BRYANT – After Lady Panther junior Braxton Chumley hit two free throws with 6.3 seconds left to give Benton a 50-49 lead, junior Lady Hornet guard Jakeria Otey dribbled down the left side of the court, drove to the bucket and was the recipient of a foul call as time expired. Otey calmly hit both free throws to give Bryant the 51-50 upset victory over rival Benton in the Saline County Shootout Wednesday night to make up for Tuesday’s postponement due to inclement weather.
“That’s a little more exciting at the end than it could have been, but it was a tremendous win,” Bryant Coach Brad Matthews said. “Rivalry games are special. Benton is so talented and I thought our kids fought. We gave up some offensive rebounds, but we kept them off the boards for the most part. It was a great team win in a great environment.”
Otey didn’t just win it for the Lady Hornets (7-11, 3-5 7A/6A South) at the end, she was consistently putting the ball in the basket all night finishing with a game-high and career-high 29 points on 11 of 19 shooting, 5 of 6 free throws, and threw in 2 of 4 from the 3-point line. Otey added eight steals, five in the first quarter, and three assists.
“Otey had a great game,” Benton Coach Jerry Chumley said. “She did what she was supposed to do. She was aggressive and took it. You have to give her credit for being aggressive offensively.”
Now on a three-game losing streak, the Lady Panthers (13-5, 5-3) continued their sluggish play in the first quarter shooting 1 of 6 from the floor and turning it over eight times, while Otey staked the Lady Hornets to a 13-4 lead after one quarter. Otey scored Bryant’s first nine points of the game and assisted senior Erica Smith on a bucket for an 11-2 lead. Otey would assist junior Maddie Baxter on a layup for an 11-point advantage, but the Lady Panthers would fight back in the second quarter.
Down 19-12 after Jayla Anderson’s layup, Benton would go on a 5-0 run capped by senior Allison Reynolds layup and a 19-17 deficit with 1:53 to go in the half. Otey would hit a 10-foot jumper before Benton’s Ann Marie Burchfield hit 1 of 2 free throws for the 21-18 Lady Hornet halftime lead.
“We made some plays to stay in the game,” Chumley said. “We had to fight back that whole first half. Defensively we gave up too many layups. They got to the lane when they wanted to and made the shots. Kept us behind most of the time.”
Benton sophomore Skylar Davis would get hot in the third quarter as she hit two threes in a row, both assisted by junior Ashlie Dintleman, to give the Lady Panthers their first lead of the game, 26-23, with 4:30 left in the third. Benton led 28-25 before senior Aubree Allen went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line for the Bryant one-point advantage before Davis took a pass from sophomore Tia Brazell and nailed a 3-pointer to put Benton up 33-31. Otey would hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left for the 34-33 Lady Hornet advantage after three.
“We made enough plays down the stretch to hold on,” Matthews said. “We played well. Obviously Jakeria played well offensively. Peyton (Weaver) didn’t score, but defensively she did a really, really good job on (Braxton) Chumley. Without that, we don’t win.”
Reynolds would hit an 8-foot jumper to tie it at 40-apiece with 2:53 left in the game, but Otey responded with a 3-pointer and an 8-foot jumper to put Bryant up 45-42. Braxton Chumley nailed a 3-pointer to tie it at 45-all before Allen hit two free throws and Anderson came up with a huge steal and layup for the four-point lead with 35 seconds left. Dintleman would throw in a 5-footer and Bryant was called for a violation out of bounds before Chumley’s free throws gave Benton the one-point advantage with under-10 seconds remaining.
“I thought it was a really good team effort,” Matthews said. “Our kids really wanted to win. I’m glad for our kids. We’ve struggled a little bit this year, but they keep working hard in practice, keep fighting. Our kids are definitely getting better and hopefully the best is still in front of them.
Allen had 10 points and four rebounds for Bryant, Anderson had six points and Baxter had four points. For Benton, Reynolds had 15 points and four rebounds, Chumley 12 points and five rebounds, Davis and Dintleman with nine points each, with Dintleman adding six rebounds and four assists.