Photos by Kevin Nagle
Even though the Russellville Lady Whirlwinds had a decided height advantage, the Bryant Lady Hornets had a 21-12 rebounding advantage at the end. And, through three quarters, they also had forced 16 turnovers while suffering just nine of their own. The Lady Hornets had led by as much as 5 points in the second half and held a 19-17 edge going into the final.
By that time, however, the Lady Whirlwinds had gone to a smaller, quicker lineup and extended their defense pressure. The result was 10 Bryant turnovers in the final period and just 3 points, all on free throws.
Russellville rallied to pull out a 25-22 win at the Lady Hornets’ expense.
The game wrapped up the pre-Christmas schedule for Bryant. The Lady Hornets return to action on Saturday, Dec. 27, against Central Arkansas Christian at the annual Kameron Hale Invitational Tournament at Lake Hamilton.
The Lady Hornets fell behind Russellville 23-19 in the fourth quarter but the free throws, one by Jalen Sparks and two by Raven Loveless after she’d made a steal, had them within a point, 23-22, with :52.6 left.
During a timeout, Bryant coach Nathan Castaldi set up the defense and when play resumed, the Lady Hornets nearly forced another turnover. Russellville took a timeout to save the possession.
Bryant fouled with :20.4 to go but Russellville missed the front end of the one-and-one. But the Lady Hornets’ chance to tie or take the lead was undermined when the Lady Whirlwinds came down with the rebound off the missed free throw. The Lady Hornets foul and the subsequent free throw banked in to make it 24-22.
A Russellville steal and a subsequent turnover back to Bryant used up time. With :07.3 remaining, Castaldi called timeout to save a possession. But, on the inbounds play after the break, a turnover led to another trip to the line for Russellville with :02.2 showing on the clock.
The first free throw made it a 3-point game. On the missed second shot, Castaldi called an immediate timeout with :01.1 on the board. He set up a play that produced a shot but it came from near midcourt and fell short as Russellville held on.
Loveless finished with 13 points. Paige Adams had 4. Kelly Williams and Sparks each had 2 and Stephanie Cullen hit a free throw.
Both teams had trouble figuring out how to score against the others’ defense at the start of the game. The first basket came with 1:17 left in the period. It was a 3-pointer by the Lady Whirlwinds. It was 5-0 before Loveless beat the buzzer ending the quarter with an 8-foot jumper.
It was 7-2 then the Lady Hornets got it going. Williams hit her basket and Adams followed with a deuce off a feed from Williams. Adams then made a steal and drove for a layup to give Bryant its first lead at 8-7.
It was 11-9 at the half with Loveless hitting a free throw then scoring in the post in the final minute.
And when Loveless hit a 15-footer then made a steal and a basket to start the second half, the Lady Hornets had their largest lead at 14-9. It was 17-12 with 2:44 left. Cullen hit a free throw then after a Russellville free throw, Adams fed Loveless for another bucket inside.
The Lady Whirlwinds went to the pressure defense and forged a 17-17 tie before an offensive-rebound basket by Loveless gave Bryant a 19-17 edge going into the fourth quarter.