RUSSELLVILLE — With 3:45 left to play at the beautiful new Cyclone Arena on Tuesday night, the Bryant Lady Hornets were even with the Russellville Lady Cyclones, 45-45. Russellville, which came into the game with a 13-1 record this season, had trailed much of the second half. But they pushed out to a 52-47 lead in the late going. With :43 left, Bryant’s Raija Todd knocked down a long 3 that had her team within 2 points.
And, against the Lady Hornets’ press, the Lady Cyclones turned the ball over.
An attempt at a tying bucket fell short, however, as Bryant senior Emily Ridgell tried to score while avoiding Russellville’s Shameka Ealy, who had rejected several shots in the game.
Ealy got free for a layup at the other end with :19 left and another attempt by the Lady Hornets to answer, refused to fall as the Lady Cyclones escaped with a 54-50 win in 7A/6A-Central Conference play.
“I’m really proud of our kids’ effort,” said Bryant head coach Brad Matthews. “We had a few breakdowns but that’s probably more on me than it is the kids.”
Todd finished with 26 points but never shot a free throw. Ealy, to go with her blocked shots, finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Bryant fans protested boisterously that Ealy, who finished with just two early fouls, had fouled on other occasions that were overlooked.
The Lady Cyclones got 14 points from Abbie Looper but star point guard Alyssa Owens was held to 6.
“(Ealy) is so good, so big, so strong, so athletic, has a great touch and (Owens) has got really, really good range,” Matthews noted. “I thought we did a fairly decent job making (Ealy) earn her points. There’s a reason she’s a Division I signee.”
Ealy has signed to play at Missouri State next year.
For Bryant, Emily Ridgell, Destin Martin and Raven Loveless each had 6 points. Loveless collected 10 boards.
“I thought, defensively, the first three to five minutes of the game when we were a little off-kilter,” Matthews said. “We were trying to do some stuff that we hadn’t done before, trying to game-plan for their personnel. I thought, once we settled in, we were a little bit better defensively.”
With Looper scoring her team’s first 8 points then Ealy adding 5, Russellville broke out to a 13-4 lead. The lead got to 17-7 before Todd drilled the first of her four 3-pointers in the final minute of the opening quarter to make it a 7-point game.
Owens started the second quarter with a 3 and Russellville extended the margin to 24-11 before Todd canned another triple.
Loveless hit a free throw but Looper answered. But Todd drained another 3 to start a personal 7-0 run that had the Lady Hornets within 26-22.
A free throw by M.K. Byrd interrupted the run then it resumed with a 10-foot jumper by Martin. And when she grabbed the carom off a Russellville miss, she went to the line where she trimmed the margin to 27-26.
A putback from Ealy made it a 3-point game but Todd drove for a basket and, after Ealy missed a 3, Ridgell beat the buzzer with a 15-footer that put the Lady Hornets ahead 30-29.
“Offensively, we shot it pretty well in the first half,” Matthews said. “We were executing a little bit better.”
Todd had 21 of her points at the intermission. At the half, Russellville made a defensive adjustment.
“They went to a zone and they started keying on her a little bit,” Matthews noted. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting us better, clean looks. That’s something we’ll go back and watch tape on, see how we can execute it better. I’ll try to do a better job of getting our kids in better spots. But there’s definitely some stuff to build on as we go into a tough game against Alma on Friday.”
Free throws by Ealy and Emily Posey to start the second half had the Lady Cyclones back on top but Rachael Miller pumped in a 3 to put Bryant back in front. The Lady Hornets forced a turnover and Todd sank a 15-footer. Annie Patton’s offensive-rebound basket pushed Bryant’s lead to 37-31.
A three-point play by Bailey Wilbers interrupted the Lady Hornets’ surge but when Ridgell converted two free throws and Todd followed up a turnover with a 15-footer, Bryant had its largest lead at 41-34.
A turnaround jumper by Ealy got her team back on track. It was 41-38 going into the fourth quarter then two free throws from Ealy cut the margin to 1.
But Loveless grabbed the carom off a teammate’s miss and was fouled. She converted twice to give Bryant a 43-40 advantage.
Wilbers scored and, after a miss by the Lady Hornets, Tori Underhill made her only basket of the game, a 3-pointer from the corner to give Russellville a 2-point edge.
But Martin fed Loveless, who scored over Ealy to tie it with 3:45 left.
Owens’ 3 sparked another run by the Lady Cyclones. Ridgell interrupted with a driving jumper that made it 50-47 with 2:31 to go. A layup by Looper produced the 5-point lead that Todd cut with her long 3 inside a minute.
LADY CYCLONES 54, LADY HORNETS 50
Score by quarters
BRYANT 10 20 11 9 — 50
Russellville 17 12 9 16 — 54
LADY HORNETS (6-9, 1-3) 50
Todd 11-27 0-0 26, Ridgell 2-11 2-2 6, Martin 2-3 2-2 6, Rogers 0-1 1-2 1, Miller 1-4 0-0 3, Patton 1-2 0-0 2, Loveless 1-4 4-6 6. Totals 18-52 (35%) 9-12 (75%) 50.
LADY CYCLONES (14-1, 3-1) 54
Owens 2-9 0-0 6, Looper 7-11 0-0 14, Wilbers 3-4 1-2 7, Posey 0-7 3-6 3, Ealy 7-14 6-8 20, Underhill 1-1 0-1 3, Byrd 0-0 1-2 1, Peevy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-46 (43%) 11-19 (58%) 54.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-12 (Todd 4-7, Miller 1-2, Ridgell 0-3), Russellville 3-13 (Owens 2-7, Underhill 1-1, Looper 0-2, Posey 0-2, Ealy 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Russellville 14). Rebounds: Bryant 15-17 32 (Loveless 5-5 10, Rogers 3-2 5, Miller 1-3 4, Ridgell 2-2 4, Todd 1-2 3, Patton 2-0 2, Martin 0-1 1, team 1-2 3), Russellville 12-19 31 (Ealy 4-9 13, Wilbers 2-3 5, Looper 3-1 4, Owens 0-3 3, Posey 2-1 3, Underhill 1-1 2, Peevy 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 12, Russellville 13.