For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here
The Bryant Hornets freshman team only scored two field goals in the second half of their Central Arkansas Junior High Conference showdown with the Conway White Wampus Cats Thursday night at Bryant Junior High.
But they started the half with a 21-12 lead and, even though the Cats rallied to tie twice in the fourth quarter, the Hornets never trailed. With clutch free throws from Cory Nichols and Jordan Knox, Bryant held on for a 37-28 victory that pulled them even with Conway White for third place in the league, going into the final week of the regular season.
The Hornets play at Benton next Thursday before the conference tournament commences in Conway on Monday, Feb. 17.
The Hornets were 11 of 15 from the line in the final period, 13 of 18 in the game.
“We were shooting about 43 percent for the year,” noted Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “But we hit about eight straight near the end of the game. Those were big shots. We took advantage of them having to foul us.”
Posey put the Bryant offense in the hands of Cory Nichols, who wound up scoring 14 of his team’s 16 points in the second half. He was 8 for 10 at the charity stripe in the final stanza.
“He’s a kid that’s not afraid of the moment,” Posey said. “He’s not scared of the basketball. He really has a knack for getting into the lane and making shots through and over people. We wanted to make sure we had the ball in his hands, and he carried us there at the end, made some big-time free throws.”
Nichols led all scorers with 18 points. James Billingsley had 8 for the Hornets. R.J. Lee and T.J. Smith each had 8 points to lead Conway.
The game was tied 28-28 going into the final two minutes. Nichols converted both ends of a one-and-one with 1:48 to go. After Conway White’s Jamarion Carr missed at the other end, Knox was fouled. He came through by knocking down both ends of the bonus opportunity and Bryant’s lead was 32-28.
Conway’s Jayden Robinson missed a 3-point from the corner but Carr rebounded only to have Bryant’s Darren Wallace block his shot.
“I’m really glad he finally stayed down on the original pump fake then it went up and he got him a good block,” Posey commented.
Moments later, Nichols was back at the line, increasing the margin to 6.
After a Conway timeout, R.J. Patton missed from 3-point range and Carr grabbed the carom again. This time, however, Nichols stole the ball and drove to the other end for a game-capping three-point play.
The Hornets had closed the game with a 9-0 run.
“The plan originally was to really get in them and turn them over,” Posey related. “I thought we had a good match with their guards. They have one really good ballhandler. We thought we could double him, have him give it to somebody else. We didn’t think they could make layups over our taller kids.
“It worked for a while,” he acknowledged. “We did a great job of rebounding the ball for the first time in a long time.”
The Hornets out-boarded the Cats 36-30 with Knox leading the way with nine.
Nichols and Conway’s Colen Thompson traded hoops to start the game then Wallace canned a 3. Two free throws from Ivory Gilmore had Bryant ahead 7-2
Conway cut it to 7-5 but Nichols scored inside, and Billingsley ripped a 3 off an extra perimeter pass from Gilmore.
So, Bryant led 12-5 going into the second stanza.
it was 14-10 midway through the period, but Braylen Montgomery popped a 12-footer and Billingsley connected for his second trey. A drive to the rack by Knox had the Hornets up 21-10.
But before the half was over, Bryant had five players on the bench with two fouls.
“That kind of put us in a bind there,” Posey agreed. “So, we just kind of had to outlast them there at that point and make free throws near the end of the game and our guys did a great job of doing so.”
Neither team scored over the first 3:10 of the third quarter. With 2:50 left, Nichols found the range from distance to make it 24-12. Conway White called timeout and, at that point, the Cats were 0 for 5 and the Hornets 1 for 5 from the field.
Nichols’ triple provided Bryant’s only scoring in the quarter. Conway White kicked into gear and whittled the lead down to 24-18 by the end of the third.
The Hornets continued to struggle on offense in the fourth period. The Cats pulled even 25-25 and appeared to have all the momentum. But, with 3:14 left, Nichols got inside and was fouled. He converted both shots to snap the deadlock. He would add another from the line before Conway White drew even at 28, setting up the Hornets’ winning push.
The Hornets are now tied for third with Benton in the CAJHC standings. They’ll travel to play the Panthers next Thursday, Feb. 13.
HORNETS 37, WAMPUS CATS 28
Score by quarters
Conway White 5 7 6 10 — 28
BRYANT 12 9 3 13 — 37
WAMPUS CATS 28
Patton 1-5 2-4 4, Lee 2-9 4-10 8, Carr 0-9 2-4 2, Britt 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 2-4 0-1 4, Smith 3-3 2-6 8, Robinson 0-3 0-0 0, Hampton 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 9-36 (25%) 10-25 (40%) 28.
Knox 1-5 2-2 4, Nichols 4-12 9-12 18, Billingsley 3-6 0-0 8, Gilmore 0-4 2-2 2, Wallace 1-6 0-0 3, Montgomery 1-1 0-2 2, Gannaway 0-1 0-0 0, Vinson 0-2 0-0 0, Russ 0-1 0-0 0, Reed 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-38 (26%) 13-18 (72%) 39.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-13 (Billingsley 2-5, Nichols 1-3, Wallace 1-3, Gilmore 0-2), Conway White 0-10 (Carr 0-3, Lee 0-2, Patton 0-2, Robinson 0-2, Thompson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Conway White 11. Rebounds: Bryant 8-28 36 (Knox 2-7 9, Gilmore 1-5 6, Nichols 1-2 3, Wallace 0-3 3, Montgomery 0-3 3, Vinson 2-1 3, Billingsley 0-2 2, Gannaway 1-1 2, Russ 0-1 1, team 1-3 4), Conway White 7-23 30 (Carr 1-8 9, Thompson 2-5 7, Smith 2-2 4, Lee 0-3 3, Patton 1-1 2, Britt 0-1 1, Hampton 0-1 1, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Conway White 16. Fouled out: Conway White, Smith.