Photos by Kevin Nagle
The lid was on the basket for the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team on Monday night in the opening round of the Bryant Invitational Tournament. Again and again they worked and got good shots only to have them rim out. The result was a scoring drought of over four minutes down the stretch that the Hot Springs Lady Trojans freshmen took advantage of to eke out a 27-26 victory.
Hot Springs advances to play Hot Springs Lakeside in the winners bracket tonight while the Lady Hornets take on Benton in the consolation bracket at 5 p.m., at the Bryant Middle School gym.
On Monday, Bryant and Hot Springs battled back and forth the entire game. It was tied 20-20 going into the fourth quarter. A baseline drive for a hoop by Meagan Chism put the Lady Hornets in the lead early in the final period. Free throws by Mary Catherine Selig and Chism pushed the margin to 24-20 with 4:26 left in the game, but, as it had been most of the game, the Lady Hornets always seemed to be hitting every other free throw. They were 8 of 14 in the game.
With the lead, Bryant forced a turnover and had three shots at increasing the advantage. But the shots refused to fall. Hot Springs scored to make it a 2-point game then both teams struggled to score for a while. A free throw made it 24-23 and though the Lady Trojans rebounded the miss, Bryant forced a turnover.
Another misfire ensued. Pressing in the backcourt, the Lady Hornets fouled with just under two minutes to go. Though it should’ve been a 1-and-1, the officials just had Hot Springs inbound the ball and, at the other end, the Lady Trojans hit a 3. So instead of being at the free throw line with a chance to make it 25-24 at best, Hot Springs led 26-24 with 1:42 left.
Inside of a minute, Hot Springs benefited from the alternating possessions on a held ball but the Lady Hornets forced a turnover to get another chance. Twice, they got good looks but no luck.
A Hot Springs free throw with :22.9 increased the lead to 27-24. Bryant head coach Nathan Castaldi called a timeout with :19 showing but, when play resumed, the Lady Trojans swiped the ball. But an empty trip to the line with :12.2 showing gave the Lady Hornets another chance. Kalia Walker came out with the rebound and Castaldi called another timeout with :11.1 to go, setting up a play to try to get a tying 3-pointer.
The play worked to get an open look for Rachel Studdard in the corner but, holding with the theme, it looked on target but wouldn’t go. Bryant rebounded and Lauren Burnett hit a 12-foot jumper with :02 showing but it left the Lady Hornets a point short.
“I though we competed all game,” said Castaldi. “Their size and athleticism caused us some problems at times, but we competed well enough to be there in the end.
“We got a little stagnant on offense at times and settled for jump shots instead of attacking the basket,” he noted. “I thought Meagan Chism did a good job of attacking from the baseline. We also did not do a good enough job in transition defense, which let them get out and get some easy baskets.
“The girls did a good job of executing down the stretch,” the coach continued. “We were forced to do some things at the end that we have not worked on a bunch. However, we were able to force some turnovers defensively and get a good look at the shot to tie at the end.”
Selig led the Lady Hornets with 10 points. Chism added 7, Burnett 6 and Allison Steen hit a free throw. Bryant was 7 of 22 from the field in the first half, building an 18-12 halftime lead but cooled to just 2 of 22 in the second half.
Chism gave them the early lead with a baseline drive that made it 3-2. She followed up with a pair of free throws. Selig scored and it was 7-2 before a late basket by Hot Springs made it a 3-point game going into the second period.
The Lady Trojans surged to a 12-7 advantage, forcing a Bryant timeout with 3:46 left in the half. After the break, however, the Lady Hornets executed a play and got an open look for Burnett that she knocked down from 10 feet out.
That started an 11-0 run to end the half. Burnett scored inside and Selig followed with a drive up the baseline for a bucket. A short jumper from Selig was followed by Steen’s free throw. Selig’s drive and pull up basket with :07 left in the half, made it 18-12.
The second half started with Hot Springs taking its turn at a surge though missed free throws kept it to an 8-0 run before Bryant managed to break the ice with a free throw by Selig with :12.8 left in the quarter. She was fouled again with :01.7 showing and converted once to tie the game at 20 going into the fourth.