Photos by Rick Nation
A pair of freshmen played huge roles for the Bryant Lady Hornets and the Van Buren Pointerettes in their 7A/6A-Central Conference showdown at the Hornets Nest Friday night. Bryant’s Raija Todd scored 12 points and Van Buren’s Jamilyn Kinney had 13.
And it came down to this. Kinney, who scored her team’s last 9 points, hit two clutch free throws with :04.8 left, just moments after she’d missed the front end of a one-and-one. Trailing by 3, the Lady Hornets got the ball to midcourt and called a timeout. Bryant head coach Brad Matthews set up a play to get Todd a good look at a 3 for a tie. She had connected on the only two triples the Lady Hornets had been able to get down in the game.
The play worked for an open 22-footer. Had it been a 21-and-a-half footer, the game would’ve gone to overtime. But the shot came off the iron and the Pointerettes survived, nailing down the No. 2 seed from the Central for the Class 7A State Tournament.
“We ran her off a couple of fake screens then tried to bring her back off that,” said Matthews of the set up for the final shot. “I thought we got some good screening action there and a good clean look. That was good execution, I thought. But the previous two, three minutes, we just didn’t execute and make the plays on both ends like we needed to.”
Even in defeat, Bryant clinched the 3 seed, placing them in the 1 p.m. game in the first round of State at Springdale Har-Ber on March 5. Over the last two weeks (four games) of the regular season, they’ll try to get back on the winning track — they’d won 4 of their last 5 including a 55-51 win over fourth-ranked Greenwood a week ago — and get some momentum going as they head to State.
A win over the Pointerettes would’ve give Bryant a chance at the second seed. The Lady Hornets travel to Russellville on Tuesday, hoping to settle a score.
Bryant led most of the first half of Friday’s contest but a 12-0 run by Van Buren that started with the last basket of the first half and continued over the first 3:11 of the second, put them in a hole. Bryant’s 24-20 lead turned into a 32-24 deficit.
“It seemed like we were very stagnant on offense,” Matthews said of the 3:42 drought at the start of the second half. “They got out in transition a few times. We had a few breakdowns on defense, lost a few one-on-one battles and all of a sudden we go from 2 up to 8 down.”
A 3 by Todd provided Bryant’s first field goal of the third quarter with 1:56 left in the period. But Van Buren pushed the lead to 38-29 before Lauren Carroll sparked a surge for the Lady Hornets. It started with a three-point play. She followed her own miss for a basket with :31 left. She then came up with a steal that led to a pair of free throws with :07.4 showing.
The lead was down to 38-36 but Van Buren’s Halie Jennen rushed the ball up the floor and threw in a basket at the buzzer to make the difference 4.
It was a war down the stretch but the Lady Hornets just couldn’t quite regain the lead for the longest time. They were within 40-38 after two free throws by Carroll, who led all scorers with 18 and all rebounders with 10. Though they gave themselves a chance to tie or go ahead, a missed shot resulted.
That’s when Kinney started her string of clutch shots. With 3:39 left, she drained a 3 to make it a two-possession lead again. It was just the third triple for the Pointerettes, who have rained down 3’s in bunches against many of their opponents.
It was at that point that the Lady Hornets got a big lift from sophomore guard Destiny Martin. First, she scored off an inbounds play to cut it back to 3 at 43-40. Kinney, in turn, missed on a 3-point try and Carroll slashed to the basket and was fouled with 2:30 to go. She made both shots and it was a one-point game.
Kinney missed again. This time, Martin grabbed the rebound on the run and went coast-to-coast for a layup that had Bryant back in front 44-34 with 2:00 to go.
Despite pretty good defense at the other end, Kinney got into the lane. Though she appeared to be smothered and unable to get a shot off, she leaned around the Bryant defender and somehow got a shot to go, putting the Pointerettes back ahead, 45-44.
In an attempt to answer, the Lady Hornets just had some bad luck. Jakeria Otey missed a shot but Martin was able to rebound it. But Otey, trying to follow her shot, made a play on the ball and the teammates collided and the ball went out of bounds to Van Buren.
With :50.6 to go, Kinney was fouled. She converted both ends of the one-and-one to make it a 3-point game again. Otey rushed up the floor and hit a jumper in the lane to make it 47-46. Matthews quickly called a timeout.
When play resumed, the Pointerettes were able to milk the clock down to :13.8 before Kinney was fouled again.
This time, however, she obliged the Lady Hornets by missing the front end. Otey rebounded on the run and headed up the left sideline under pressure. In front of the Van Buren bench, the ball got away and out of bounds.
Matthews appeared to be expecting a foul call and a trip to the line for his senior with a chance to regain the upper hand. Or at least retain possession since it appeared that contact had jarred the ball loose.
Instead, Van Buren was awarded possession.
Matthews was reluctant to comment on the play, saying only, “I’m not sure about that one. I don’t know. There was a little bit of contact. We just didn’t secure a rebound.”
Kinney went back to the line with :04.8 showing. Her conversions made it a three-point lead, setting up the narrow miss at the end, which would’ve sent it to overtime.
“A week ago against Greenwood here, we made plays down the stretch,” Matthews related. “And tonight, offensively, defensively, we didn’t make plays. We didn’t execute very well. We didn’t execute very well out of timeouts and that’s all on me. I’ve got to have our kids better prepared out of timeouts.
“We ended up putting their best free-throw shooter at the line,” he noted of Kinney. “We just can’t do that when you’re trying to foul to get a possession back. That’s on me. That’s obviously something I haven’t worked enough on. We’ll have to go back and continue to improve.”
Van Buren’s only leads of the first half were 2-0 and 6-4. Maddie Baxter scored then Carroll made a steal and layup to put Bryant ahead.
With Bryant pressuring to keep them from getting good looks from the 3-point arc, the Pointerettes started attacking the basket. But, after they got it to 6-4, Todd hit a pull-up jumper and added a layup off a steal. Carroll did likewise and it was 10-6.
Van Buren cut it to 10-9 but Todd fired in a 3 to finish the scoring in the quarter.
Danae Goodwin knocked down the first bucket of the second period but Carroll countered with a free throw. Off a Van Buren turnover, Emily Ridgell produced a three-point play. When Otey drove for a bucket to give Bryant a 19-11 lead, Pointerettes’ coach Chris Bryant got a timeout.
His team rallied in the second half of the second quarter but Todd and Carroll scored as the Lady Hornets maintained the lead. But Jennen’s running jumper to end the have had Van Buren within 24-22 at the break.
While Bryant started the second half 1 for 8 from the field, Van Buren hit 6 of its first 8 shots. The opening run started with a three-point play by Lani Snowden, which was followed by a long 3 from Jennen who would add the final basket for the surge.
Otey interrupted with a pair of free throws to cut it to 32-26 only to have the Pointerettes push the lead to 38-29 before the Lady Hornets’ rally.
POINTERETTES 49, LADY HORNETS 46
Score by quarters
Van Buren 9 13 18 9 — 49
BRYANT 13 11 12 10 — 46
POINTERETTES (13-10, 6-4, 3-2) 49
Sheppard 2-8 0-0 4, Snowden 3-6 1-3 7, Kinney 4-9 4-6 13, Danae Goodin 5-8 0-0 11, Jennen 6-10 0-0 13, McElwee 0-0 0-0 0, Glassco 0-0 1-2 1, Sutton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-40 (50%) 6-11 (55%) 49.
LADY HORNETS (13-10, 5-5, 2-3) 46
Otey 2-10 3-4 7, Carroll 5-10 8-9 18, Baxter 1-6 0-2 2, Todd 5-14 0-0 12, Miller 0-3 0-0 0, McDowell 0-0 0-0 0, Ridgell 1-2 1-1 3, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 16-47 (34%) 12-16 (75%) 46.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-14 (Todd 2-10, Baxter 0-3, Otey 0-1), Van Buren 3-15 (Kinney 1-4, Jennen 1-3, Goodwin 1-1, Sheppard 0-6, Snowden 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Van Buren 11. Rebounds: Bryant 8-21 29 (Carroll 3-7 10, Miller 1-3 4, Martin 2-2 4, Otey 0-3 3, Baxter 1-2 3, Todd 1-1 2, McDowell 0-1 1, Ridgell 0-1 1, team 0-1 1), Van Buren 2-20 22 (Jennen 2-4 6, Goodwin 0-5 5, Kinney 0-4 4, Sheppard 0-3 3, Snowden 0-1 1, McElwee 0-1 1, Sutton 0-1 1, team 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Van Buren 11.