fouling but Bryant couldn’t get a free throw to fall. Over the final :41.9, the Lady Hornets missed the front end of one-and-ones three times.
But their defense kept the Mounties from taking advantage. Loveless forced a couple of turnovers and Singleton came out with a big rebound off a missed 3 from Bingenheimer in the final :15.
“We played a lot better in the second half,” said Castaldi. “I challenged the girls at halftime.”
Regarding Loveless’ scoring spree, the coach said, “(Mount’s) zone, they were packing it inside but, at the same time, they were playing Raven one-on-one. So I thought, if we can get her the ball, she can score. She did a great job the second half of finishing but I thought our guards did much better at getting her the basketball in position to score.”
He was also pleased with how the team handled the Mounties’ press.
“We didn’t handle it perfect but a couple of times we were able to beat the pressure and get some easy layups, which helps our offense a lot,” he stated.
Bryant actually broke out to a 6-1 lead on a pair of baskets by Adams and a short jumper by Singleton. Bingenheimer got the Mounties’ first field goal at the 1:26 mark of the first quarter. A free throw by Laura Jo Randall made it 6-4 going into the second quarter. And when Grace Hatfield hit a jumper for the first hoop of the second quarter, the game was tied.
Bryant snapped the tie with a big effort on the offensive boards. Baylee Rowton missed a shot but rebounded her own miss. Though she missed a tough shot to follow, Loveless rebounded. She missed once too but got the ball back and scored.
The Lady Hornets led 10-9 at the half. Bingenheimer scored inside to give Mount St. Mary its first lead at the start of the third quarter. Loveless answered with a stickback. Bingenheimer scored again to make it 13-12 but Singleton fed Loveless for another bucket to put Bryant back on top.
Beating the Mounties’ press, Loveless drove for a basket to make it a 3-point lead. Grice knocked down a 12-footer but Loveless connected twice at the free-throw line to make it 18-15.
That’s when Grice tied it with her first 3 and the Lady Hornets put together the surge that produced the largest lead.