Lady Hornets equal to Lady Panther challenge
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 continueposting 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
BENTON — Perhaps it’s another year of maturity (though two sophomores start and three play regularly); perhaps it’s a better understanding of what second-year head coach Blake Condley has been teaching them; perhaps it’s a greater willingness to play as a team.
Or all of the above and more.
Whatever the reason, the Bryant Lady Hornets are gaining a knack of building a lead, withstanding an opponent’s rally and closing out a game.
In other words, they’re learning how to win.
The scenario played out again on Tuesday, Nov. 20, when the Lady Hornets never trailed on the way to a 57-46 victory over the rival Benton Lady Panthers. Senior Brittany Mills hit a 3-pointer to start the game and, after Benton’s Brittany Westerman tied it with a three-point play, the Lady Hornets took the lead for good on a short jumper by Hannah Goshien and held it thereafter.
After falling behind by 11, Benton made a push to cut it to 3 in the second quarter but Bryant answered, building a 16-point advantage early in the third quarter. The Lady Panthers challenged again, trimming it to 9 midway through the period but could get no closer.
“Just staying with our game plan,” explained Condley. “We had in our mind what we wanted to do, how we wanted to play the game and that’s just what I kept reiterating at halftime and during timeouts, all the time. We’re going to stay with what we feel like is good for us. It didn’t really matter what Benton did, we were trying to worry about us more than we were about them. And it paid off for us tonight.”
So what was that game plan? “We knew we wanted to close out shooters,” answered the coach. “Not let them hit some shots from outside. We knew we wanted to put ball pressure on guards, posts, everybody; and then we wanted to push the ball up and down the floor. Those were our three keys we talked about. In practice (the day before), we really focused on it and today the girls executed.”
The Lady Hornets led by as much as 9 in the first quarter. They led 7-5 before Anna Simpson drove for a layup and Alana Morris followed two Benton misses with a jumper. Another couple of Benton misfires and Jasmine Carter scored to make it 14-5.
Bryant led 16-9 going into the second quarter and Benton’s Joanna Curtis drove the baseline for bucket to trim it back to 5.
The Lady Panthers had a chance to get closer but Carter made a steal and drove for a layup, Simpson added a free throw and, after grabbing an offensive rebound, Carter added another to make it 20-11.
Benton answered with a basket by Mattison Chilton and two by Westerman to whittle the margin down to 3 with 4:01 left in the quarter but the Lady Hornets closed out the half with a 12-4 blitz that started with Carter following her own shot for a bucket.
It was a breakout game for the Lady Hornets’ senior who led the team in scoring a season ago. She came off the bench to score 10 points and grab six rebounds.
Sophomore Alana Morris, who finished with a team-high 14 points and eight boards, wrapped a pair of baskets around a hoop by Westerman. Senior Amber Westbrook kept the run going with a 12-foot jumper followed by a layup off a nice feed from Morris who drove the court after grabbing the rebound off a missed Benton shot.
Chilton cut the lead to 30-21 but Mills hit an 18-footer with :04 left in the half to give Bryant an 11-point edge.
And when Mills started the second half as she had the game with a 3, the lead was 14.
After both teams missed 3’s, Westerman had back-to-back shot attempts blocked by Morris. After the second, the Lady Hornets pushed it the other way and Simpson cashed in to give Bryant its largest lead, 37-21, with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
Mandi Haltom fueled Benton’s last push with a 3. Baskets by Curtis and Westerman had the lead down to 37-28 but, after a Bryant timeout, Goshien took a feed from Morris and was fouled. Her free throws stemmed the tide and from that point to near the end of the game, the lead mostly fluctuated between 9 and 11.
The Lady Hornets led 45-36 going into the fourth quarter and when Carter and Lindsey Cason opened the new period with baskets the lead grew to 13. Benton whittled it back to 9 and had four chances to get closer before Morris and Simpson combined for force a turnover that Simpson turned into points.
Westerman finished with 19 points for Benton. Bryant got 9 from Simpson and 8 each from Mills and Goshien.