Dorsey’s buzzer-beater lifts Hornets past Benton
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
BENTON — Senior Nick Dorsey hit a layup near the end of regulation to tie it then a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime as the Bryant Hornets extracted a little payback on the Benton Panthers with a 38-35 win in the second round of Benton’s WalMart Supercenter Shootout on Thursday, Dec. 11.
The win lifted the Hornets into the finals of the tourney and a chance to make it 3-for-3 in payback games (after they turned the tables on Lake Hamilton to open the tournament) against Hot Springs. But the Trojans, who had to have a last-second basket to beat the Hornets 52-50 at the Central Arkansas Christian Tournament on Dec. 1, smothered Bryant defensively and claimed the title 41-21 on Saturday, Dec. 13.
The results left Bryant 3-5 going into their AAAAA-Central Conference opener at North Little Rock on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The Charging Wildcats reached the Class AAAAA State Tournament semifinals last season.
“We got a couple of wins this week and it helped, some great games,” noted Hornets head coach Mark Smith of the tournament. “Playing here was a good deal for us. I’m proud of the guys.
The Hornets had lost to the Panthers 49-38 earlier in the season and they trailed 35-27 with less than three minutes to go in regulation in the rematch on Thursday.
A layup by Casey Grisham started the comeback. The Hornets forced a turnover and Devin Rice who scored 7 of his 10 points in the fourth quarter, hit a layup off a feed from Dorsey as he was fouled to make it 35-31.
Though Rice missed the free throw, he came up with a steal in the Hornets’ press and drove for a layup that cut the lead to 2.
Benton, which had run its spread offense since midway through the final period, turned the ball over again as Bryant’s Keith Richardson knocked the ball away to Grisham.
After a timeout with 1:09 to play, Richardson’s driving jumper rimmed out but the Hornets forced a held ball on the rebound and retained possession.
Moments later, Brad Gamble fed Dorsey who broke down the baseline for a layup that tied the game.
In turn, Benton worked the clock down to the final 10 seconds before, with :06.3 showing, Dexter Hendrix was fouled.
Despite being a sophomore, Hendrix has been one of the Panthers’ leading scorers and free-throw shooters. But he missed the front end and, after a Benton timeout, missed the back end as well.
Rice rebounded and passed the ball up the floor but a last-second shot wouldn’t go and the overtime was on.
Both teams were deliberate and there was only one shot attempted over the first half of the extra period. With less than a minute remaining, Hendrix was again fouled out on the court. But he missed the front end of the one-and-one and Rice controlled the rebound.
With :18 to go, Smith called a timeout. When play resumed, the Hornets worked for a good shot. With time running out, Richardson drove the left side of the lane, drawing the defense. His kickout pass to Dorsey in the left corner was cashed in by the senior swingman and Bryant’s celebration began.
Gamble led the Hornets with 16 points including four 3-pointers. He and Dorsey, the team’s lone seniors, were named to the all-tournament team. Dorsey and Grisham added 5 points each.
Against Hot Springs, the Hornets, who have only scored 50 points or more twice in eight games this season, scored a season-low 21 points. The offensive struggles had Smith and assistant Chad Withers frustrated and searching for answers as play in the rugged AAAAA-Central loomed.
“It’s every game,” Smith said after the game. “It’s rolling the dice to see what’s going to work. That’s what we just had a long talk about, what can work and what’s not working, let’s eliminate it. As a team, I want them to be able to say, ‘Hey, look, Coach, we don’t think this is going to work.’ And if it’s not going to work, let’s do something different.
“The meat of the schedule’s coming up and we’ve got to eliminate the fluff and try to find something that we can do that we’re comfortable with, that we can actually run,” he added. “I don’t know what it’s going to be, to be honest.
“When you can’t score like that — you know, our defense is not that bad,” he continued. “You look up in the second quarter and it’s 10-2. That defensive possession is huge. Even though they’ve only got 10 points, they go up 12 or 13 to 2 and all of a sudden you’re kind of in a panic mode. So, we’ve got to find something, as coaches and as a team, that we can jell around offensively and go with it.
“Right now, we’re too guard-oriented. Everything has been penetrate and dish and when you run into somebody that sets up a wall on defense like Hot Springs where you can’t penetrate, then all of a sudden your dish is gone. Then you go to plan B and plan B is evidently not working.”
Hot Springs’ wall of defense was provided, in large part, by center Durrell Nevels, a 6-4 leaper, who blocked a number of shots in each of the games against the Hornets.
That contributed to Bryant’s off night from the field. The Hornets were just 3 of 16 from the field in the first half. Hot Springs scored the game’s first 14 points and the Hornets never recovered. It was 22-10 at the half, 33-14 going into the fourth quarter.
For the game, Bryant shot 23 percent from the field (8-of-35). And the Hornets weren’t getting to the free-throw line, either. They were 3 of 5 for the game. Hot Springs was 5 of 8.
“I’m not mad whatsoever at anybody,” Smith emphasized. “I’m frustrated. Frustrated with myself, frustrated with the team too. You search hard for answers. We’ve struggled offensively throughout the season and it puts so much pressure on your defense. Hopefully, we can find some answers before we go to North Little Rock and we can mend some fences.”