For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
FORT SMITH — When a basketball team that is more finesse than physical has to take on a team that more rugged than fine and the officials are “letting them play,” it’s going to be a tough night.
And indeed it was for the Bryant Lady Hornets at Kaundart-Grizzly Fieldhouse on the campus of Fort Smith Northside on Friday night. The Lady Hornets faced a full-court trapping defense, enduring slapping and bumping along the way, and suffered 28 turnovers, 12 of which came in the second quarter when Northside went on a 14-0 spree to take control of the game erasing Bryant 11-9 lead.
It was the second game in a row between the two teams. On Tuesday, making up a snowed-out game from earlier in January, Northside had prevailed 53-32. This time, the final was 49-29.
Topazia Hawkins led all scorers with 13 points for the victors. Aniya Webster added 10 for the Lady Bears and Alexis Evans 9.
For Bryant, Raven Loveless and Mary Catherine Selig each finished with 8 points and Riley Hill 5.
“We didn’t handle the ball very well, had too many turnovers,” acknowledged Bryant coach Brad Matthews. “When we did break (the press), we had too many empty possessions on the back end. We had three-on-ones, two-on-twos.
“Anybody that presses that much, you’re going to have some turnovers but I think the key to that is, you’ve got to make them pay for that on the back end of it,” he explained. “Second, third quarter, we just didn’t do a good job finishing in transition. We had some opportunities and, for a variety of reasons, we just didn’t do a good job finishing.
“Their physicality — they get up on you,” the coach added. “They do a good job in it and they forced us to play at a tempo and a style that we don’t excel at. Credit to them. They were able to push us out of some stuff, out of our comfort area. We handled it in spurts. We just don’t handle it in big enough spurts. The second quarter was an example of that. The same thing as Tuesday. We’re 10 or so down and we play 10 or 12 down a long time then they go on another spurt.
“It’s a learning experience,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure to take advantage of it and get ready for a big game on Tuesday.”
The Lady Hornets host the Mount St. Mary Academy Belles that night.
The first nine minutes of Friday’s games, it was nip-and-tuck. Loveless broke the seal on the basket off a feed from Kendal Rogers. Northside scored the next 5 point before Selig drilled a baseline jumper. Hawkins answered with a drive to the rack but when Hill hit two free throws and, after a flurry back-and-forth, canned a 3 with 56 seconds left in the quarter, the Lady Hornets had the lead 9-7.
Hawkins tied it with a drive up the baseline with :06 showing and the Lady Bears had the first shot at snapping the deadlock in the second stanza. But Bryant sophomore Allison Steed blocked a shot inside by Webster and, at the other end, Selig popped a jumper to give the Lady Hornets the 11-9 edge.
Hawkins sparked the Northside surge. Off a turnover, Deirah Mays scored off a feed from Hawkins to put the Lady Bears ahead 13-11.
The Lady Hornets had three chances to answer but suffered three turnovers and had a shot blocked. With 4:54 left in the half, Fatarah Kinnard drilled a 3 to renew the Northside push and the lead grew to 23-11 before Selig hit a free throw.
But before the half was over, Northside’s Sydney Green converted twice at the line and Melanie Smith knocked down a 3 to make it 28-13.
The Lady Hornets had two trips to the free-throw line in the final 2:12 but came up empty on both occasions, much to their frustration.
To go with the turnovers in the game, Northside gained extra attempts with offensive rebounds. Sixteen of their 29 boards came on their own end. The result was 58 shot attempts by the Lady Bears. The Lady Hornets converted a higher percentage of their shots (42 percent to 34 percent) but managed just 24 attempts.
Things didn’t improve for Bryant in the second half as the Lady Bears opened with an 8-1 push to extend the lead to 36-14 before Allison Steen scored inside with 3:31 left in the third quarter. It was Bryant’s first field goal since Selig’s basket that put them ahead in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Lady Hornets found a little life. Lania Ratliff fed Loveless for a layup and, after a three-point play by Evans, Ratliff got free behind the press for a layup.
But it was 41-22 going into the fourth quarter as Green scored and Rogers hit two free throws in response in the final minute of the quarter.
Loveless hit a free throw early in the fourth period to cut the lead to 18 but that was as close as the Lady Hornets could get.
LADY BEARS 49, LADY HORNETS 29
Score by quarters
BRYANT 9 4 9 7 — 29
FS Northside 9 19 13 8 — 49
LADY HORNETS (3-17 0-8) 29
Ratliff 1-1 0-2 2, Loveless 3-6 2-4 8, Steen 1-2 0-0 2, Rogers 0-3 2-4 2, Hill 1-2 2-2 5, Selig 3-5 2-2 8, Walker 0-1 0-0 0, Adams 1-1 0-0 2, Williams 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 10-24 8-14 29.
LADY BEARS (13-8, 6-2), 49
Carey 0-3 0-0 0, Kinnard 2-8 0-0 5, Webster 4-6 2-4 10, Bandimere 0-9 0-0 0, Hawkins 6-13 1-2 13, Evans 4-6 1-1 9, Smith 1-4 0-0 3, Mays 2-4 1-1 5, Green 1-5 2-2 4, Shepherd 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-58 7-10 49.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-3 (Hill 1-2, Williams 0-1), Northside 2-15 (Kinnard 1-4, Smith 1-4, Bandimere 0-6, Carey 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 28, Northside 10. Rebounds: Bryant 4-22 26 (Steen 0-6 6, Loveless 2-2 4, Selig 0-4 4, Walker 0-3 3, Rogers 0-2 2, Ratliff 1-1 2, Hill 0-1 1, team 1-3 4), Northside 16-13 29 (Hawkins 3-4 7, Evans 4-1 5, Bandimere 1-3 4, Kinnard 3-1 4, Webster 2-1 3, Carey 1-1 2, Green 2-0 2, Smith 0-1 1, Mays 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 7, Northside 12.