Bryant girls notch State win over Jonesboro
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continue posting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The Jonesboro Lady Hurricane could never quite get over the hump; the Bryant Lady Hornets wouldn’t let them.
Repeatedly, Jonesboro pulled even with the Lady Hornets despite the fact that Bryant rolled out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter and led by 14 early in the second. The Lady Hurricane rallied to tie the game at 22, 24 and 26 late in the half, then the game was deadlocked three more times in the third quarter. Plus, Jonesboro had a chance in the final period to take the lead.
But it never happened.
Bryant, despite converting just 5 of 16 free throws in the second half, held on for a 59-53 win to advance to the second round of the Class AAAAA State Tournament on Wednesday, Mar. 5. The Lady Hornets improved to 23-5 on the season. They were set for a re-match with four-time defending State champion Fort Smith Northside in the second round on Friday, Mar. 6, at 1 p.m. Earlier in the season, the Lady Hornets had a late lead on Northside in the finals of the Hot Springs Invitational Tournament, only to fall 54-48.
Now, they get a second shot.
It was the first State tourney victory for Bryant since 1999 when they defeated Fayetteville in the first round before losing in double overtime to eventual runner-up West Memphis.
And it comes in large part because of the play of guards Rachel Blakley, a senior, and Ashley Grappe, a sophomore.
Blakley erupted for a season-high 18 points including a trio of 3-pointers and Grappe, taking control of the game down the stretch, scored 15 points and dished out eight assists. She also made some clutch defensive plays that frustrated Jonesboro’s comeback attempt.
Amanda Grappe, despite foul trouble, tacked on 13 points. Yousra Elhagemoussa chipped in with 7 to go with a team-high 10 rebounds.
Senior Jennifer Slack only managed 6 points and really struggled from the free-throw line (1 of 7) but her defensive work against Jonesboro star Sara Lehman was crucial. Lehman finished with 12 points but 8 of those came in the second quarter when Jonesboro put together its rally.
Bryant took the lead for good — though hardly comfortably — with 3:45 left in the third quarter. Allison Taylor, who led Jonesboro with 20 points, had tied the game at 32 and the Lady Hurricane had a chance to take the lead only to misfire. Ashley Grappe’s driving jumper in the lane snapped the tie.
Jonesboro had three shots at tying it back up but couldn’t get anything to fall. Again, Grappe drove into the lane. This time, she missed only to go back among the taller inside players, claim the rebound and score on a follow shot to make it 36-32.
Taylor answered and Bryant turned the ball over giving the Lady Hurricane a chance to tie it again. But a steal by Meagan Kennedy resulted in a 3-pointer by Blakley that increased the lead to 39-34.
That was the score going into the fourth quarter.
Jonesboro whittled on the lead again as the final period unfolded. With 5:15 left, Tara Lehman (10 points) hit two free throws to cut the margin to 43-42. And, again, Jonesboro got a chance to take the lead. But Bryant foiled the opportunity and Blakley hit a baseline jumper to bump the margin again.
Taylor stepped out from 12 feet to make it 45-44 and, after a Bryant miss, Jonesboro had yet another chance to take the lead go by the wayside. This time, Ashley Grappe buried a 3-pointer and it was never quite that close again.
Taylor’s bucket inside made it a 2-point game but Blakley canned another long jumper. Free throws by Aquasha Anderson countered for Jonesboro. With 3:25 left, Slack hit a free throw. At the other end, Ashley Grappe flashed for a steal and drove for a layup and a 53-48 lead.
Anderson hit another free throw then Bryant turned the ball over. Sara Lehman appeared to have a layup off of that turnover but somehow Ashley Grappe got back in time to throw off her shot. She rebounded and the Lady Hornets spread the floor.
A free throw by Ashley Grappe and a layup by Blakley made it 56-49 with 1:30 left.
Jonesboro didn’t score again until the final :15. The Lady Hornets could’ve been more comfortable with a little better free-throw shooting but held on nonetheless.