Bryant earns tourney title in impressive fashion
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
PINE BLUFF — The Bryant Lady Hornets used hustling, fullcourt, defensive pressure and scrapped on the boards against bigger teams to capture the championship of the Pine Bluff Invitational Tournament last week at McFaddon Gym. In the final on Saturday, Nov. 22, Bryant went on a 22-2 run in the first half on the way to a 55-43 win over a highly-regarded Searcy team. The Lady Hornets qualified for the title game by knocking off perennial power West Memphis, 67-58, on Thursday, Nov. 20, and opening with a 58-30 romp over Hamburg on Monday, Nov. 17.
Though obviously pleased with the championship, Lady Hornets head coach Blake Condley persisted on keeping his and the team’s focus moving ahead. “We’re trying to get ready for conference,” he emphasized.
A season ago, the Lady Hornets went 10-2 in pre-season then went 0-14 in conference play. Of course, there were off-the-court distractions involved in that and that none of those 10 pre-season wins last year were against the kind of competition that they’ve already seen this season as they’ve built a 4-0 mark.
In the championship game, the Lady Hornets fell behind 12-7 in the first quarter. But when Haley Montgomery hit a short jumper in the final 10 seconds of the period to cut the lead to 3, the turnaround began.
Searcy didn’t score again until midway through the second quarter. Meanwhile, Bryant surged into the lead. A steal by Taylor Hughes led to a bucket by Alana Morris that trimmed the lead to 12-11.
It stayed that way for awhile before Morris took advantage of another Searcy turnover, driving for a layup that put Bryant ahead 13-12 with 5:39 left in the half. The Lady Hornets never trailed again.
A 3-pointer by Hannah Goshien extended the margin. She then combined with Shanika Johnson for a steal that Johnson took to the rack for points, making it 18-12 and forcing a Searcy timeout.
“It was just a matter of the intensity of our pressure catching up to them a little bit,” Condley said. “I think they were ready for it at the beginning and let it go. That’s what I told the girls, we just want to maintain that pace, maintain the pressure, get up and down the floor and try to get into their legs, and use our speed against their size. And it worked out for us.”
After an offensive-rebound basket by Searcy interrupted the run, Kenzee Calley got it going again with a driving jumper then a layup off a feed from Morris who pushed the ball up the floor after pulling down a defensive rebound.
The Lady Lions missed a couple of chances to cut into the lead at the free-throw line but couldn’t convert and, in the final minute, baskets by Morris and Johnson extended the margin to 26-14 at the half.
To start the second half, the Lady Hornets worked a play to get an open look from long range for Goshien and she canned the trey to make it 29-14.
The teams traded baskets after that with Bryant’s Anna Simpson stepping up with 9 of her game-high 14 points in the third period including a 3-pointer with :34 left to make it 40-25. And when Goshien added another 3 moments later, Bryant held a 43-25 cushion going into the final eight minutes.
The lead grew to 50-30 with 5:17 left in the game. Simpson’s steal and 3-pointer came on the heels of a drive to the hoop by Calley to produce that margin. After a basket by Searcy, Brooke Parish knocked down a jumper and it was 52-32 with 4:37 left. Condley began to work in his bench and Searcy whittled on the lead, getting within 52-41 before sophomore Taylor Neal hit a jumper and was fouled. The three-point play capped the victory.
Condley was pleased with how his team battled on the board, often just getting a hand on a rebound and tipping it to keep it alive.
“Especially in the second half, I felt like we had three, four, five girls trying to come in and get the rebound,” he noted, “and, if we weren’t getting it, we were tipping it out. Then I thought we were coming up with some loose balls and that’s really been something I’ve been talking to the girls about. I feel like we’re coming up with most loose balls but I want all the loose balls. I think that’s going to be important for us. When we get to conference, every possession is going to be so huge. We can’t afford to just watch the other team get that extra possession, we need to have all of them.”
To go with Simpson’s 14, Calley had 10, Goshien 9 and Morris 8.
Bryant 67, West Memphis 58
While the Lady Hornets were just 1 of 13 at the free throw line against Searcy, they came through on 17 of 24 in the win over the Lady Blue Devils. And that, despite a 4 of 10 start in the first quarter when West Memphis built a 17-13 advantage.
And when the Lady Blue Devils scored the first 5 points of the second period, the lead grew to 9. But, despite the fact that Morris was on the bench in foul trouble, the Lady Hornets continued to doggedly defend and rallied to take the lead by halftime, putting together a 14-0 run which started with Montgomery, one of the smallest players on the floor, coming up with a defensive rebound and getting fouled. She made both free throws and, moments later, Johnson connected on a pair as well. Montgomery followed with a steal and layup, trimming the lead to 22-19, and forcing a West Memphis timeout.
But the stop in play didn’t deter Bryant. West Memphis missed a chance at the free-throw line at the 4:28 mark. Simpson grabbed the rebound off the miss and was fouled. After the walk to the other end, she dropped in both ends of the one-and-one to make it a 1-point game.
Another steal and layup by Montgomery gave Bryant the lead at the 4:09 mark. Montgomery drove for another layup after Abbie Stearns pulled down the carom off a West Memphis miss to keep the run going. Stearns and Hughes then combined on a steal that Hughes cashed in with a layup to complete the blitz, making it 27-22.
West Memphis was unable to ever regain the lead though the margin was just 27-24 until Stearns’ stickback in the final minute of the half made it a 5-point edge at the break.
The third quarter started with another surge by the Lady Hornets. Hughes made a steal and fed Morris for a basket. Another turnover by the Lady Blue Devils led to a trip to the free-throw line for Simpson off a sparkling feed from Morris. Simpson converted once and the Lady Hornets forced yet another turnover. This time, Montgomery drove the middle for a layup to give Bryant its first double-digit lead, 34-24, with 6:47 left in the third.
Morris, after being held scoreless in the first half in part because of the early foul trouble, scored 13 of her team-high 15 in the third period. After West Memphis rallied to within 5, she drove for a layup and followed a turnover with a 3 to bump it back to 10.
Bryant led 47-40 going into the fourth quarter and when Morris hit a reverse layup and Simpson canned a driving jumper, the lead grew to 11.
The margin would get to 13 midway through the period. After a pair of baskets got the Lady Blue Devils within 55-46, Stearns hit a jumper and Simpson made a steal and layup to make it 59-46. The margin was never less than 9 the rest of the way.
“That let us see some speed and athleticism like we’re going to see in conference,” Condley noted, regarding the matchup with West Memphis. “Seeing if we can play against that size, play against the athleticism. And I felt we did some good things. One thing we’ve tried to do and tried to preach this year is that every day we come out and we try to get better. I asked them after the game what are the two things we’ve got to try to bring up and they said missed layups and missed free throws. Those two things, I feel like if we seal those up, we handle this game much better that what we did.”
To go with Morris’ 15, Simpson had 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Montgomery added 12 points, Johnson 9.
Bryant forced 31 West Memphis turnovers, 22 on steals including nine by Simpson and six by Montgomery.
Bryant 58, Hamburg 30
After defeating Pulaski Robinson in a first-round game on Saturday, Hamburg’s Lady Lions stepped up to a whole new level of ball against the Lady Hornets. As one observer noted, Class 4A Hamburg just wasn’t used to playing with the speed of the game at a Class 7A rate. The result was a whopping 42 turnovers for the Lady Lions with few of the Lady Hornets’ starters playing at all in the second half.
Bryant scored the first 6 points of the game then 6 more after Hamburg was able to break the ice nearly three minutes in. A basket by Calley in the final minute of the period had the Lady Hornets up 14-4. Hughes and Johnson combined on a steal that led to a basket by Stearns off a nice feed from Hughes to open the second quarter and Bryant’s lead was never less than 10 the rest of the way.
The Lady Lions were within 22-9 with 4:22 left in the half but Bryant scored the next 12 points to take away any remaining mystery about the final outcome. The run began with a steal by Simpson and Hughes that set up a basket by Morris. Simpson and Montgomery forced a turnover that led to a layup by Goshien followed by consecutive layups by Simpson and a driving jumper by Hughes. Montgomery fed Simpson for another hoop with :20.9 left to complete the blitz.
Hamburg started the second half with 8 straight points to trim the margin to 16 but that was as close as it would get. Johnson fed Stearns for a basket, Lindsey Nelson added a pair of free throws and Neal made a steal and layup to pump the lead back to 22.
It was 44-25 going into the fourth quarter. Baskets by Tori Montgomery and Calley opened the lead to 23 and, after a 3-pointer by Hamburg, hoops by Parish and Neal then free throws by Parish, Stearns and Shelby Harrison pushed it to 56-28. When Stearns scored off a feed from Harrison with :35 left, Bryant had its largest lead of 30.
Twelve of the 14 Lady Hornets that got into the game added to the scoring with Stearns leading with 12 points and seven rebounds. Simpson added 10 points, all in the first half.
The Lady Hornets are scheduled to travel to Sheridan on Tuesday, Nov. 25, then compete in a tournament at El Dorado starting Dec. 1.