File photo by Rick Nation
CABOT — Back on Dec. 30, 2019, the Bryant Lady Hornets and the Cabot Lady Panthers met in the championship game of the Beebe Holiday Classic. Cabot won handily, 61-42.
The Lady Hornets felt they hadn’t played up to their standards that day and they had been without starting guard Parris Atkins. So, they were kind of looking forward to the rematch in 6A-Central Conference play, which came around on Friday night at Panther Arena.
The Lady Hornets played better but it didn’t feel like it because they struggled to find the bottom of the net. Cabot took advantage for another win, this time 57-44, a little closer.
The Lady Hornets were just 4 of 23 (17 percent) from the field in the first half, just 1 of 8 from 3-point range. They were able to scramble to keep it close. The game was tied 10-10 at the end of the first quarter. And they trailed just 14-13 with three minutes left in the first half. But the Lady Panthers surged to finish the half with a 26-18 lead.
“I thought we played hard and competed,” said Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “We made some decisions defensively that cost us. Offensively, we didn’t shoot it well early. I thought we played well enough early to be ahead, but we were actually behind.
“We were not clicking, and they made us pay,” he emphasized. “That’s what good teams do. We’ve just got to execute better and have a little bit better decision-making.”
The loss dropped the Lady Hornets out of a four-way tie for second in the conference. At 3-2 in the league, they’re now tied with North Little Rock, their opponents on home on Tuesday, for fourth place. Bryant is 11-6 overall.
Cabot improved to 16-2 and remained tied for second, now with just Conway, at 4-1 versus the league going into a showdown with first-place Fort Smith Northside on Tuesday.
The Lady Panthers appear to be a tough match-up for the Lady Hornets. They start two six-foot forwards and two 3-point shooting guards. If that wasn’t enough, their best player, Shy Christopher is so athletic and so skilled that she’s hard to guard. And when you stop her drives to the basket or double-team her, she’s able to find an open teammate.
Christopher, a 5-6 guard, scored 21 points and gathered 18 rebounds in Friday’s game. The guards, Izzy Arnold and Kaitlyn Theobald combined for 29 points. Arnold hit three 3’s on the way to 17 points while Theobald hit four triples to account for her 12 points.
“They’re a good team,” Matthews said. “(Christopher) is really good. She just makes everyone on their squad that much better.”
It was tough playing a half-court game with Cabot with their inside presence and those 3-point shooters. The Lady Hornets tried to pressure on defense, but they struggled to slow down Christopher.
Tierra Trotter led Bryant with 14 points on 16 shots and 5 of 8 free throws. McKenzie Muse added 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Lady Hornets forced 18 turnovers and had 17 offensive rebounds, but their shooting woes undermined that effort.
A basket by Muse with 4:08 left in the first quarter had the Lady Hornets ahead 8-6. Muse was fouled on the play but couldn’t convert the three-point play. But she rebounded her own missed free throw. Bryant’s bid to add 3 to the lead went awry.
Christopher hit a free throw and off a Bryant turnover, Theobald hit a 3 to put them on top 10-8. Two free throws by Muse tied it.
A steal and layup by Christopher opened the second quarter but, off a turnover, India Atkins came through with a three-point play that had the Lady Hornets ahead 13-12.
That, however, was Bryant’s last lead in the game.
Christopher started a 10-0 run with a layup. Though she couldn’t convert at the line to make it a three-point play, she came back after an empty trip for the Lady Hornets, to follow her own shot, making it 16-13.
Arnold canned a 3 and Hannah Oglivie hit two free throws.
The lead grew to 24-13. After a timeout, the Lady Hornets trimmed 5 points off the margin. India Atkins hit two free throws and Trotter hit a 3, one of only two Bryant managed in 15 attempts from distance in the contest.
The margin was just 6 before Christopher drove for a basket to make it 26-18 at the half.
Bryant cut the lead back to 7 twice in the early stages of the third quarter, once on a baseline jumper by Muse then again on a drive by Trotter.
But Cabot followed with an 8-0 run that included 3’s from Arnold and Theobald to take a commanding 15-point lead.
After a timeout, however, the Lady Hornets whittled on that margin. Muse followed her own miss then Parris Atkins hit a free throw. A drive by Trotter off a Cabot turnover then another free throw by Parris Atkins trimmed the margin to 37-28.
Christopher hit the offensive glass and was fouled. Her free throws made it a double-digit lead again. But only briefly as Trotter knocked down a free throw, Lexie Taylor made a steal and Parris Atkins cashed it in to make it 39-31.
But Cabot scored the next 8 points in the game. Christopher had an old-fashioned three-point play and Theobald hit a triple and it was 45-31 going into the fourth quarter. Arnold drove for a layup and the margin was 16 at the start of the final stanza.
The Lady Hornets were unable to get the lead back under 10 after that. Cabot eventually led 57-35. Bryant scrapped until the end and close with a 9-0 run against the Lady Panther reserves to set the final score.
LADY PANTHERS 57, LADY HORNETS 44
Score by quarters
BRYANT 10 8 13 13 — 44
Cabot 10 16 17 14 — 57
LADY HORNETS (11-6, 3-2) 44
Trotter 4-16 5-8 14, P.Atkins 3-8 3-6 9, I.Atkins 2-10 3-5 7, Martin 0-3 0-0 0, Muse 3-10 5-7 11, Taylor 1-6 0-0 3, Russ 0-1 0-0 0, Scifres 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-54 (24%) 16-26 (62%) 44
LADY PANTHERS (16-2, 4-1) 57
Theobald 4-6 0-0 12, Arnold 7-13 0-0 17, Christopher 7-15 7-10 21, Oglivie 1-5 2-2 4, Belin 0-3 0-0 0, Siegler 0-0 1-2 1, Dolan 0-2 0-0 0, Ringgold 0-0 2-4 2, Madar 0-1 0-0 0, Fewell 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-46 (41%) 12-18 (67%) 57.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-15 (Taylor 1-5, Trotter 1-4, Muse 0-3, Martin 0-1, I.Atkins 0-1, P.Atkins 0-1), Cabot 7-17 (Theobald 4-6, Arnold 3-8, Christopher 0-2, Oglivie 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Cabot 18. Rebounds: Bryant 17-19 36 (Muse 7-5 12, Martin 2-3 5, P.Atkins 2-2 4, I.Atkins 1-3 4, Trotter 1-2 3, Taylor 0-2 2, Russ 2-0 2, Scifres 1-0 1, team 1-2 3), Cabot 13-30 43 (Christopher 7-11 18, Arnold 0-6 6, Oglivie 2-3 5, Belin 2-3 5, Siegler 0-2 2, Ringgold 0-1 1, Madar 0-1 1, Fewell 1-0 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Cabot 19. Fouled out: Bryant, P.Atkins.