Bryant bounces back versus Sylvan Hills
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
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Nothing like a little adversity to pull a team together.
On the heels of their most humbling loss of the season, a 74-38 thumping against Little Rock Mills, the Bryant Hornets faced a return match against a Sylvan Hills team that felt they owed them one. The Hornets had defeated the Bears on a last-second shot by Jaston Carter on Nov. 25. But, in a game that included four technical fouls, the Hornets reeled in a rousing 57-50 victory with a big fourth-quarter surge in the consolation round of the CAC/OrthoArkansas Invitational Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 5.
The team felt besieged in the first half when Sylvan Hills shot 22 free throws and the Hornets just four. But head coach Mark Smith didn’t receive his T for complaining about that. On back-to-back plays, traveling violations that, Smith felt, were the result of fouls by Sylvan Hills, cost the Hornets points and a quick-triggered official took exception to the coach’s protests.
A similar violation, moments later, drew a technical on one of the Bryant players that showed his frustration a bit too vehemently.
(Two more technicals were called, one on Sylvan Hills for slapping the backboard trying to block a shot and another for the Hornets’ Jaston Carter who hung on the rim after his second dunk of the night, late in the game. Carter came up big for the Hornets, scoring 24 points.
But Smith got his charges calmed down and, despite the lopsided free-throw shooting, the Hornets forged a 25-25 tie at halftime.
A change in defensive tactics helped Bryant limit the Bears to just six field goals in the first half.
“We scouted them and saw Lake Hamilton play them man and Lake Hamilton has similar athletic ability to what we have, so we thought we could go ahead and play man (like Lake Hamilton),” Smith said. “We played a match-up against them before and they have a couple of good shooters. But really, we didn’t plan on staying in man that long. We were going to play man a little bit, kind of get our blood flowing, get us into the game then back up and get into some zone. But we were being successful at it, so we went ahead and stayed with it. Of course, it may not have been a good move because we got a lot of people in foul trouble.”
Indeed, two Hornets starters, B.J. Wood and Geoff Tucker, had three fouls by halftime and four other players had two. But the team got a lift off the bench in the second quarter from Nick Dorsey and Devin Rice. The Hornets didn’t attempt a free throw until Dorsey stepped to the line with 4:04 left in the half. He converted twice to increase Bryant’s lead to 22-17. Rice didn’t score, but he pulled down five rebounds in the quarter, tying for team honors for the game.
Carter stepped up during the period too, scoring 9 of his points including his second 3-pointer of the game and his first dunk on a breakaway after a steal.
The game was nip-and-tuck in the third quarter and a couple of late baskets including a 3 by James Jackson gave Sylvan Hills a 38-35 edge going into the fourth quarter.
Another defensive change sparked the Hornets’ 22-point fourth-quarter.
“We switched to a trap and I think that caught them off guard,” Smith noted. “That really gave us a boost.”
After Sylvan Hills’ Derrick Grant scored the first basket of the period to increase his team’s lead to 5, the Hornets went on an 11-2 spree, sparked by that trap. Carter and Bennie Elder each has layups then Carter canned a 15-footer. Drew Devasher came up with a steal and Carter cashed it in with another jumper. Carter then made a theft, driving for a layup and a 45-42 lead. Devasher and Carter teamed up to force another turnover and Keith Richardson drove for a layup that resulted in the technical foul for slapping the backboard. Tucker hit a free throw to make it 48-42 with 2:54 left to play.
Sylvan Hills made a bid at an answering run when Asa Mason scored inside and Carter was whistled for a charge that gave the Bears a chance to cut the margin to 2 (or 1 with a 3-pointer).
But the Bears’ Caleb Turner misfired and, at the other end, Tucker came through with a three-point play to stem the tide. Devasher followed with another steal and layup to bump it to 53-44. And when Carter picked up a loose ball and drove for his second dunk, the Hornets had a double-digit lead for the first time with :34 left.
“We were fortunate tonight that (Sylvan Hills) missed a lot of free throws and, even though they got a lot of offensive rebounds, they missed a lot of putbacks too,” Smith mentioned. “We dodged a bullet from the standpoint of being in foul trouble and putting them on the line as many times as we did.”
“A couple of guys stepped up big,” he added. “Drew played good down the stretch. I thought Keith came in and handled the ball well, ran the offense good. Jaston had a pretty good game. He just needs to channel his emotions in a positive direction and not get too caught up in the whole rigamaroll of it.
“We executed a little bit better but we’re still not executing the way that we should. I think if we ever do that, I think that we can become a pretty decent team but until we do, we’re going to struggle with whoever we play. That’s something we’ve really, really got to do, is work on our execution.”