Late surge sends Texarkana packing
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
Though they’d led almost all the way since overcoming an early 8-2 deficit, the Bryant Hornets were holding on by just 3 against the Texarkana Razorbacks with 4:41 to play in their AAAAA-South Conference game Friday night.
And this was a home game — the Hornets hadn’t lost at home all season, a win streak that included impressive decisions over Little Rock McClellan, Sheridan and Pine Bluff, teams at the top of the league. Texarkana came in trailing the Hornets by a game in the standings but, one of its three conference wins had been against Bryant in Texarkana, 60-50.
The Razorbacks had hung around even though they hadn’t led since that early salvo. The lead had fluctuated between 3 and 5 as the fourth quarter unfolded and with 4:41 left, Texarkana’s Jamaal Watson made it 51-48.
Bryant’s Matt Thornton answered with a driving layup. He was fouled on the play but was unable to convert the three-point play. Still, it seemed to break the cycle. The Hornets forced a Texarkana turnover and, with a nice drive from the high post, Jared Thomas scored to make it a 7-point advantage.
Watson hit a free throw but Thomas countered with an offensive-rebound basket and, after another Razorback miss, Tad Beene converted both ends of a one-and-one to increase Bryant’s lead to 10 — the largest of the game for either team — with 2:03 to go.
The Hornets stepped up with the game hanging in the balance down the stretch and came away with a 70-56 victory that evened their conference record at 5-5 and overall mark to 15-7 going into the final two weeks of the regular season.
With the help of Sheridan’s win over Pine Bluff and McClellan’s victory over Camden Fairview, the Hornets pulled into a three-way tie for fourth in the league, just a game behind third-place Sheridan and two behind McClellan going into a Tuesday showdown at Pine Bluff.
Though not absolutely vital, a win at Pine Bluff would be a huge step towards qualifying for the State Tournament for the Hornets. While the Hornets have been unbeaten at home this season, they have struggled on the road, however.
Friday’s win over Texarkana featured a tremendous performance by Thomas, the 6-6 senior who did a fine job of taking Texarkana’s Brian Barr or Antonio Burks to the hole on the dribble or setting up in a position to score off a feed when a teammate drove into the teeth of Texarkana’s defense and drew defenders away from the Bryant big man.
Thomas finished with a game-high 21 points. Thornton and Beene each pitched in with 19 and point guard Matt Brown added 8.
Burks led Texarkana with 15. Barr added 12 and Floyd Hayes 11.
The game wasn’t over when the fourth-quarter run put the Hornets back up by 10. Texarkana’s Anthony Burks came off the bench to fling in a 3-pointer with 1:53 to go but the Razorbacks didn’t score again until there was just :24 showing on the clock.
In the interim, Thornton drove for a layup then Nathan James, Thornton and Beene added free throws to pump the lead to 66-52.
Bryant converted 16 of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter to not only hold off the Razorbacks but pull away from them. For the game, the Hornets knocked down 23 of 26 at the line.
Texarkana had gained the early lead behind 3-pointers from Antonio Burks and Watson. A baseline jumper by Beene started the turnaround. Thomas buried a running jumper then a three-point play by Beene gave the Hornets their first lead. Thomas took a charge as Watson barreled into the lane and, at the other end, Beene fed Brown for a layup and an 11-8 lead.
Hayes’ jumper in the lane cut it to 1 but Thornton hit two free throws in the final minute to give Bryant a 13-10 lead going into the second quarter.
The Hornets led by as much as 5 in the second period. It was 21-16 when Thomas drove for a layup with 4:24 left in the half. But Texarkana surged back and actually took a 23-21 lead on a three-point play by Barr with 1:30 to go.
A 15-foot jumper by Jeremy Reeves with 1:15 left knotted it up with 1:15 left and it stayed that way until halftime.
Beene sparked a Bryant surge to start the second half, hitting two free throws then taking a nice pass from Brown for a layup that made it 27-23. The teams traded misses until Thomas drained a driving jumper.
Barr scored but Thomas answered to maintain the advantage.
After a free throw by Hayes, Thornton’s three-point play gave Bryant its largest lead at 34-26.
But Texarkana rallied and twice trimmed the lead to 1. A driving layup by Brown kept the Hornets ahead the first time then Thornton’s drive with :06 left in the third quarter gave the Hornets a 40-37 edge going into the final period.