It was a tale of two halves as the Bryant Lady Hornets lost 45-36 to the Little Rock Central Lady Tigers in the regular season finale for both teams in 7A Central action on Friday in the Central Fieldhouse. The Lady Hornets will be the No. 4 seed out of the Central and will play No. 5 seed Bentonville out of the West in the state tournament.
“We had a good first half, but came out in the third quarter and allowed them to gain momentum,” Bryant Coach Brad Matthews said. “We let them get out in transition some and we really let them control the offensive boards in the third quarter. We gave them some opportunities and Central is definitely good enough to take advantage of opportunities when you give them to them.”
After outrebounding the Lady Tigers 20-13 in the first half, the Lady Hornets couldn’t get anything going in the third quarter as Central outrebounded Bryant 11-5 in the quarter alone. Central’s aggressiveness caused Lady Hornets turnovers as the Lady Tigers had runs of 6-0 and 8-0 to outscore Bryant 18-8 to take a 32-29 lead going into the fourth.
The Lady Hornets (14-14, 6-8 7A Central) led 21-14 at the half, but trailed 14-13 with 4:05 left to go in the second quarter before Bryant finished it on a 8-0 run. Junior forward Courtney Davidson started the run when she juked her defender and drove in for a layup to put the Lady Hornets up 15-14. Davidson followed with a hook shot and sophomore Dezarea Duckworth hit 4 of 4 free throws to finish the half.
“I thought the first half we controlled the boards, controlled tempo and kept them out of transition – we did the things that we needed to do to win on the road,” Matthews said. “The third quarter, we got away from those things and Central made us pay for it.”
No one player made Bryant pay more than Jamie Ruffin. Ruffin led Central’s defensive charge finishing the game with six steals to go along with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
“Her on-the-ball defense was really good,” Matthews said of Ruffin.
“Her defensive pressure and their defensive pressure as a whole really gave us some trouble. It wasn’t so much the first half, but once we gave them some momentum, I thought their defensive intensity really picked up. They started pressuring the ball a lot more and being a lot more aggressive.”
Bryant led 25-16 after junior Kiara Moore’s driving layup with 5:06 left in the third quarter, but Central went on their runs after that.
The Lady Hornets would trail 34-30 after sophomore Aubree Allen hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4:33 left in the game, but that is as close as Bryant would get.
Duckworth led the Lady Hornets with 16 points and added six rebounds, two steals and a block, and Moore had nine points. After pulling down eight rebounds in the first half, Davidson finished with nine to go along with six points.
For the Lady Tigers, Taylor Lewis had 15 points for the team lead.
The Lady Hornets will take on Bentonville on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the state tournament at Cabot High School.