PINE BLUFF — With one player that played a lot last year, Kendal Rogers; another one that played some, Raven Loveless; and another that played a little, Kelly Williams, returning for the Bryant Lady Hornets varsity, it leaves a lot of the 2016-17 team experiencing their first varsity action.
And it’s different than junior varsity or freshman ball. Besides the fact that it’s faster and the players on the other teams are often bigger and stronger and quicker, it’s flat out rough. You’re going to have bruises and aches after a high school varsity girls basketball game.
Rogers, Loveless and Williams got a reminder of that Thursday night and the rest of the team got a crash course — crash being the key term there — as they opened the season with a trip to Pine Bluff to play the Fillies at McFadden Arena.
It took a while for the Lady Hornets to find their bearings and they fell behind early. They got better at handling it as the game went along, though, and actually out-scored the Fillies 23-19 in the second half. But the first-half hole was just too much to climb completely out of as Pine Bluff held on for a 39-30 win.
“I thought our kids competed,” stated Lady Hornets coach Brad Matthews. “They didn’t give up. But our inexperience showed tonight. That’s to be expected. We have one kid with any kind of significant varsity minutes.
“But we’ve got to make sure we grow from it,” he asserted. “Three or four games from now, we’ve got to make sure we’re lots better.”
In the first half, Bryant struggled to score. Once they’d answered the first Pine Bluff basket by Deserea Warfield, the Lady Hornets grabbed a lead. Lania Ratliff was fouled following a missed shot. She converted a free throw and, when she missed the second, Loveless fought for the carom, gained control and scored to make it 3-2.
Though Pine Bluff had its own issues dealing with Bryant’s zone defense, they managed to build a 9-3 lead by the end of the first quarter.
On a nice feed from Rogers to Robyn Gordon opened the scoring in the second quarter but that’s when the Fillies got hot from the outside. All three of their 3’s in the game came in about a two-minute span in the second period. Alexis Reed hit two of them and Jaden Woods hit the other as the lead ballooned to 13.
Allison Steen broke the Lady Hornets’ drought with a jumper from near the free-throw line and the Lady Hornets had a couple of chances to get closer. Pine Bluff’s Lydya Deshazier, however, barely beat the buzzer with a stickback to give her team a 20-7 advantage at the half.
“I thought, offensively, we were very impatient, taking a shot instead of the shot,” Matthews said. “We’ve got to get better at that. I thought our inexperience led to a lot of quick decisions because we weren’t comfortable. Pine Bluff put us in positions where we weren’t comfortable. We’ve got to get better — be mentally tough enough — at playing well being uncomfortable. Tonight, when they made us uncomfortable, we made poor decisions.”
The Fillies did that with their pressure defense and their physical play, forcing 27 turnovers in the game.
Their largest lead was 26-9 midway through the third quarter but that’s when Williams gave the Lady Hornets a lift by drained a 3-pointer then following up with a steal and a layup.
It helped that Pine Bluff struggled at the free-throw line (4 of 11) but it didn’t help much that the Lady Hornets were only awarded three attempts at the line the entire game.
Despite the third quarter surge for Bryant, the lead was 33-18 going into the fourth quarter.
Williams, however, started the final period with another triple. After Kyra Brice hit a free throw for the Fillies and Reed followed up with a basket, sophomore Mary Catherine Selig scored her first varsity basket. Williams scored inside and the lead was back to 11. The Lady Hornets forced a turnover but couldn’t take advantage.
Deshazier scored with 3:34 left but that was the last for Pine Bluff’s production until a free throw in the final seconds.
Sophomore Kalia Walker popped a 3 for her varsity basket and when senior Riley Hill knocked down a 12-footer, the Lady Hornets were within 38-30.
They forced a turnover for a chance to trim the margin further. Matthews got a quick timeout with :27.6 showing. But when play resumed, the Fillies got the ball back by forcing a Bryant miscue and nailed down the victory.
Bryant is set to play in a preseason benefit game against Maumelle on Saturday at noon. They’ll host Greenbrier on Tuesday, Nov. 29, to resume the regular season.
FILLIES 39, LADY HORNETS 30
Score by quarters
BRYANT 3 4 11 12 — 30
Pine Bluff 9 11 13 6 — 39
LADY HORNETS 30
Williams 5-7 0-1 12, Rogers 1-4 0-0 2, Loveless 2-5 0-0 4, Ratliff 0-1 1-2 1, Hill 1-3 0-0 2, Walker 1-5 0-0 3, Rayford 0-2 0-0 0, Gordon 1-1 0-0 2, Selig 1-3 0-0 2, Steen 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 13-32 1-3 30.
Woods 1-6 1-2 4, Reed 5-12 0-0 12, Ky.Brice 1-4 1-2 3, Warfield 2-3 0-1 4, Clark 3-9 0-0 6, Ki.Brice 1-4 2-4 4, Lane 1-3 0-2 2, Stinson0-2 0-0 0, Deshazier 2-4 0-0 2. Totals 16-47 4-11 39.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-11 (Williams 2-2, Walker 1-4, Hill 0-2, Rayford 0-2, Ratliff 0-1), Pine Bluff 3- 13 (Reed 2-5, Woods 1-5, Ky.Brice 0-2, Ki.Brice 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 27, Pine Bluff 17. Rebounds: Bryant 7-21 28 (Loveless 3-1 4, Ratliff 1-3 4, Rogers 0-4 4, Hill 0-2 2, Steen 1-1 2, Rayford 1-1, 2, Walker 0-1 1, team 1-4 5), Pine Bluff 13-12 25 (Clark 3-4 7, Warfield 3-1 4, Woods 0-3 3, Ki.Brice 1-1 2, Stinson 1-1 2, Deshazier 2-0 2, Reed 1-0 1, Ky.Brice 0-1 1, Lane 1-0 1, team 1-1 2) Team fouls: Bryant 14, Pine Bluff 9.