Northside overcomes early challenge from Lady Hornets

FORT SMITH — For a while, the Fort Smith Northside Lady Bears were worried Friday night. Here they were, with a 12-1 record, with seven players between 5-foot-10 and 6-2 with six seniors, playing a Bryant Lady Hornets team with a sub-.500 record, no seniors, two juniors and a bunch of sophomores with five starters that included no one over 5-5.

And the Lady Hornets were stubbornly staying right with them to the point that Northside head coach Rickey Smith was flat disgusted and the fans were criticizing the officials.

With 1:16 left in the first quarter, Bryant’s Ivory Russ rebounded a teammate’s miss and scored to cut the Lady Bears’ lead to 13-12.

Northside scored the last 5 points on the quarter and built the lead to 8 but, with 6:25 left in the half, the Lady Hornets were only down 7, 23-16.

Another push produced a 15-point lead that the Lady Bears maintained until halftime.

A 2-point third quarter cost Bryant, however, and Northside took advantage on the way to a 58-39 victory in the 7A-Central Conference opener for both teams.

“I thought we competed really well,” acknowledged Lady Hornets head coach Brad Matthews. “The first half, the first 16 minutes, I thought there were 10 or 12 really good minutes that we played probably some of the best we’ve played in terms of being competitive, fighting, carrying over scouting reports.

“Because we’re young, I think, we hit a wall, took some bad shots, gave up some offensive rebounds, gave up an open 3 to their best shooter,” he said. ”The second half, a lot of the same. A lot of good minutes as a team and then we’d have lulls. Those lulls are getting shorter and shorter. Hopefully, you can see we’re growing and getting better in terms of toughness, being able to carry it out doing what we’re trying to do.”

Tierra Trotter led Bryant with 8 points. Kalia Walker and Celena Martin had 7 each, India Atkins 6 with Russ and Lexie Taylor finishing with 5 each. Madi Scifres hit a free throw.

Northside was led by two move-ins from Lake Hamilton, six-foot sisters Sara Bershers and Tracey Bershers. Each had 11 points. Sara Bershers finished with 12 rebounds to help the Lady Bears finish with 43 rebounds including a whopping 24 on the offensive end. Despite the size difference, the Lady Hornets held their own on the boards, gathering 33 of their own.

“They’re big,” acknowledged Matthews, “and Northside has a lot of really good shooters this year. In the past, they’ve been really athletic and really big — which they still are — but this year, they shoot a lot of 3’s. (Sara Bershers), the kid from Lake Hamilton, is really good. We did a really good job defending her. She was 4 for 4 from the field. If you’d told me at the beginning of the game that we’d hold her to four shots, I would’ve been really pleased. Their role players played really well tonight. That’s what happens when you’re playing at home.

“Give them credit,” he added. “They’re really talented, really deep, really athletic, really skilled. So, it was a good test for us. There was a lot of the game where our kids fought and competed and executed better than we have been doing.”

The lead seesawed early. Sydney Green’s layup for Northside was countered by a 3 from Trotter. Ciarah Carey scored but a three-point play by Martin put Bryant back on top.

After a flurry of turnovers and missed shots, freshman Jersey Wolfenbarger hit a 3 to give the Lady Bears a 7-6 edge. But when Atkins drove for a basket with 5:00 left in the quarter, putting Bryant up 8-7, Northside took a timeout.

When play resumed, Trotter and Martin combined on a steal and Atkins wound up at the line. She missed both shots and, at the other end, Carey scored inside and, moments later, Green hit a free throw to make it 10-8.

Trotters layup tied it and, after Wolfenbarger hit another triple, Russ scored off the offensive glass to make it 13-12.

Northside scored the next 7 points but Taylor drove for a layup. A three-point play from Deairah Mays was answered by Atkins’ 12-footer that made it 23-16.

Brenna Cooksey banked in a 3-pointr, which started an 9-0 run.

The teams traded baskets the rest of the half and Northside went to the locker room up 36-21.

Big Tracey Brashers canned a trio of 3-points at the end of the second and start of the third to bump the margin to 29-21. The Lady Bears had a chance to get more but Trotter’s steal and layup kept the Lady Hornets in the game.

But Bryant didn’t score the rest of the third quarter and Northside increased the margin to 45-23. Martin opened the fourth with a basket inside by Atkins. Down the stretch, Walker hit a pair of 3’s while Taylor added another.

But Northside maintained the upper hand and closed out the win.

The Lady Hornets will return to conference action on Tuesday at home against the Mount St. Mary Belles.


Score by quarters

BRYANT          12        9          2          16 — 39

FS Northside   18        18        9          13 — 58

LADY HORNETS (4-8, 0-1) 39

Trotter 3-7 1-2 8, Walker 2-11 1-2 7, Atkins 3-5 0-2 6, Martin 3-7 1-1 7, Russ 2-8 1-2 5, Taylor 2-4 0-0 5, Gordon 0-2 0-0 0, Scifres 0-1 1-2 1, Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 (33%) 5-11 (45%) 39.

LADY BEARS (13-1, 1-0) 58

Carey 3-12 0-0 7, Wolfenbarger 3-5 0-0 8, Sydney Green 2-6 1-2 5, S.Bershers 4-4 2-2 11, T.Bershers 4-10 0-2 11, Mays 2-51-3 5, Cooksey2-8 0-2 5, Coleman 2-7 0-3 4, Evans 0-1 0-0 0, Tampus 0-5 0-0 0, West 0-1 0-0 0, Q.Tillery 1-2 0-0 2, Stewart 0-0 0-0 0, I.Tillery 0-0 0-0 0, O’Neal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-69 (32%) 4-14 (29%) 58.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-12 (Walker 2-6, Trotter 1-4, Taylor 1-2), FS Northside 8-19 (T.Bershers 3-6, Wolfenbarger 2-2, Carey 1-3, Cooksey 1-2, S.Bershers 1-1 2, Tampus 0-4, West 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 18, FS Northside 13. Rebounds: Bryant 11-22 (Atkins 3-6 9, Martin 2-4 6, Russ 2-3 5, Gordon 2-2 4, Walker 0-3 3, Taylor 1-1 2, Trotter 0-1 1, Baker 0-1 1, team 1-1 2), FS Northside 24-19 43 (S.Bershers 3-9 12, Carey 4-1 5, Green 5-0 5, T.Bershers 3-2 5, Cooksey 3-2 5, Coleman 2-2 4, Q.Tillery 2-0 2, Tampus 1-0 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls: Bryant 13, FS Northside 15.

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