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PEARCY — Leading by just 23-20 in the opening moments of the second half, the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team found their groove and put together a 14-3 surge that proved decisive. The result was a 41-33 win on Monday night against a Lake Hamilton Lady Wolves team infused with a strong group of seventh and eighth grade players.
The win improved the Lady Hornets to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play. They’re set to host North Little Rock in an early first-place showdown on Thursday at the Bryant Middle School gym.
“We gave them some time off,” said Lady Hornets coach Nathan Castaldi. “Thanksgiving’s about family and we gave them some time. And you could see some rust. We practiced once over the break then did a little shoot-around today. You could see our legs weren’t quite underneath us coming back off the break.”
Still, Bryant trailed only briefly in the first quarter. They put together a 10-0 run in the second quarter before the Lady Wolves rallied.
“The third quarter we played,” Castaldi acknowledged. “We were much more patient on offense, got the shots we wanted instead of kind of settling for the shots that Lake Hamilton wanted us to take. I thought Mekeycia (Baker) and Tiyanna (Robinson) did a really good job of coming off the bench and giving us some really good minutes that third quarter. They were ones that were out there when we really stretched that lead.”
A basket by Lake Hamilton’s Aspen Thornton opened the scoring in the second half and got her team within 3. Bryant’s surge began with an offensive-rebound bucket from McKenzie Muse. After Thornton missed two free throws, Baker scored and was fouled at the 4:02 mark. Though she was unable to complete the three-point play, the tide had begun to turn.
After a back-and-forth scramble that didn’t produce points for either team, Tierra Trotter broke the stalemate with a 3-pointer, making it 30-20.
After a Lake Hamilton timeout, Bryant forced turnovers on the next two trips including a steal by Celena Martin. But they were unable to cash in until Trotter made a steal and layup with a minute left in the quarter.
Tia Mullinex ended a drought of over four minutes for Lake Hamilton by hitting a 3 with :15 showing. But, at the buzzer, Trotter drained a triple to make it 35-23 going into the final period.
To start the fourth quarter, Martin was fouled after taking a nice feed from Maddie Scifres. Though she was unable to convert, the Trotter came out of the scrum for the rebound and got the ball to Robinson for a short jumper and a 37-23 lead.
Taylor Humphreys scored to get the Lady Wolves back on track only to be countered by Martin’s nice drive up the baseline for a basket. Hayleigh Wyrick knocked down a jumper but Ivory Russ converted a free throw to make it 40-27 with 2:39 left.
Lake Hamilton closed with a 6-1 surge but it was too little too late as the Lady Hornets concentrated on working the clock much of the rest of the way. The Lady Wolves had committed only four fouls in the second half going into the final minute and had to foul three times to get Bryant to the line. Trotter converted once with :15.3 on the clock to make it 41-31. A late basket by Meg Harrison set the final tally.
Trotter finished with a game-high 11 points. Russ had 7, Lexi Taylor and Muse added 6 each, Martin 5. Baker had 4 but one of those baskets was credited to her when Wyrick rebounded a missed free throw at Bryant’s end and stuck it back in the basket for the wrong team.
That came near the end of the first quarter. The game was tied at 4, 6 and 11 in that opening stanza. Lake Hamilton’s lone lead was 6-4. Russ tied it with two free throws then Taylor drilled a 3 to give the Lady Hornets a 9-6 edge.
It was 9-8 when Muse made a steal and fed Robinson who was fouled going to the basket. Though she missed both shots, Wyrick rebounded and scored for Bryant. A three-point play by Thornton with :18.1 on the clock tied it at 11.
Martin scored off a drive to start the second quarter, sparking Bryant’s 10-0 surge. Scifres blocked a shot by Lake Hamilton’s Ginny Higginbotham. Though Taylor couldn’t get a 3 to go at the other end, Trotter made a steal and drove for a layup.
Baker swiped a pass and Trotter pushed the ball up the floor, getting it to Muse for a bucket to make it 17-11.
After a timeout, the Lady Wolves turned it over again and Russ scored and was fouled off a feed by Martin. Though she missed the free throw Muse rebounded and, eventually, Russ got it back and drove for a bucket, capping the run.
Mullinex produced Lake Hamilton’s first basket of the second quarter at the 1:21 mark. Her 3 was countered by Muse’s stickback. But Wyrick had a three-point play and Aryn Hughes hit a free throw to make it 23-18 at the break.
LADY HORNETS 41, LADY WOLVES 33
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 12 12 6 — 41
Lake Hamilton 11 7 5 10 — 33
LADY HORNETS 41
T.Trotter 4-8 1-2 11, Martin 2-3 1-4 5, Taylor 2-9 1-2 6, Russ 2-7 3-5 7, Muse 3-5 0-0 6, Robinson 1-4 0-2 2, Baker 2-3 0-1 4, Scifres 1-2 0-1 2, Oholendt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-39 6-16 41.
LADY WOLVES 31
Higginbotham 0-3 0-0 0, Mullinex 3-3 0-0 8, Thornton 2-3 5-7 9, Wyrick 4-12 1-2 9, Harrison 2-2 0-0 4, Arivizu 0-0 0-0 0, Hughes 0-0 1-2 1, Humphreys 1-1 0-0 2, Inscore 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-24 7-11 31.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-14 (T.Trotter 2-5, Taylor 1-7, Muse 0-1, Robinson 0-1), Lake Hamilton 2-6 (Mullinex 2-2, Wyrick 0-3, Higginbotham 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 9, Lake Hamilton 16. Rebounds: Bryant 15-8 23 (Muse 4-1 5, Baker 1-3 4, T.Trotter 2-1 3, Taylor 3-0 3, Martin 1-1 2, Scifres 1-1 2, Russ 0-1 1, Robinson 1-0 1, team 2-0 2), Lake Hamilton 6-15 21 (Wyrick 4-4 8, Harrison 0-3 3, Hughes 0-3 3, Mullinex 0-2 2, Higginbotham 0-1 1, Thornton 0-1 1, Humphreys 1-0 1, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Lake Hamilton 13. Fouled out: Lake Hamilton, Thornton.