BEEBE — The Riverview Lady Raiders came into Tuesday’s championship game of the Badger Holiday Classic at Beebe High School with a 17-0 record that included 13 wins in which the mercy-rule was in effect at the end. But through three quarters of the final, it was anything but easy for them against the Bryant Lady Hornets.
In fact, the Lady Hornets put together a third-quarter surge that whittled an 13-point deficit to 5 in less than two minutes. A steal by Raija Todd and layup by Emily Ridgell on the heels of a three-point play from Lauren Carroll had the Lady Hornets within 30-25 with 2:36 left in the third.
Two free throws by Riverview’s Kira Cartwright bumped the lead to 7 and it stayed that way until the final seconds when Riverview rushed the ball up the floor and Madison Riley flung a pass downcourt to Erykah Johns. As Johns went up for a shot, it appeared that the buzzer sounded with the ball still in her hands (observers with no rooting interest agreed) but the trailing official ruled the shot was away in time and it fell, giving Riverview a 34-25 lead going into the fourth quarter.
And when Riley hit a 3 to start the fourth, the Lady Raiders were in the midst of a game-breaking 15-0 run on the way to a 50-35 victory for the championship.
The setback snapped a five-game winning streak for the Lady Hornets who garnered the runner-up trophy. Now 7-5 overall, Bryant returns to action on Tuesday, Jan. 6, at Benton then starts 7A/6A-Central Conference play at Greenwood on Friday, Jan. 9.
“They’re really good, really talented, really athletic,” said Bryant coach of Riverview, a Class 4A school in Searcy. “They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. They’re really quick. They shoot it really well. They’ve got multiple kids — five, six, seven kids that, on any given night, can score 12 or 15. They’re a real match-up problem for everybody.”
Johns led the Lady Raiders with 15 points. Kayla Young had 11 and Cartwright 10. Riley, the team’s leading scorer was held to 7 points by Carroll and a hustling help defense from her teammates. The Lady Raiders included those four slashers who could shoot from the outside working off strong screens set by 5-11, 200-pound Aryanna Watson, mostly around the circle. Watson was held to 4 points by Rachel Miller and that same solid help defense.
It was a rough game but the Lady Hornets shot just five free throws despite that. Riverview was 19 of 31. Yes, Bryant was chasing a fouling some late but the Lady Raiders were 10 of 22 through three quarters when it was still a close game.
Carroll, despite not scoring in the first half, finished with a team-high 12 points. Jakeria Otey added 8 points but spent a lot of time on the bench with foul trouble. Usually good for several trips to the line, Carroll and Otey combined to shoot two free throws.
Ridgell scored 6 points before fouling out. Todd had 5 while Maddie Baxter and Miller added 2 each.
“I thought our kids fought hard,” Matthews stated. “In the first half, we really did not rebound very well and (in the game) we did not take care of the ball well. Those two things against really good teams, there’s no getting around that.”
Riverview out-boarded the Lady Hornets 18-14 in the first half but 10 of the Lady Raiders’ 18 came on the offensive end. That helped make up for 26 percent shooting from the field (7 of 26). Bryant had 18 turnovers in the game against a tough 2-2-1 trapping press. They shot just 29 percent in the first half (6 of 21) with just two free throws while Riverview was shooting 11 of 16 from the line. Bryant actually finished with more field goals (15) than Riverview (14) in the game.
Matthews insisted that, with better execution, his team might’ve pulled the upset.
“I told the team after the game,” he related, “‘It’s not about our effort. It’s not about us playing hard. We do those things. But against good teams, you have to execute. You have to play hard but you have to do things right.’
“I didn’t think there were enough possessions tonight where we did things right offensively,” he continued. “Against good teams, when you don’t execute, you’re fighting an uphill battle. Credit to them but I thought we did some things tonight that we had not done since late November as far as execution. We’ll go back to work on Saturday and get ready for Benton again.”
On baskets by Otey and a 3 by Todd, the Lady Hornets were within 8-7 going into the last minute of the first quarter. A three-point play by Sharika Irvine gave Riverview an 11-7 edge going into the second quarter.
Watson stepped out to knock down a 3 to add to the lead then Johns hit two free throws and it was 16-7. Todd hit a 15-footer to get the Lady Hornets going, ending a scoring drought of six minutes. After a free throw by Cartwright, Miller scored on an inbounds play triggered by Baxter. She blocked a shot at the other end and it led to a driving layup by Otey. A free throw by Ridgell cut it to 17-14 with 2:16 left in the half.
But another dry spell for the Lady Hornets followed as Riverview started a 10-0 roll. Bryant was down 27-14 before Carroll could end the drought with a drive to the hoop.
It was 29-16 when the Lady Hornets surged, burning the Lady Raiders press. Otey hit a pull-up pop then, off a Riverview miss, Carroll, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, went coast-to-coast.
Otey picked up her fourth foul and went to the bench at the 3:10 mark of the third but Carroll’s three-point play off an offensive board, Todd’s steal and Ridgell’s layup had it cut to 30-25.
Cartwright’s free throw and Johns’ basket that wasn’t followed.
Asked about the call, Matthews said, “Referees make mistakes. I make mistakes. Players make mistakes. That’s just one of those things you have to play through.”
LADY RAIDERS 50, LADY HORNETS 35
Score by quarters
Bryant 7 7 11 10 — 35
Riverview 11 15 8 16 — 50
LADY HORNETS 35
Otey 4-10 0-0 8, Carroll 5-15 2-2 12, Baxter 1-2 0-0 2, Todd 2-6 0-0 5, Miller 1-3 0-0 2, Ridgell 2-6 2-3 6, McDowell 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-44 4-5 35.
LADY RAIDERS 50
Cartwright 3-9 4-5 10, Young 4-8 3-5 11, Johns 3-11 9-14 15, Riley 2-5 1-2 7, Watson 1-5 1-2 4, Baker 0-0 0-0 0, Irvine 1-4 1-3 3. Totals 14-42 19-31 50.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-5 (Todd 1-3, Ridgell 0-2), Riverview 3-7 (Riley 2-2, Watson 1-2, Cartwright 0-2, Irvine 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 18, Riverview 11. Rebounds: Bryant 12-19 31 (Carroll 5-6 11, Baxter 2-3 5, Todd 1-3 4, Miller 0-4 4, Otey 0-2 2, Martin 1-1 2, team 3-0 3), Riverview 14-18 32 (Watson 3-3 6, Johns 3-2 5, Young 2-2 4, Irvine 2-2 4, Cartwright 2-1 3, Riley 1-2 3, Baker 0-2 2, team 1-4 5). Team fouls: Bryant 20, Riverview 17. Fouled out: Bryant, Ridgell.