CABOT — To close out the 2014-15 basketball season, the Bryant Blue Hornets eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School earned their third win in a row, 38-32, over the Cabot Red Panthers on Thursday night.
The Hornets, who finish the season 10-7 overall, built a lead of as much as 13 in the fourth quarter and head coach Dominic Lincoln proceeded to get everyone in the game. But Cabot Red didn’t reciprocate and was able to rally within 3, 33-30 with 1:33 left in the game.
The starters returned for Bethel and put th3e game away on a pair of baskets by Randy Thomas and a free throw from Tyler O’Neal. Meanwhile, the Panthers were limited to two free throws in that final 1:33.
Thomas finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. O’Neal scored 10, Josh Robertson 7, Henry Terry and Alex Blair 3 each.
The only time Bryant Blue trailed in the game was 1-0. A layup by Blair started a 7-2 run that included a free throw and a turnaround jumper by Robertson.
Cabot Red hit a 3 to cut the margin to 1 in the final minute but Thomas grabbed one of his five offensive rebounds, was fouled and sank two free throws to make it 9-6 going into the second period.
Thomas then drained a 3 after Cabot Red scored the first basket of the second. He would add a short jumper, which was followed by a layup from Robertson off a nice feed from O’Neal and a drive to the rack off a Cabot turnover that resulted in a bucket for Robertson. That gave the Hornets their first double-digit lead and 18-8.
The Panthers cut it to 18-13 going into the final minute of the half. But O’Neal got to the basket for a layup, made a steal and got fouled with :02.5 showing. He converted one of the free throws to make it an 8-point game at the half, 21-13.
O’Neal then opened up the third quarter with a drive for a hoop. Terry followed a Cabot turnover with a 3 and Bethel had doubled up the Panthers, 26-13.
The Panthers closed out the third quarter with a run that had the margin down to 6 but O’Neal got the Hornets going again at the start of the fourth period. He scored and was fouled on a drive to the basket. Though he missed his free throw, Thomas rebounded and scored and the advantage was back to 10.
O’Neal would add three free throws in four attempts over the next 40 seconds to push the lead to 33-20.
Cabot took a timeout with 3:21 left as Bethel reserves filtered into the game. It still took the Panthers until the 2:30 mark before they began to rally with a free throw. A three-point play and a 3-point shot whittled the lead to 5 by the 1:58 mark.
The starters for the Hornets returned but Cabot Red scored again at the 1:33 mark to make it a 3-point game.
But Thomas calmly knocked down a 15-footer to stem the tide, making it a two-possession game again. It took until the :34.1 mark for the Panthers to score again. Two free throws cut the margin to 35-32 and they had chances to get closer. With :20.8 showing, they missed a front end. But the rebound went out of bounds off the hands of a Hornet. Red went for a tying 3 but missed. Blair rebounded and was fouled with :09.6 to go.
As it turned out, the Panthers never got the ball again. Blair hit his first free throw and, on the missed second shot, O’Neal snuck in to grab the carom. He missed a shot inside but Blair hit the boards and tried to follow. Though he couldn’t get his shot to go either, Thomas rebounded this time and scored with a last-season shot that set the final score.
Chris Fuller, Logan Chambers, Will McEntire, Bryan Collins, Michael Chapman, Cameron Tipton, Jett Nelson, Andrew Lorio, Micah Holyfield, C.J. Davis and Jacob Eubanks all got into the game for the Hornets.