BENTON — No doubt, the Benton Lady Panthers are glad they’ve seen the last of Bryant Lady Hornets’ senior guard Jakeria Otey.
Last year in the Saline Shootout game between the two rivals, Otey scored 31 over her teams’ 51 points including a pair of free throws with no time left on the clock at the end of regulation to turn a 50-49 Benton win into a 51-50 Bryant victory.
On Tuesday, Otey pumped in 22 of her team’s points as the Lady Hornets once again claimed the Shootout trophy with a 41-34 win over their rival.
Otey set the stage in the fourth quarter after Benton had surged to a 31-27 lead late in the third quarter. By attacking the Lady Panthers’ defense, often before it could get set, Otey made it to the free-throw line six times in the second half, going 10 of 12.
She converted twice with :00.5 on the clock to make it 31-29 going into the final period then made two more to start the fourth-quarter scoring, pulling the Lady Hornets even.
Benton’s Tia Brazell hit a free throw to give her team a 32-31 edge at the 6:27 mark but the Lady Panthers, who came into the game in the process of recovering from an injury, an illness and a defection, were held to just 2 points the rest of the game.
“I thought we really defended well in the fourth quarter,” acknowledged Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews, whose team forced five turnovers in the final period and allowed the Lady Panthers to attempt just six shots from the field. “We were able to guard their post — they have great post play. We got some turnovers and we were able to get out and get some stuff that way. When you have to guard a team as good as Benton, you’ve got to work hard as a team and I thought all of our kids really did a good job defensively particularly when the game was on the line.
“Jakeria played really well on offense,” he noted. “With Rachel Miller in foul trouble, Cayla McDowell came in and gave us great minutes. I thought Emily (Ridgell) really played well as did Raija (Todd) and Maddie (Baxter).”
Along with Otey’s 22, Lauren Carroll scored 10 points and collected a game-high 10 rebounds. Benton was led by Braxton Chumley and Brazell with 9 points each.
“Braxton Chumley is really good,” Matthews asserted. “I thought Lauren did a really good job on her. She scored and she rebounded but I thought, by far, Lauren’s biggest contribution was guarding Chumley and limiting her clean looks.”
Even with Benton struggling to score down the stretch, the Lady Hornets didn’t start to get comfortable until the final minute. That lone Lady Panthers’ hoop, a basket inside by Ann Marie Burchfield off a feed from Chumley had them within 37-34.
Otey had a shot blocked at the other end but both Chumley and Skylar Davis misfired for the Lady Panthers and, with 2:37 left, the Lady Hornets began to spread the floor and run clock.
Todd hit a free throw at the 1:14 mark to make it a two-possession game. Brazell had a chance to cut it to 2 at the line but missed the front end of a one-and-one at :51.6. McDowell rebounded and was fouled. And with :49.5 showing, she calmly sank both ends of the bonus opportunity to spread the lead to 6, Bryant’s largest advantage to that point.
Carroll blocked a 3-point try by Chumley and Todd came up with the loose ball. She was fouled with :15.7 on the clock and set the final score with a free throw.
The Lady Hornets’ go-ahead surge was marked by that defense. With Benton up 32-31, Todd missed on a jumper but came through with a steal that led to a trip to the line for Otey, who converted once to tie it. She and Ridgell then combined on a steal that led to another free throw. McDowell swiped a pass and, with 4:42 left, Otey was at the stripe again, this time converting twice to make it 35-32. Ridgell made yet another theft and drove the length of the floor for a layup that made it a 5-point game at the 4:11 mark.
Benton’s largest lead was 12-7 late in the first quarter. Chumley hit a free throw to cap a 9-0 run that had wiped out Bryant’s 7-3 lead. But Otey hit a 3 with :02.3 showing and it was 12-10 going into the second quarter.
That started a 10-0 burst for the Lady Hornets that Carroll capped with an eight-footer off a dish from McDowell. On their next three trips up the court, however, Bryant missed point-blank shots and Benton took advantage. A pair of follow shots by Brazell and a bucket by Burchfield had the Lady Panthers up 18-17.
But Otey canned her third triple of the half then made a steal and hit a free throw as the Lady Hornets went to intermission up 21-18.
It was Benton’s turn to surge as the third quarter unfolded. Brazell and Chumley hit short shots then Davis hit one from long range to make it 27-23. Carroll trimmed a pair of free throws off the margin and the teams traded points the rest of the third quarter.
“I thought we played really well,” Matthews stated. “Benton is a really talented team. It was a great environment, a rivalry game. It’s always going to be close with them. I was proud of our kids. It’s a great win, a great feeling to beat them in the trophy game. I couldn’t be happier for our kids. We worked so hard in August and September and October. These kinds of wins are good, kind of a reward for all that hard work.”
The Lady Hornets, now 8-5 and winners of eight of their last 10 games, open 7A/6A-Central Conference play on Friday against perennial power Greenwood on the road. Benton opens 6A-South Conference play Friday at Little Rock Parkview.
LADY HORNETS 41, LADY PANTHERS 34
Score by quarters
BRYANT 10 11 8 12 — 41
Benton 12 6 13 3 — 34
LADY HORNETS 41
Otey 4-10 11-15 22, Baxter 0-2 0-0 0, Carroll 4-7 2-4 10, Todd 1-5 2-4 5, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, McDowell 0-1 2-2 2, Ridgell 1-1 0-0 2, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-26 17-25 41.
LADY PANTHERS 34
Davis 1-7 0-0 3, Chumley 4-8 0-0 9, Oglesby 1-2 0-0 3, Brazell 4-11 1-3 9, Burchfield 2-4 2-4 6, Dintleman 1-2 2-2 4, Clay 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-35 5-9 34.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-6 (Otey 3-3, Todd 1-1, Carroll 0-1, Baxter 0-1), Benton 3-12 (Davis 1-7, Chumley 1-2, Oglesby 1-1, Brazell 0-1, Clay 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Benton 14. Rebounds: Bryant 8-16 24 (Carroll 3-7 10, McDowell 1-2 3, Todd 0-2 2, Baxter 0-1 1, Martin 0-1 1, team 3-2 5), Benton 9-15 24 (Brazell 4-3 7, Oglesby 0-4 4, Chumley 2-2 4, Burchfield 0-3 3, Davis 1-0 1, Dintleman 0-1 1, team 2-2 4). Team fouls: Bryant 10, Benton 15. Fouled out: Benton, Dintleman.