Photos by Kevin Nagle
Josh Robinson hit a baseline jumper with :03.8 left in regulation to forge a 44-44 tie between the freshman teams from Bryant and Benton in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference opener for both teams. And the Hornets took leads twice in overtime but they couldn’t counter a 6-0 run by the Panthers who prevailed 56-50 at the Bryant Middle School gym Monday night.
The Hornets played well enough offensively to get Benton to foul them to the tune of 21 free throws. Unfortunately, Bryant converted just eight of those free throws by Benton went 12 of 13 from the line in the game including four in the final 10 seconds of overtime after Bryant’s Kajuan Robinson had cut the lead to 52-50.
The Hornets led most of the first half. Rodney Lambert, who finished with a game-high 20 points, had 7 in the first quarter to help fuel an 8-2 start. Benton cut it to 8-6 by the end of the quarter but Lambert drove for a layup to start the second quarter and, after a basket by Benton, Blaise Smith answered for Bryant.
Two free throws for the Panthers were countered by a basket in side by Randy Thomas off a dish from Lambert to make it 14-10. The teams traded baskets again with Robinson drilling a jump hook off an offensive rebound. Benton then went on a tear to grab the lead. Kajuan Robinson cut the lead to 20-18 with 1:48 left in the half but the Hornets were unable to score again in the half, which ended with the Panthers up 22-18.
Henry Terry, following his own miss, got the free throw line to start the third quarter. Benton answered to push the lead to 5. Lambert cut into the lead but, again, Benton answered. Lambert drilled his second trey to make it 26-24 but Benton pushed it back to 30-24 going into the final three minutes of the third quarter.
Kajuan Robinson followed his own miss and got to the line where he converted once. After a Panthers miss, Terry scored off the offensive glass. The Hornets forced a turnover and Lambert drove for a basket and was fouled. But the free throw that might’ve tied it was wiped out by a lane violation.
The Panthers hit a pair of 3’s in the final two minutes of the quarter and held a 36-31 lead going into the fourth.
The Hornets surged to start the final six minutes. Though Thomas missed a pair of free throws, Smith battled for the rebound and scored. Lambert and Daelin Drake combined on a steal that led to a layup for Thomas that cut it to 1.
Another Benton turnover set up Drake’s lob feed to Smith in the post. He scored and was fouled. After he completed the three-point play, the Hornets led 38-36 with 4:28 left to play.
Smith intercepted a long inbounds pass as the Hornets continued to pick up the pressure full-court. But the Hornets were unable to take advantage. The Panthers regained the advantage with a three-point play.
Given two chances to even up the game up or gain the lead, the Hornets couldn’t buy a free throw. After the second empty trip, however, Thomas rebounded and scored to make it 41-40.
Benton led 43-42 going into the final minute. A free throw with :20.4 left, made it a 2-point lead. That set up Josh Robinson’s clutch basket to tie it.
And when Benton turned the ball over on a long inbounds pass with :02.3 showing, the Hornets got a shot at a game-winner but Lambert’s 3-point try from the corner rimmed out.
In overtime, Josh Robinson fed Kajuan Robinson for the first basket. Benton answered but Lambert drove for a bucket to give the Hornets a 48-46 lead. That’s when the Panthers surged to a 52-48 lead, which proved decisive.
To go with Lambert’s 20, Smith had 9 points, Kajuan Robinson finished with 8. Thomas had 6 to go with a game-high 12 rebounds. Josh Robinson finished with 4 points and Terry 3.
The Hornets will try to get their first conference win on Thursday when they travel to Cabot White, hoping to duplicate the 48-40 win they handed the Panthers on Nov. 23.