Lewis’ clutch baskets lift Hornets in OT
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
HOT SPRINGS — Zach Lewis picked the right time to knock down his only two field goals of the three-day Summit Bank Spa City Shootout at the Summit Arena.
Lewis hit a pair of driving jump shots in the final 30 seconds of overtime in the tournament’s third-place game including what held up to be the game-winner with :10 to go as the Bryant Hornets edged the Hot Springs Lakeside Rams, 49-48, to finish the event 2-1.
Lewis, a defensive specialist who hits the boards well, had been slowed by an ankle sprain and had only attempted three shots from the field in the tournament to that point. And his weren’t the only clutch shots either as the Hornets came back from a 45-40 deficit in the final 1:20 of the extra period.
The win improved the Hornets to 4-5 going into 7A-Central Conference action at Little Rock Catholic on Friday, Jan. 5.
Bryant’s winning rally began with a pair of free throws by point guard Brandon Cowart with 1:19 to play, cutting the Lakeside lead to 3. Seconds later, Lakeside’s Zac Riley hit one of two from the line. Senior Jeremy Nordman answered with a clutch 3-pointer from the corner to cut the margin to 1 with :52 left.
Lakeside’s Decente Johnson missed a free throw with :44.1 on the clock as Cowart fouled out. Lakeside coach Tommy White called a timeout to set his defense, and Smith and assistant Chad Withers took the opportunity to call a play that was designed to set up Nordman with Lewis as the second option.
When the players returned to the court, Johnson hit the second shot and Lewis pushed the ball up the court. The Hornets set up the play and Nordman drew plenty of attention in the left corner despite his teammate’s efforts to screen for him along the left side of the lane. So Lewis drove the right side of the lane, pulled up from about 10 feet and canned the shot to tie the game 47-47 with :30 left.
Johnson, however, was fouled with :25 to go. This time, he hit the first shot to snap the tie. He missed the second but the rebound was wrestled away from the Hornets. Riley missed a follow, the Rams’ Ricki Martin rebounded and he missed too. Finally, Nordman pulled down the carom and the Hornets headed up the floor, quickly got into the same play and, again, Lewis found his way to nearly the same spot for the go-ahead bucket.
Lakeside pushed the ball into the front court and struggled to get into an offense. White called a timeout with :04.7 to go. When the teams returned to the floor and the Bryant coaches saw how the Rams were lined up for a last-second shot, they called timeout to set the defense. Likewise, when the players returned to the court again, White, noting how Bryant was set up defensively, called another timeout.
Finally, play resumed and the Rams could get no better than a 35-foot shot that missed the mark.
“Zach made two really big plays for us especially coming off the bench and not playing a whole lot of minutes in the second half,” noted Smith. “Coming in and hitting two shots like that was big time. Jeremy hit a big 3 from the corner too.
“The guys never gave up and the ball kind of bounced our way a few times late in the game,” he added. “The guys responded and played well.”
The Hornets led for most of the game though early, they appeared to still be distracted a bit by their bitter loss to Benton in the semifinals on Friday. Lakeside pushed to a 6-2 lead and the Hornets nearly went four minutes without a basket before a jump hook by Kevin Butzlaff off an inbounds play with 2:56 left in the opening quarter started their own 9-0 run.
Cowart fed Taylor Masters for a bucket and, after Butzlaff took a charge to get the ball back, Masters was fouled on a drive to the hoop. His two free throws put Bryant ahead.
And, in the closing minute of the period, sophomore Tim Floyd buried a 3 to make it 11-6 going into the second quarter.
The Hornets maintained the advantage throughout the second period. It was 17-13 going into the third quarter.
And when Cowart hit a driving layup and Masters added a pair of baskets early in the second half, the margin expanded to 23-13 with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, that was the last the Hornets would score in the period and, though they held Lakeside without a field goal in the quarter, the Rams went 8 of 9 at the free-throw line to pulled within 23-21 going into the final period.
Lakeside’s surge continued and the Hornets found themselves down 28-24 with 6:16 left to play. Two free throws by Nordman helped get them back on track. Martin hit a free throw for the Rams but Nordman and Floyd got loose on a fastbreak and the senior fed the sophomore for a layup that cut the margin to 1 with 4:31 left in the game.
That was the Hornets’ first field goal since Masters’ driving jumper that had given them their 10-point advantage early in the third period.
“We’ve got to get better offensively because when you don’t play well offensively, defensively, it just makes it huge, you’ve got to get stop after stop,” Smith noted. “If you play well offensively, you can afford a mistake or two on defense. Tonight, we went in spurts offensively.”
The teams exchanged free throws until Nordman connected from long range to turn a 31-30 deficit into a 33-31 lead with 1:56 to go. Lakeside’s Trayson McDaniel, who led all scorers with 16 points, drove the baseline to tie it.
Cowart put the Hornets back up with a pair of free throws with 1:18 to go but, with :51 left, McDaniel answered to knot it at 35.
Bryant worked the clock down to :30.7 before taking a timeout. The coaches set up a play for the last shot but, with :04.4 to go, a turnover cost them and the game went into overtime.
Masters snapped a 37-37 tie with a free throw but Lakeside took the lead on a basket inside by Martin. And when the Hornets turned the ball over, Johnson hit two free throws to make it 41-38 with 2:32 to go. Nordman drove for a reverse layup to cut it to 1, but Martin hit a free throw and Floyd missed a pair. With 1:25 left, Riley, who was 0 for 8 from the field including 0 for 6 from 3-point range to that point, canned a 3-pointer to give his team the 5-point lead that the Hornets overcame for the win.
Nordman finished with 12 points, Masters had 11 to go with a team-high seven rebounds. Floyd added 8 points and Cowart 7.