Wallis’ injury overshadowsLady Hornet win vs. Searcy
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
Thoughts of Ashley Wallis’ lost sophomore season flashed through everyone’s mind Monday night when, on a drive to the baseline with just over a minute left in the third quarter of the Bryant Lady Hornets’ season-opener against the Searcy Lady Lions, Wallis crumpled to the floor and clutched her left knee.
It’d been her right knee before, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, that ended her season before it had even begun, in a preseason scrimmage a week or so before she was set to open the season in the team’s starting lineup.
She missed the entire campaign, working diligently to rehabilitate. She returned as a junior with an all-State performance, leading the Lady Hornets to a 24-6 record that included a State Tournament victory.
Now, there was this.
She wept, obviously in physical as well as emotional pain, as trainer John Miller attended to her with her parents, Bryant head coach Carla Crowder and others gathered around.
Wallis had heard or felt a pop in the knee and there was pain, both unlike her previous injury.
She was eventually helped off the court and she sat out the rest of the game, receiving encouragement from every teammate and many of the fans at the game.
Miller gave a hopeful report afterwards but made no promises pending a doctor’s examination on Tuesday afternoon. The hope was that it might be a cartilage fold or tear rather than a tendon problem, though nothing was ruled out.
On Tuesday, however, the heartbreaking news was delivered. Wallis, who just a week before signed to play in college at Arkansas Tech University, would be lost to the Lady Hornets again with another torn ACL.
Without their floor leader, the Lady Hornets managed to maintain an advantage for awhile Monday night. They led 49-43 when Wallis went out and actually increased the margin to 55-46 by the end of the period, sparked by the play of junior guard Joanie Robideaux.
But they struggled to keep it up as the tough Searcy team rallied to tie it at 59 with 3:26 left to play.
The Lady Lions, however, never gained the lead as the Lady Hornets persevered, earning a 70-65 victory.
Bekka Middleton led the Lady Hornets with 21 points and 10 rebounds. She was 11-for-11 at the free-throw line including 6-of-6 in the fourth quarter when the Lady Hornets, as a team, converted 11-of-14 to help hold off the Lady Lions.
Robideaux finished with 14 points and Wallis had 8 before her injury. Kim Jacuzzi and Meagan Clancy gave the Lady Hornets a lift off the bench. Each scored 7 points.
And it was Jacuzzi and Clancy that stepped up when the game was tied in the late going.
An offensive-rebound bucket by Searcy’s Elizabeth Woodroof (21 points) knotted the game at 59. After Woodroof missed a 3-point try that would’ve given the Lady Lions their first lead since 28-27 midway through the second quarter, Clancy was fouled on a drive into the lane. She converted once to snap the tie.
Searcy’s Lindsey Hickmon misfired on another 3-point try and the Lady Hornets beat the Lady Lions press. Though Candice Croy missed her driving layup, Jacuzzi was there for the carom, scoring as she was fouled. The resulting three-point play gave Bryant a 63-59 edge.
The lead was still 4 points after Woodroof hit a free throw with 1:02 left to play. And Searcy’s Nicky Tyus made a steal to give her team a chance to get closer. But another missed 3-point try cost the Lady Lions when Clancy grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
She converted twice at the line to make it 67-61.
But the Lady Hornets weren’t out of the woods yet. With :28 left, Hickmon was fouled on a 3-point try. She converted three times to cut the margin to 67-64.
In turn, the Lady Hornets got the ball inside to Middleton who drew a foul and, with :24 left, made it 69-64.
Hickmon and Croy traded free throw in the final seconds as Searcy’s rally came up short and the Lady Hornets gamely held off the charge.
The game was nip-and-tuck for most of the first half. Searcy’s largest lead was 4 points late in the opening period. It was 18-14 before a basket by Tiffany Kennedy ended the quarter with a 2-point difference.
A three-point play by Middleton opened the second-quarter scoring, giving Bryant a momentary lead.
The advantage seesawed until Clancy, just in off the bench, hit a jumper from the corner to give Bryant a 29-28 edge then followed it up with a steal that led to a driving jumper by Robideaux and a 31-28 lead.
Another Searcy turnover resulted in a trip to the line for Middleton. She increased the lead to 5 and, after Woodroof hit a free throw, sophomore Bree Mann connected on a 15-foot jumper to bump it to 35-29.
The Lady Hornets led 39-33 at the half.
Bryant steadily increased the margin for most of the third quarter. A layup by Middleton with 3:45 left in the period gave Bryant its first 9-point edge. But before the quarter was through, Searcy trimmed it back to 5. A 3-pointer by Kim Foshee made it 51-46 with :46 left.
Two free throws by Robideaux expanded that advantage for Bryant then a Searcy turnover was cashed in when she beat the buzzer with an 18-footer to bump it back to 55-46.
The two teams traded baskets to start the final period but, after Clancy’s follow shot made it 57-48 with 7:20 left, the Lady Hornets went without a field goal until Jacuzzi’s three-point play at the 1:47 mark. Only a pair of free throws by Middleton interrupted Searcy’s rally to tie.
But even was the best they could do.
The Lady Hornets were set to return to action next Monday at 4:30 p.m., against Lake Hamilton in the first round of the Central Arkansas Christian Invitational Tournament.