Bryant earns 4th overtime victory
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
LITTLE ROCK — It’s enough to make you a believer in conditioning …
Four times this season, the Hornets have battled an opponent into an overtime or two and each time they’ve come away victorious — twice now in double OT. On Wednesday at the Galaxy on the campus of Little Rock Mills, Bryant advanced to the championship game of the Mills Holiday Classic with a 64-55 win over Dumas.
And it took two extra periods.
The Hornets, at 6-4 after beating Dumas, were set to play the host team in the finale on Saturday.
Against Dumas, whom the Hornets had defeated in their own Bryant Classic earlier in December 66-60 — in overtime — Bryant won the game at the free-throw line, scoring all but 4 of its 21 points in the two extra periods at the stripe. Actually, the Hornets shot free throws just well enough to stay ahead but just poorly enough to keep Dumas in the game.
Overall, Bryant hit 27-of-42 at the line including 17-of-25 after regulation.
It was a rare second half for the Hornets, who emphasize getting to the foul line by attacking on offense. They shot just four free throws (making just one) and never got into the bonus.
“One of the things you hope to do in a close game is go to the free-throw line a lot,” noted Bryant head coach Leo Olberts. “And, Lord knows, we practice a lot. And today we had players that normally, you’re tickled to death to have up there shooting that just weren’t making them or making one out of two.”
Yet, it was Dumas that had to play catch-up early in the final period. But the Hornets went three minutes without scoring after Josh Carroll hit a free throw with 4:20 left to give his team a 41-39 lead. Though they struggled, the Bobcats finally gained the lead on a short jumper by Chris Smith with 1:48 left, 43-41.
On a move from the post, Jared Thomas, who led the Hornets with 17 points, knotted it at 43 with 1:23 left.
After that, Dumas tried to hold for the last shot while Bryant, which had fouled only three times in the half, used the fouls it had to give to keep the pressure on. The Bobcats wound up getting nothing better than a 35-foot attempt at the end and the first overtime commenced.
The game was tied at 45, 48 and 50 in the first OT, with Bryant holding the edge and Dumas managing to tie each time the Hornets got up. After Thomas hit a pair of free throws with 2:10 left, the Hornets gained the advantage after a Dumas miss. They spread the floor and Tad Beene was fouled with 1:25 to go. He converted once to give Bryant a 3-point edge but Dumas’ Jarvis Wilson tied it with a 3.
Still looking to foul despite their coach’s attempts to get them to lay off, the Bobcats sent Carroll to the line with 1:01 left. He converted twice but, moments later, the game was tied on a driving layup by Brandon Johnson.
The Hornets then tried to hold for a last shot but post man Nathan James was fouled away from the ball with :16 to go, much to the disgust of Dumas coach James Patterson. James, who was 6-for-6 from the field, converted his only two free throws of the game to give Bryant the advantage, only to have Wilson come through again for the Bobcats with a driving jumper at the :08 mark.
The Hornets got a pretty good look at a last-second shot but Carroll’s jumper rimmed out and the second OT was on.
The game took a bad turn for Bryant when James, their rugged junior, fouled out just as the period got under way. But, moments later, his replacement in the lineup, sophomore Matt Brown, converted a pair of free throws to snap a 53-53 tie and put the Hornets ahead to stay.
Still, it was never too secure despite a steady march to the stripe by the Hornets. Dumas couldn’t convert there either. Smith missed a chance to tie with a pair of misses after Brown put Bryant ahead. In turn, Thomas missed a couple for Bryant, but Matt Thornton came through with two to make it 57-53. Carroll missed a couple then Smith cut the margin to 2 with a running jumper with 1:13 left.
Brown hit 1-of-2 with :51 left, then Dumas got a couple of opportunities to tie but missed both 3-point attempts. Beene was fouled with :28 left and hit both shots before Brown and Carroll came up with the decisive play, knocking the ball free from Smith. Brown chased down the loose ball and somehow found Carroll with an eye-catching pass for a left-handed layup that iced the game with :17 left.
Thomas added a pair of free throws after rebounding a Dumas miss and the Hornets pocketed another nail-biting victory.
Carroll had 15 points for the Hornets, mostly during a second-quarter hot streak in which he popped for 10 points including Bryant’s lone 3-pointer of the game. James added 14 points and a game-high 9 rebounds before fouling out.
Dumas was paced by Latron Buchanna who scored 15 points before fouling out. Smith had 10.
“Like I told the guys, ‘It’s great the fact that you never give up. You weren’t playing well. We had Nate foul out and he’d been playing good for us. We just hung in there and did what we had to do,’” Olberts related. “Like I told them, ‘We got to overtime, well now we’ve got ‘em.’
“It’s just very disappointing to be your own worst enemy,” he added, “and we are. There were several times we got a five-, six-point lead and instead of going up seven or eight, we do something goofy and now we’re back up one.
“We’ve just got to do a better job of running our offense. We’re standing around too much and looking for one or two guys. You’ve got to have some other people step up. We’ve got to have more fluid offense, our offense is very stagnant.
“We ran probably five different defenses,” Olberts noted. “I don’t know if we did any of them well but the match-up probably looked better than any of them right at the end.”
The game was tied at 11 at the end of the first quarter. The lead seesawed in the second until Carroll got hot and, thanks to back-to-back three-point plays by Thomas and Carroll, Bryant opened up as much as an 8-point lead late before Dumas whittled it to 30-25 at the half.
A 10-2 run by the Bobcats in the third quarter allowed them to gain a 35-34 edge before James scored twice in the final 1:30 of the period to create a 38-35 lead for the Hornets going into the fourth quarter.