By Rob Patrick
Fighting through cramps in his legs, senior Dijon Benton scored 7 of his game-high 13 points in the fourth quarter including a three-point play with :55.6 to play as the Bryant Hornets extracted a hard-earned 36-33 win over the Sheridan Yellowjackets on Tuesday, Jan. 6.
It was the third time the two teams had played since their season-opener on Nov. 25 and it was obvious they were familiar with each other. Nothing came easily.
Benton’s three-point play erased a 33-31 Sheridan lead. K-Ron Lairy and Brandon Parish followed it up with a steal but Sheridan’s Christian Anglin swiped the ball back. Anglin missed a subsequent shot but his teammate Chris Clinton rebounded and was fouled with :37.1 showing.
Clinton missed the first shot and Bryant coach Mark Smith called a timeout. When he missed the second one, the Hornets rebounded only to turn the ball over again 10 seconds later. Sheridan worked the ball, trying to get it inside to Clinton again. A lob came into the post only to have Bryant’s Tyler Gattin, helping out from the backside, claim it with :11 showing.
Lairy was fouled with :08.6 on the clock and calmly converted what proved to be clinching free throws as the Hornets held on for the win.[more]
Bryant improved to 6-6 on the season heading into their 7A-Central Conference opener on Friday, Jan. 9, at Little Rock Catholic, which also figured to be a grinder of a game.
Sheridan, 5-6, was set to open play in the 6A-South against Pine Bluff.
Lairy finished with 10 points for Bryant. Clinton and Jacob Brown led Sheridan with 9 each.
Bryant’s largest lead of the game was 5, Sheridan’s was 4.
Initially, baskets by Benton and Lairy plus two free throws from Kendal Butzlaff had the Hornets up 6-3. Clinton’s 3 tied it at 6 but Lairy answered to keep Bryant ahead.
After Clinton scored off the offensive glass, Butzlaff and Gattin combined to force a Sheridan turnover that Benton cashed in to make it 11-8.
But, before the quarter was over, Sheridan surged ahead, 12-11, on buckets from Collin Simpson and Sawyer Dunigan.
Butzlaff made a nice feed to Brandon Parish on a back-door play for a layup to start the second quarter but Dunigan hit a 3 and Anglin made a steal and layup for the Jackets, giving them their largest lead of the game at 17-13 with 6:06 left in the first half.
Connor Rayburn hit a jumper in the lane for Bryant and, after Brown hit a free throw, Bryce Whitfield drilled a 3 with :11 to go bring the Hornets even at 18 going into the locker room.
Back and forth it went through the third quarter which ultimately ended with the Hornets up 25-24 on a layup by Reid Prescott off a nice dish from Benton with :46 left.
A stickback by Benton and driving jumper by Lairy had the Hornets up 29-24 two minutes into the final period.
It was 31-26 going into the final 2:30. After a timeout, Sheridan made a push. Brown hit inside and Anglin added a three-point play to tie it at 31. A Bryant turnover followed and Anglin fed Brown for a basket that had the Jackets up 33-31 with 1:10 left, setting up the white-knuckle finish.