By Rob Patrick
Good fortune smiled on the Bryant Hornets freshman basketball team on Thursday, Jan. 8.
They were about due for it too.
After dropping five of their last six games, the Hornets held on for a 52-50 win when, with :02.9 on the clock, Cabot South’s J.D. Melby was fouled. The slick guard had already accounted for 14 points for his team. And he’d already attempted 16 free throws. But like eight other times, he missed the first of the two shots. On the second, he tried to shoot the ball hard off the iron, rebound it and score what would be the tying field goal.
And it worked. All except the last part. The ball hit rim and backboard, Melby beat everyone to the carom and put up a shot from point-blank range only to have it rim out at the buzzer.
The win improved the Hornets to 8-7 overall, 2-4 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference.[more]
But head coach Steve Wilson was not happy with his team’s play.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” he allowed. “We had them scouted. We knew what plays they were going to run, we just didn’t stop them. We let them out-hustle us up and down the floor and we did a lot of things to try to lose the game. We let a 10-point lead late in the game get away.”
The Hornets’ last 10-point advantage was at the 2:04 mark when Brantley Cozart followed up a free throw by Cody McPherson with a pair of his own after a technical foul on the Cabot coach.
On the subsequent possession by the Junior Panthers, however, a foul sent Melby to the line and when a technical foul was assessed on the Bryant player charged with the foul, two more free throws were added.
Melby made all four shots to spark his team’s comeback.
Cozart hit two more free throws but Cabot’s Mason Haley nailed a 3-pointer and followed up with a steal and layup that trimmed the margin to 47-44.
McPherson knocked down a pair from the line but Haley, who lead all scorers with 16 points and rebounders with 11, scored inside to make it 49-46 with :49 left.
And when the Hornets’ Jonathan Parks had two free throw attempts rim out, Cabot had a chance to get within 1 or even.
Haley was fouled on the rebound but missed the front end of the one-and-one at the other end, only to scramble after the carom from the second shot. He was fouled again but made just one of two free throws.
Moments later, Haley fouled out sending L.J. McLaughlin to the line with an intentional foul. McLaughlin connected on both free throws and the Hornets were given possession of the ball with the resulting 4-point lead. But Melby made a steal, scored and was fouled. When he had completed the three-point play with :14 showing, it was 51-50.
Tyler Nelson converted a free throw after being fouled on the inbounds pass but missed the second and, after a timeout, Cabot worked a play to get Melby a shot. Though he missed, he was fouled, setting up the final series of events.
Parks led the Hornets with 15 points. McPherson added 14 and Cozart 10. Derek Johnson led the Hornets with eight rebounds before fouling out.
Between the teams, there were 51 fouls called and 75 free throws attempted.
Cabot held the upper hand early. The Panthers were up 9-5 after a quarter then pushed the margin out to 17-6 early in the second. Back-to-back baskets by McPherson and Parks kept the Hornets in it. Johnson followed his own miss with a bucket then Parks made a steal and a layup that had Bryant within 18-14.
Rick Sisk (12 points) interrupted Bryant’s run but Parks added two free throws and McPherson made a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Cozart. After a Cabot miss, Cozart added a running jumper, McLaughlin made a steal and Cozart fed Parks for a layup and a 23-20 lead with :53 left in the half.
Bryant led 24-22 at the break.
Haley tied it to start the second half but McPherson flushed a triple and the Hornets ahead to stay.
But never too comfortably.
By hitting 7 of 10 free throws in the third quarter, the Hornets gradually built a 34-28 lead. Johnson added two more free throws to start the fourth quarter and the lead was 8. Haley’s layup cut into that but a three-point play by Parks off a nice feed from Nelson bumped it to 39-30. Melby hit a free throw but Parks answered with a layup that produced Bryant’s first 10-point advantage with 3:11 to go.
“We just found a group that, for awhile, just clicked,” Wilson commented. “There was a short time where we didn’t let them out-hustle us. We hustled as hard as they did and we hit our shots.
“You’ve got to give Cabot credit. They came in and worked their tails off from the beginning. But somehow we survived.”
HORNETS 52, JUNIOR PANTHERS 50
Score by quarters
Cabot South 9 13 6 22 — 50
Bryant 5 19 10 18 — 52
Melby 3-8 8-18 14, Houk 1-2 0-0 2, Sumler 1-2 0-0 2, Sisk 4-7 4-5 12, Haley 7-10 1-4 16, Pennington 0-1 0-0 0, Rick 1-2 0-0 2, Snell 0-1 2-4 2, Myrick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-33 15-31 50.
Cozart 2-6 5-6 10, Nelson 1-1 2-4 4, McPherson 2-5 9-13 14, Parks 5-5 5-9 15, McLaughlin 1-3 3-4 5, Johnson 1-4 2-6 4, Trudell 0-1 0-2 0, Motto 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 12-25 26-44 52.
Three-point field goals: Cabot South 1-4 (Haley 1-1, Melbry 0-1, Sumler 0-1, Rock 0-1), Bryant 2-6 (Cozart 1-4, McPherson 1-2). Rebounds: Cabot South 24 (Haley 11), Bryant 28 (Johnson 8, Parks 7). Turnovers: Cabot South 14, Bryant 15. Total fouls: Cabot South 27, Bryant 24. Technical fouls: Cabot South coach; Bryant, Johnson. Fouled out: Cabot South, Haley, Houk; Bryant, Johnson.