File photo by Kevin Nagle
LITTLE ROCK — It was 37-34 for a long time.
A 15-foot jumper by Little Rock Central Lady Tigers’ Lauryn Pendleton cut the Bryant Lady Hornets’ lead to that 3-point difference with 6:38 left in the game.
Neither team scored again until there was less that 15 seconds to go. That’s when sophomore Parris Atkins stepped to the free-throw line and converted both ends of a one-and-one to give her team a 5-point edge.
That came after the Lady Tigers had to use up four fouls in the final 1:07 to get the Lady Hornets in the bonus. Twice, Bryant had chances to increase the lead with under 40 seconds left but came up empty before Atkins’ did.
The Lady Hornets made that stand up with a pair of late free throws by Tierra Trotter, producing a 41-36 win in 6A-Central Conference play.
Now in his ninth season as the Lady Hornets’ head coach, it was the first time Brad Matthews has coached his team to a win in the Central gym.
“It’s always a tough place,” he acknowledged.
Defense was the key. After Central scored 27 points in the first half, it only managed 9 in the second half as Matthews changed the defense. Pendleton, who led her team with 11 points, had just 4 after intermission.
“Pendleton is such a good player,” Matthews said. “She’s as good as there is in the league. She just makes everybody so much better.
“India Atkins did a great job on her,” he asserted. “We went to a little box-and-one. I felt like they were getting into a little bit of a rhythm, so we went to a box. She got some looks, but they were out of her range. When you’re playing a great player, you’ve got to do everything you can just to keep them from getting rhythm shots. India did a great job along with the rest of our team in the fourth quarter.
“She’s taken over games this year for them,” he added. “I’m really proud of our kids tonight for not letting her do that to us.”
Parris Atkins led all scorers with 18 in the game. Lexie Taylor and Trotter each had 9.
“We didn’t play very well offensively,” Matthews said. “We had some spurts where we did. But we made enough plays in that last little spurt to get the lead.
“I thought our defense was really good, but we did not rebound very well,” he mentioned. “We’ve got to go back and work on that, got to continue to fight on the boards. When we rebound, it’s got to be all five of us. I thought McKenzie (Muse) did a really good job of battling on the boards. But we’ve got to rebound as a team.”
Muse had seven rebounds and four blocked shots, contributions despite being held to 2 points.
“Offensively, I thought we got some good looks, kind of rushed some, forced some, wanted to play a little bit faster than they would allow us,” said Matthews.
“Our initial defense was really, really good especially in the second half,” he added. Coach (Joanna) Scott does a great job with that. She prepared us well for what they were doing.
“A lot of people contributed tonight,” the coach said. “Celena (Martin) was out so Lexie stepped up and got a lot of minutes and really gave us that one spurt, almost by herself there in the second quarter.”
Central got out to a 7-1 lead in the first quarter. It was 13-5 going into the last two minutes of the quarter. Parris Atkins scored then added a free throw in the final seconds to close the gap to 13-8.
The Lady Hornets cut the lead to 1 early in the second quarter but the Lady Tigers pushed it back to 20-15 and had a chance to add to that. But Trotter made a steal and a layup.
Taylor made a pair of 3’s in the final two minutes of the period. McKeycia Baker hit a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound.
Central’s lead was 27-24 at the intermission.
Elyse Smith hit a free throw for the Lady Tigers to start the third quarter. But Muse hit a 15-footer and Trotter followed up with a 3, giving Bryant its first lead of the game, 29-28 with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
Central regained the advantage but did not score in the final five minutes of the quarter. Threes by Parris Atkins and Taylor helped Bryant surge to a 37-32 lead going into the fourth.
After Pendleton’s basket the game just went back and forth. Central was forced into 10 of its 21 turnovers in the period.
“It’s a great team win, a great conference win,” Matthews stated. “Every win in this league is tough, especially on the road.”
The Lady Hornets host Fort Smith Southside on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
LADY HORNETS 41, LADY TIGERS 36
Score by quarters
BRYANT 8 16 13 4 — 41
LR Central 13 14 5 4 — 36
LADY HORNETS (10-5, 2-1) 41
Trotter 3-11 2-2 9, P.Atkins 6-11 5-6 18, I.Atkins 0-8 2-7 2, Taylor 3-6 0-0 9, Muse 1-9 0-1 2, Russ 0-1 0-0 0, Baker 0-0 1-2 1, Scifres 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-47 (28%) 10-18 (56%) 41.
LADY TIGERS (4-8, 0-3) 36
Smith 0-4 1-2 1, Woods 3-7 2-2 8, Jackson 3-6 1-5 7, Head 0-6 6-6 6, Pendleton 4-15 2-3 11, Stuckey 0-0 0-0 0, Linwood 0-0 0-0 0, Curry 0-0 0-0 0, Kanaday 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 11-39 (28%) 12-17 (71%) 36.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-21 (Taylor 3-5, Trotter 1-4, P.Atkins 1-4, Muse 0-4, I.Atkins 0-3, Scifres 0-1), LR Central 2-9 (Pendleton 1-5, Kanaday 1-1, Head 0-2, Smith 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, LR Central 21. Rebounds: Bryant 12-15 27 (Muse 3-4 7, I.Atkins 2-3 5, Trotter 1-2 3, I.Atkins 1-1 2, Taylor 0-2 2, Russ 1-0 1, Baker 1-0 1, team 3-3 6), LR Central 13-27 40 (Woods 2-7 9, Pendleton 0-6 6, Jackson 2-3 5, Head 1-4 5, Smith 2-2 4, Stuckey 0-2 2, Linwood 1-0 1, team 5-3 8). Team fouls: Bryant 16, LR Central 16. Fouled out:Bryant, Taylor; LR Central, Woods.