By Rob Patrick
PEARCY — Riley Hall hit two free throws with :11.3 left to bring some semblance of order to the wild finish of a mad scramble of a basketball game between the Bryant Hornets and Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs freshman teams on Thursday.
Hall’s free throws proved to be just enough, giving his team a 3-point lead. The Mustangs got two chances to tie the game. Austin Beene couldn’t get a 3-point try to go but the rebound went out of bounds to CAC. After a timeout with :02.8 showing, the Mustangs had one last chance. But they could only get burly center Zach Gerbholz open for a 3-point try against the Hornets’ smothering defense. His shot missed and Bryant had held on for a 30-27 win to advance to the championship of the first Kameron Hale Memorial Invitational Tournament at Lake Hamilton.[more]
The Hornets are set to play either White Hall or Lake Hamilton in Saturday’s championship game at 6:45 p.m.
Bryant, which trailed 23-21 going into the fourth quarter, held CAC without a field goal in the final period. The Mustangs hit four free throws out of eight to stay close but the Hornets got big baskets from Hall and Aaron Bell and free throws from each as well as Zach Cambron.
“Our defense has saved us pretty much all year long because our offense is just not doing it,” stated Hornets coach Steve Wilson. “We play good on defense. We’re a good defensive team. I think we can be a lot better offensively. I think we could play a lot smarter, a lot more patient and be a lot more selective on our shots.”
The Hornets survived despite committing 18 turnovers while forcing just nine. They were able to make up for that differential on the boards collecting 35 to the Mustangs’ 21. Twelve of those 35 came on the offensive end.
“We’re playing out there, really, without the end in sight,” Wilson said. “We’re playing for the moment, not for the total picture, I think. We need to start playing to win the ball game. You know, this is a good group of guys. They’re young and they’re still learning. And I think we’ll get there.”
The win improved the Hornets to 9-3 this season.
“We’re finding a way to win and usually our defense has something to do with it,” the coach concluded. “And usually when we do find a way to win, it’s because we’re driving and making shots inside. We need to figure out a way to do that throughout the game instead of waiting until we have to.”
CAC had chances to extend its lead at the start of the fourth quarter but didn’t and when Hall drove into the lane and popped a 12-foot jumper with 4:05 left, the Hornets were even at 23-23.
After a timeout, the Mustangs got guard Marquell Nelson a look. He missed but Gerbholz rebounded only to have Bryant’s Scott Workman block his shot. Bell claimed the deflection and raced to the other end, lacing his way to the rack for a basket and a foul. When he completed the three-point play, the Hornets had the lead for good.
Strodney Davis made a steal for Bryant but the Hornets turned it over. CAC returned the favor as the two teams raced up and down the floor. With 2:33 left, Cambron was fouled as the Hornets started to spread the floor and eat clock. He converted both ends of the one-and-one giving Bryant its largest lead of the game, 28-23.
Dylan Sherrill answered those free throws with a pair of his own at the 2:10 mark and when Bell couldn’t get the front end of a bonus chance to fall with 1:37 left, the Mustangs had a chance to tie the game with a 3.
Gerbholz was fouled with 1:17 to go and converted once to make it a 2-point game. And when the Hornets turned the ball over, CAC had another chance to tie or take the lead. But Logan Stafford’s 3-point try wouldn’t fall. CAC’s Beau Barnes rebounded but a turnover cost the Mustangs another try with :55.9 to go.
Bell was fouled on the inbounds play but, again, his free throw refused to fall.
Given another reprieve, the Mustangs got a point closer on a free throw by Gerbholz with :26.2 showing.
Trailing 28-27, the Mustangs forced another Bryant turnover but couldn’t cash it in as Sherrill missed a layup with :14 left. Hall was fouled seconds later and came through at the line.
The Hornets got off to a slow start. Cambron hit a free throw to break the ice but they were unable to hit a field goal until Workman grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with 4:41 left in the second quarter.
CAC built a 5-1 lead and held a 5-4 advantage going into the second period. It was 8-4 after a basket by Gerbholz. Jalen Hewitt banked in a 15-footer on the heels of Workman’s bucket and the game was even at 8.
But the Mustangs managed a 12-10 lead at the half on a late basket by Stafford.
Cambron’s stickback to start the third quarter knotted it again but Beene countered with a 3.
The game began to seesaw after a driving layup by Leon Neale and a short jumper by Workman off an inbounds play gave the Hornets their first lead at 16-15. Strodney Davis’ layup put the Hornets up by 3 but, after Gerbholz and Workman traded baskets, CAC put together a 6-0 run to reverse the advantage.
Bell was fouled at the buzzer ending the third period and, with no time on the clock, converted a free throw to make it a 2-point game going into the final period.
JUNIOR HORNETS 30, JUNIOR MUSTANGS 27
Score by quarters
CAC 5 7 11 4 — 27
BRYANT 4 6 11 9 — 30
JUNIOR MUSTANGS 27
Nelson 0-9 1-4 1, Beene 2-6 0-0 5, Sherrill 1-5 4-4 6, Barnes 0-0 0-0 0, Stafford 4-7 0-0 8, Gerbholz 2-6 3-5 7, Scallon 0-0 0-0 0, Holland 0-2 0-2 0. Totals: 9-35 8-15 27.
JUNIOR HORNETS 30
S.Davis 1-6 1-2 3, Wilson 0-2 0-0 0, Hall 1-4 2-2 4, Neale 1-1 0-0 2, Cambron 1-5 3-4 5, J.Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Rayburn 0-1 0-0 0, Hewitt 1-3 0-0 2, Workman 3-3 0-0 6, Bell 1-5 6-11 8. Totals: 9-30 12-19 30.
Three-point field goals: CAC 1-9 (Beene 1-4, Sherrill 0-2, Stafford 0-1, Gerbholz 0-1), Bryant 0-4 (Hall 0-2, Wilson 0-1, Rayburn 0-1). Turnovers: CAC 9, Bryant 18. Rebounds: CAC 21 (Gerbholz 6), Bryant 35 (Cambron 6, Neale, Hewitt, S.Davis 5). Team fouls: CAC 18, Bryant 14.