By Rob Patrick
GREENBRIER — In a post-season tournament, the main thing is survival. If you win, you play on; if you lose, the season's over.
So, even though the Bryant Lady Hornets freshman team wasn't at its best, particularly in the first half, the fact that they made the plays they needed to win down the stretch kept them from a first-round upset at the hands of an active, hustling Conway White Lady Kittens team. The Lady Hornets, seeded third from the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference, improved to 18-6 with the 33-24 victory, and advances to play the host Greenbrier Junior Lady Panthers or the Sheridan Lady Stingers on Monday, Feb. 16, at 4 p.m., in the Panther Pavilion.
Conway White, the sixth seed from the North Division of the conference, started the game like a team that had a second chance and gave the Lady Hornets a battle. In fact, they led 11-10 at the half, much to the frustration of Bryant head coach Eric Andrews.
"You know, whenever you get to a tournament and records don't matter, everybody gets one more shot," he said after the game. "(Conway White) was fired up and ready to play. They came at us with a lot of intensity. Their little point guard (Madison Foster) does a great job. She's hard to handle. It took us a little while to adjust to her speed and they way she penetrated. Finally, we did that and we were able to contain her a little bit better. But because of what she does, we got into a little foul trouble and had to overcome that."
Foster finished with a game-high 11 points but did not score in the fourth quarter when the Lady Hornets were trying to protect a lead.[more]
"I was proud of our girls the way they came out in the second half," Andrews said. "We kind of changed how we were playing, a little bit more calm, a little more under control and we got some things done."
The coach lauded the contribution off the bench of post Breanna Blundell who contributed 8 points and six rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end. Kayla Sory and Casey Lee led Bryant with 9 points each. Lee had seven boards.
Both teams struggled from the free-throw line and the outcome could've been swayed from a Bryant blowout to a Conway win had one or the other executed there. For the game, Conway went just 8 of 25 from the line. Bryant only attempted four free throws in the first three quarters then missed the first four chances in the fourth before converting five crucial free throws in the final minute after Conway had pulled within 5.
Raegan Barker came through with the first two at the :50 mark, increasing Bryant's lead to 30-23. Moments later, however, Barker, the team's starting point guard, picked up her fifth foul. Kaitlyn Cozzens converted once with :43.8 showing and the Lady Kittens rebounded the missed second shot. But Foster couldn't get a 3-point try to fall. Bryant's London Abernathy saved in the rebound after a scramble, getting it to Callie Hogancamp who was fouled with :37.8 to go.
Though she missed both shots when Cozzens misfired on a jumper at the other end, Hogancamp aggressively collected the rebound and was fouled again with :24.8 to go. She connected once to make it 31-24, a three-possession game.
Foster missed another 3 and Sory sealed the victory with two free throws.
At the start of the game, Bryant scored the first two baskets. Sory hit an eight-footer off a nice dish from Jessie Taylor then Lee swished a 10-footer thanks to a feed from Abernathy. But the Lady Hornets didn't score again the rest of the first quarter, a dry spell of over five minutes. Conway, however, could only manage to lead 5-4, making just 1 of 4 shots from the free-throw line.
Blundell snapped the Bryant drought with a jumper in the lane off an assist from Barker, a minute into the second quarter and the lead seesawed the rest of the half with Conway holding the halftime advantage by virtue of a free throw by Foster with :03.5 on the clock.
And it could've been worse for the Lady Hornets who struggled with 10 turnovers in the half and shot just 5 of 20 from the field. Conway converted just 2 of 9 from the line in the period.
Bryant trailed 14-12 early in the second half when Sory knocked down the only 3-pointer of the game to put the Lady Hornets ahead to stay. In a scramble, the Lady Kittens had two chances to answer only to have Bryant force turnovers. And with 3:00 left in the quarter, Lee posted up for a bucket, was fouled and converted the three-point play to spark a run.
Before the quarter was over, Abernathy got a stickback, Sory hit a driving jumper and, after a three-point play by Foster, Lee beat the buzzer with a shot inside to put the Lady Hornets up 24-17.
Conway got the first basket of the final quarter but Blundell answered and, at the other end, Barker blocked a shot. Conway missed two chances to trim the margin at the free-throw line, missing all four shots. An offensive foul undermined a third chance for the Lady Kittens.
Bryant called timeout with 2:45 left when they struggled to get the ball in after the turnover. But when play resumed, Sory got an open look only to have the ball rim out. Barker scrambled after the rebound, however, and fed Blundell who was fouled with 2:34 to go. Though Blundell missed both of her free throws, Lee hustled after the carom. He follow shot missed but Blundell was there for the rebound and follow, making it 28-19, the biggest lead of the game.
Conway had that one last burst, however, trimming it to 28-23 going into the final minute. But, once again, Bryant's work on the offensive glass paid dividends. Sory missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:07 to go but the carom went out of bounds off a Conway player. Sory got a chance at another jumper but it rimmed out only to have Blundell capture the carom and feed Barker who was fouled, leading to her clutch free throws at the :50 mark.
JUNIOR LADY HORNETS 33, LADY KITTENS 24
Score by quarters
Conway White 5 6 6 7 — 24
BRYANT 4 6 14 9 — 33
LADY KITTENS 24
Foster 4-13 3-9 11, Cozzens 0-5 1-6 1, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Early 2-6 1-4 5, Sanders 2-10 1-2 5, Collins 0-1 2-4 2, Reed 0-0 0-0 0, King 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 8-37 8-25 24.
JUNIOR LADY HORNETS 33
Barker 0-1 2-2 2, Abernathy 2-9 0-0 4, Sory 3-10 2-3 9, Lee 4-8 1-1 9, Taylor 0-4 0-0 0, Wilson 0-2 0-0 0, Blundell 4-10 0-6 8, C.Hogancamp 0-4 1-4 1, Ball 0-1 0-0 0, A.Hogancamp 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-49 6-16 33.
Three-point field goals: Conway White 0-6 (Foster 0-5, Sanders 0-1), Bryant 1-5 (Sory 1-2, Abernathy 0-2, C.Hogancamp 0-1). Rebounds: Conway White 40 (Early 15), Bryant 37 (Lee 6, Blundell, C.Hogancamp 6). Turnovers: Conway White 16, Bryant 13. Total fouls: Conway White 16, Bryant 20. Fouled out: Conway White, Cozzens; Bryant, Barker.