CONWAY — With :07.2 left to play, Bryant’s Jakeria Otey hit a 3-pointer and was fouled by Little Rock Hall’s Kiera Black. By completing the four-point play, Otey pulled her team even with the highly-regarded Lady Warriors, 57-57. But Hall’s Shakyla Hill dashed up the floor, drove the right side of the lane and, trying to draw contact, was successful enough to get a call with :01.2 on the clock. She converted the first of her two shots to snap the tie and missed the second.
Bryant rebounded as head coach Brad Matthews tried to get a timeout call. The game-ending horn sounded but, after a conference among the three officials, :00.6 was put on the board. The Lady Hornets inbounded but couldn’t get a shot away before the buzzer as they absorbed a gut-wrenching 58-57 loss.
“Hall’s traditionally one of the four, five, six best teams in the state,” said Matthews. “They’ve got a really good chance to win 6A along with Greenwood, which is in our league. Hall’s really good. It’s hard to guard them. They’re really talented.
“I thought our kids fought hard,” he noted. “We’re making progress. Losing is bad and losing a close game like this is just painful. But we’ve got to make sure we grow from it. A week ago, we would not have been in this game. The progress being made is visible to all, hopefully, and we’ve got to keep building on that.”
Hill finished with 23 points and nine rebounds but the Lady Hornets held UCA commitment Rakia Lane to just 7.
For Bryant, Lauren Carroll slashed to 23 points. Otey had 12 along with a game-high 13 rebounds. Freshman Raija Todd had 12 as well.
The Lady Warriors just couldn’t shake the Lady Hornets. Even when they held a 6-point lead with :40 left, the Lady Warriors weren’t safe. Carroll followed her own miss with a basket as she was fouled at the :12.6 mark. Though she missed her free throw, teammate Maddie Baxter forced a held ball on the carom and, on the alternating possessions, Bryant got the ball and a chance. That’s when the Lady Hornets got it in the corner to Otey off a called play and she came through with the four-point play to tie it.
The Lady Hornets had led late in the third quarter and were tied at 43 early in the fourth. Hall would nudge ahead but Bryant would rally.
“Our offense has to be more efficient,” Matthews stated. “We have to execute better on offense. With about two, two-and-a-half minutes to go, we kind of got away from executing. We fell back to taking shots that were available instead of getting shots that we wanted.
“But, it’s the sixth game of the year and we’re getting better at that,” he asserted. “We’ve just got to keep getting better and better where, by mid-January, we’re much better at rebounding and executing on offense.”
7A/6A-Central Conference play begins in mid-January.
Against Hall, the Lady Hornets were playing from behind much of the way. They got down 6-0 but behind Otey and Carroll rallied to within 14-13 by the end of the opening period.
It was 12-6 after a three-point play by Lane. Otey hit a short jumper and, after a pair of Hall misses, Carroll came through with a three-point play on a drive to the rack, cutting it to 12-11.
Junior post Rachel Miller made a steal but the Lady Hornets were unable to take advantage. Terralynne Dominick hit a running jumper but Carroll drove for another hoop to make it 14-13 going into the second quarter.
Hall started the new period with another rush, building what would prove to be its largest lead of the game at 20-13. But a driving jumper by Carroll and two free throws by Miller cut it to 3.
Hall’s Nakyla Shelton made a three-point play and, after a Bryant turnover, added a free throw to make it a 7-point margin again only to have the Lady Hornets made it a 1-point game again off a pair of baskets by Emily Ridgell and a move to the hoop by Todd.
A 3-pointer by Kiera Black helped Hall take a 29-23 lead to the locker room.
The Lady Warriors matched their 7-point lead early in the third quarter but, Carroll hit three free throws on consecutive trips to the line. After Dominick missed twice at the stripe for Hall, Carroll made it a 1-point game with yet another three-point play.
Hill interrupted the run with a layup but Otey posted up and hit a turnaround to answer. The Lady Warriors missed three shots at upping the margin again but none would fall. As a result, when Carroll knifed through the defense for a layup, the Lady Hornets had a 39-36 lead with 2:40 left in the quarter.
Lane and Todd traded baskets. Hill hit two free throws and Otey scored off the offensive glass to make it 41-40 going into the final 30 seconds. But Dominick drained a 3 with :18 to go and the Lady Warriors took a 2-point lead into the final eight minutes.
Lane misfired on Hall’s end early in the period. Carroll rebounded and went coast-to-coast for a basket to tie the game at 43. But Hill sparked a 7-0 run to put Bryant under the gun again.
The Lady Hornets responded. Todd drove for a bucket and, after Hill added a free throw, Miller canned a pair. Black missed from long rang and Todd fed Ridgell for 5-foot banker that trimmed it to 51-49.
Hall was cited for an illegal screen so the Lady Hornets had a chance to tie it again or take the lead. Matthews called a timeout and they ran a play out of it that got a look for Otey’s shot rimmed out.
A two-minute drought on the offensive end was ended by Todd’s 15-footer with a minute left that cut the lead to 55-51 but Hill’s drive bumped it to a 6-point margin, setting up the dramatic finish.
“I thought our rebounding was better in the second half,” Matthews said and, indeed, the Lady Hornets finished with a 36-32 advantage on the boards.
“Defensively, we had to go to a zone because of their athleticism,” the coach continued. “When you go to a zone, you’re going to struggle to get boards. I thought, in the first half, it hurt us some. I thought the second half, we did a better job getting rebounds. That’s something we’re going to have to do a good job of every game. All five have to do a good job of rebounding. We’ve made progress at that.”
Bryant returns to action in the tournament on Thursday at 7 against Hot Springs, which lost Tuesday night 48-35 to host Conway.
LADY WARRIORS 58, LADY HORNETS 57
Score by quarters
LR Hall 14 15 14 15 — 58
BRYANT 13 10 17 16 — 57
LADY WARRIORS 58
Hill 7-9 9-14 23, Lane 2-13 3-3 7, Dominick 4-10 2-4 11, Black 3-12 0-0 9, Shelton 2-4 2-5 6, Kelly 0-0 0-1 0, Carbin 1-1 0-0 2, Jackson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-51 (37%) 16-27 (59%) 58.
LADY HORNETS 57
Otey 5-18 1-1 12, Carroll 8-14 7-12 23, Baxter 0-1 0-0 0, Todd 4-7 4-4 12, Miller 0-1 4-4 4, Martin 0-2 0-1 0, Ridgell 3-3 0-2 6, McDowell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-46 (43%) 16-24 (67%) 57
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-7 (Otey 1-6, Todd 0-1), LR Hall 4-20 (Black 3-9, Dominick 1-2, Lane 0-7, Hill 0-1, Jackson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, LR Hall 11. Rebounds: Bryant 13-23 36 (Otey 4-9 13, Miller 2-4 6, Carroll 2-2 4, Martin 1-3 4, Ridgell 2-2 4, Todd 0-2 2, Baxter 1-0 1, team 1-1 2), LR Hall 13-19 32 (Hill 6-3 9, Shelton 3-4 7, Lane 0-4 4, Dominck 1-2 3, Carbin 0-2 2, Black 1-0 1, Kelly 0-1 1, Jackson 1-0 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls: Bryant 21, LR Hall 22. Fouled out: Bryant, Miller, Ridgell; LR Hall, Shelton.