Hornets perform in the clutch
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).
By ROB PATRICK
BENTON — Though it wasn’t necessarily a season-changing event, the Bryant Hornets basketball team did take a significant stride forward at the Wal-Mart Supercenter Shootout, an annual tournament at Benton High School.
In an opening round loss to Hot Springs on Monday, Dec. 9, the Hornets led at halftime but let the game get away from them in the second half. So, in order to get a chance at a third game in the tournament, they had to have a win over Hot Springs Lakeside’s Rams on Thursday.
Again, the Hornets led at half and, again, the lead slipped away. But this time, the Hornets had a determined response that produced a 49-45 victory, setting up a Saturday match with the rival Sheridan Yellowjackets.
“I thought that was huge,” stated Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “When (Lakeside) scored to take the lead, we came right back down and answered. That’s kind of a check on what you’re made of, especially when you blow a lead and let them come back.”
The Hornets led the entire first half, by as much as 13. Lakeside made a run late in the third quarter, sparked by the three-point shooting of Cole Mitchell, and took a 30-29 lead with :56 left in the period on a three-point play by DeAngelo Hicks that capped a 13-3 run.
Curiously, before Hicks completed the play with his free throw, Lakeside coach Tommy White called a timeout. It was, no doubt, to set up his team’s defense at the other end, but it also served as a chance for the Hornets to regroup and set something up on their end.
When play resumed, the Hornets ran the play that Smith and assistant Chad Withers diagramed during the timeout and it worked. Jaston Carter drove for a layup to put Bryant back ahead. Lakeside, in turn, committed a turnover and Bryant’s Dwayne Chumley made them pay with a 3-pointer with :13 to go. And when Carter set up and took a charge at the other end, the Hornets held a 34-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A three-point play by Drew Devasher continued Bryant’s surge but then Lakeside got hot from outside. Mitchell, on his way to 22 points including six 3-pointers, canned a pair during a 9-0 run that put the Rams back on top.
The game was tied at 39, 41 and 42. With 1:53 left, Mitchell was fouled. Between his two made free throws that snapped the 42-42 deadlock, White again called timeout. And, again, the Hornets set up a play that worked. Chumley hit a driving jumper, drew a foul and completed a three-point play to put the Hornets up 45-44.
Lakeside, thanks in large part to struggles at the free-throw line, never led again.
“It proved to us that we can step up and face some adversity and, of course, there’s probably a lot of adversity to come,” said Smith, referring to the team’s first-time foray into the powerful AAAAA-Central Conference starting in January. “It’s going to be a check for sure. I hope we can handle pressure and make good decisions. I think we can handle pressure as long as we make the right choices and don’t make too many mental mistakes because, I think, if we don’t beat ourselves, we can be pretty competitive.”
Lakeside tied the game at 45 with a free throw by Chris Stewart with 1:01 to go. He missed his second shot but teammate Chris Arrison rebounded and was fouled. Arrison, however, missed the front end of the one-and-one and the game stayed tied.
After a Bryant timeout, the Hornets suffered a turnover and Mitchell was fouled with :34 to go. But he, too, missed the front end. Bryant’s Benny Elder rebounded and was fouled.
But Elder also misfired at the line. Drew Slay rebounded for Lakeside but was trapped at the baseline by Carter and Nick Dorsey. Slay called a timeout to try to prevent a turnover and it proved to be the turning point of the game. Lakeside was out of timeouts before Slay called his. The resulting technical foul put B.J. Wood at the line with :25.9 left and gave Bryant the ball after Wood converted one of the two shots to snap the tie.
Chumley was fouled with :22.5 showing and converted twice to up the margin to 3. The Hornets then forced a turnover before the Rams could even attempt a shot. Wood was fouled with :08 to go and hit a free throw to ice the victory.
Elder, who had a big first half, led the Hornets with 14 points. He hit all six of his field goal attempts including five in the first half. Carter added 13 points and Chumley 10. Dorsey pitched in with 7 including a three-point play in the second quarter that completed an 11-1 run that turned an 8-7 lead into a 21-8 advantage, Bryant’s largest of the game.
Carter keyed a surge early in the third quarter. With his team’s lead down to 21-17, he knocked down a 3-pointer then combined with Wood on a steal that he punctuated with a dunk. Another theft led to a trip to the free throw line where he came up empty, however. Mitchell countered with a 3 but Elder came through with a three-point play off a great feed from Chumley to put Bryant up 29-20.