CABOT — The Bryant Lady Hornets had struggled against the tough zone defense that Cabot deployed in on Saturday in the semifinals of the Lady Panthers’ pre-Christmas tournament. Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews knew his team needed to work on their zone offense but there wasn’t much time for it as they returned to Cabot for the third-place game against the Harding Academy Lady Wildcats on Monday.
But considering the Harding may have played a tougher zone, with size inside stifling the Lady Hornets’ post players, and stellar point guard Riley Rose out front, Bryant appeared to do a better job most of the day. They trailed just 29-25 midway through the third quarter and just 36-28 going into the fourth.
But Rose, who has already committed as a junior to play Division I basketball at Missouri State in college and has been a three-year starter for the perennial Class 3A powerhouse Harding team, spurred her team to a dominant fourth-quarter that resulted in a 50-29 win.
The Lady Wildcats were more aggressive in their zone in the second half and, inside, their defenders were often allowed to play through the Lady Hornets’ post players to deflect passes. As a result, Bryant suffered 13 of its 22 turnovers after intermission.
Matthews said he though his team could attack the seams in the Harding zone and get to the free-throw line but those openings didn’t last long and, the way the game was officiated, they only got to the free-throw line twice in the entire game, hitting 3 of 4.
“We didn’t do a very good job attacking their zone,” Matthews said. “I thought that led to a lot of turnovers. We didn’t do a very good job of getting ball movement, a little bit slow with our cuts. It’s just something we’ve got to work on. I’m sure we’ll see zone throughout the season. We’ll look at the film and we’ll definitely see our mistakes and there’ll be some good teaching points in there.”
Bryant got out to a pretty good start, building a 5-2 lead with senior Peyton Weaver burying the first of her trio of 3-pointers in the game. After Haley Smith scored inside for Harding, Jayla Anderson picked up a loose ball in the lane and scored for the Lady Hornets.
Both teams suffered turnovers over the next couple of minutes before Rose stepped forward to drain a 3. She would wind up with 17 points to go with Smith’s 15.
The Lady Wildcats surged to an 11-5 lead before Erica Smith took a nice inside feed from Allen to break the Lady Hornets’ brief drought. Jakeria Otey followed up with a 3 that had the lead down to 1.
But the 6-1 Haley Smith stepped outside and knocked down a triple in the final seconds of the quarter to make it 14-10.
It was 18-14 three minutes into the second period but then back-to-back 3’s for Harding including one by Rose, who assisted on the other, produced the first double-digit lead.
Weaver answered for Bryant and a driving layup by Otey had cut the 10-point lead in half. It was 26-19 at the break.
“The first quarter, we didn’t have a lot of energy,” Matthews commented. “We were a little flat and we gave up too many offensive rebounds. We had too many turnovers in the first quarter (six) and they got out in transition, got some easy baskets that way.”
To open the second half, Harding extended the zone and trapped some. Otey beat that with a drive and, after Rose hit a free throw, Allen made a nice move, hitting a jump hook to cut it to 27-23.
Haley Smith hit a layup but Otey dished to Erica Smith who nailed a short jumper and it was 29-25 with 5:18 left in the third quarter.
The Lady Hornets had a chance to get closer when Allen made a steal but Rose blocked a shot out of bounds and, when the Lady Hornets inbounded, she made a steal and drove for a layup. That turned the tide.
A steal by Haley Smith resulted in a driving basket by Rose and a Bryant timeout.
When play resumed, the two teams traded turnovers with the Lady Hornets forcing a five-second call to get the ball back. But Shelby Gowen made a steal for Harding and got to the line. She converted once to bump the lead to 34-25.
Kaylin Turley made another steal for the Lady Wildcats but Bryant forced a turnover only to have their own set up Rose for another bucket that made it a double-digit game again with :29 left in the third.
Weaver interrupted the blitz with a 3 to make it 36-28 going into the fourth quarter but Harding’s Anna Lowery became the fourth Harding player to hit a 3 as the final period began.
“I thought we came out in the second half with a little more energy,” Matthews observed. “I thought we executed better, got quicker ball movement. We were able to get the ball inside and got some good looks.
“But then, once again, they got out in the passing lanes,” he acknowledged. “Over the course of the game, there were just two many turnovers. We’ve got to go back to work.”
There won’t be much time for that immediately as the Lady Hornets travel to Russellville tonight for their final game before the Christmas break. They’ll be competing in the annual Spa City Classic in Hot Springs starting Friday, Dec. 27. They open against Hot Springs at 1 p.m.
LADY WILDCATS 50, LADY HORNETS 29
Score by quarters
Harding Academy 14 12 10 14 — 50
BRYANT 10 9 9 1 — 29
LADY WILDCATS 50
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Rose 7-9 1-3 0-2 2 2 17
Lowery 2-6 0-0 1-3 4 0 2
H.Smith 6-8 2-2 2-0 2 2 15
Turley 1-4 0-0 2-1 3 0 2
Gowen 1-4 1-2 0-4 4 2 3
Newby 0-3 2-4 1-1 2 0 2
Steward 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 3
Davis 0-0 3-4 1-2 3 1 3
Koch 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 0 0
Ramsey 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 1 0
Team 0-3 3
Totals 18-39 9-15 9-16 25 10 50
LADY HORNETS 29
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Anderson 1-3 2-2 1-1 2 3 4
Weaver 3-7 0-0 0-2 2 2 9
Allen 2-9 0-0 0-0 0 1 4
Miller 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
E.Smith 2-3 0-0 0-4 4 1 4
Baxter 0-3 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Otey 3-9 1-2 2-3 5 0 8
Patton 0-1 0-0 0-2 2 0 0
Reeves 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Earls 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 3-1 4
Totals 11-35 3-4 6-14 20 8 29
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-13 (Weaver 3-7, Otey 1-4, Baxter 0-2), Harding Academy 5-14 (Rose 2-3, Lowery 1-5, H.Smith 1-3, Steward 1-1, Gowen 0-1, Turley 0-1, Newby 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 22, Harding Academy 11.