There have been some years that, if Bryant Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews had decided to host a jamboree, he probably wouldn’t have picked perennial powerhouses North Little Rock and Pine Bluff as the teams his squad would scrimmage.
So, it’s actually a testament to this year’s team that he felt they could handle the assignment in Saturday’s preseason event at the BHS gym.
Typically, North Little Rock’s Lady Charging Wildcats have depth and skill to spare and this year’s no different. Waves of talented players deployed against the Lady Hornets, more than three deep. But Bryant held its own for the two-quarter scrimmage. It took a late surge for the Lady Cats to produce a 39-25 advantage at the end.
And when the Lady Hornets came back and played the quick, aggressive Fillies of Pine Bluff in the final scrimmage of the day, they came out on fire and rolled to a 21-8 lead in the first quarter on the way to a 29-20 edge at then end.
“It was a really good day,” Matthews said. “We got to play two quality teams. It showed us some things we knew we’ve got to work on. A couple of other things came up within the games that we can go back and work on as well. It’s a good starting point.
“I thought our kids really played hard and competed well so it’s a good first day,” he emphasized. “I played 10 or 12 kids so that kind of helps out as we get ready for a big game Thursday.”
Bryant opens the season officially on Thursday, Nov. 13, at home against the rival Benton Lady Panthers.
Against North Little Rock, senior Jakeria Otey scored 12 points. Lauren Carroll had 6, Emily Ridgell 4, Raija Todd 2 and Maddie Baxter 1.
The Lady Cats opened with a 7-0 lead but two free throws by Carroll got the Lady Hornets going. Baxter fed Otey for the first field goal then Ridgell popped a jumper from the corner and it was 7-7.
And that was the pattern. North Little Rock would surge then Bryant would rally. It was 12-6 then Otey canned a 3 from the top of the key and Carroll added a free throw to make it 12-10. North Little Rock hit a 3 and Todd responded with a 15-foot floater.
It was 19-12 at the break but Otey scored inside to cut the margin to 5. That’s when the Lady Cats got a little separation with a 14-3 surge.
“They’ve got some quality, quality players and they’re well-coached,” Matthews said. “It’s a good program.
“We had a few turnovers there at the start of the second quarter and a 3 or 4 point game became 12 pretty quick,” he noted. “You can’t let teams like that get out in transition. We gave up a few offensive rebounds. Credit to them, they’re really good on the boards, really good in transition.
“They were able to make us pay for our mistakes,” the coach said. “And that’s what you want this time of year. You want to play people that, when you do make mistakes, they show you. That way, your kids believe they’re making mistakes. A lot of times, they don’t believe you unless it costs them.”
Todd, a freshman who missed a week of practice due to illness, pumped in 9 points in the first-quarter salvo by the Lady Hornets against Pine Bluff. Otey would finish the scrimmage with 9, Carroll 5, Baxter and Cayla McDowell 2 each.
In the second quarter, Pine Bluff rallied to within 21-11 and had a couple of chances to get closer before Otey made a steal. Todd missed but Baxter scrambled after the rebound, going to the floor to wrestle it away near the left block. Without getting up, she flipped to McDowell under the basket for an easy deuce as she was fouled.
Eventually, the Fillies trimmed the lead to 7 but could get no closer.
“We executed offensively pretty well, made some shots,” Matthews pointed out. “That always helps our defense. We got out in transition a few times. Lauren Carroll played well. Jakeria played well. (The first quarter) was really a good quarter of offense. It’s something we can build on.”