Knight’s trey caps key win
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
CABOT — Attention all young basketball players who love to rip and run, who bristle when the coach insists that you slow it down and run a play:
Case in point:
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Bryant Hornets trailed the Cabot Panthers 42-40 with just :00.8 on the clock. During a timeout called by the Panthers to set up the defense, Bryant head coach Mark Smith, who could just barely talk, called for a play called Bruin.
When play resumed, Taylor Masters inbounded the ball. Hunter Sample set a screen at the top of the key that Chad Knight used to get open on the opposite side of the floor. Masters, timing the throw perfectly, lobbed it in to Knight who caught and shot from 23 feet.
It barely rippled the cords and the Hornets celebrated a thrilling 43-42 victory on Cabot’s floor to move ahead of the Panthers in the 7A-Central Conference standings. At 7-5 in the league, the Hornets sat in fourth place going into the final week of the season. They have a shot at finishing as high as third as they look ahead to the State Tournament in Conway.
It was Bryant’s fourth win in a row, the fifth in the last six games.
“We practice (Bruin) about once a week just in case this happens and we did run it right,” noted Hornets senior point guard Brandon Cowart, who led his team with 11 points including a 3 that tied the game at 40. “It was exactly how it was drawn up.”
“That’s the first chance we’ve had to run it all season and the guys executed great,” Smith agreed. “Actually, they knew exactly where to go. During the timeout, I was a little confused and they set me straight.”
That’s the other thing about plays: You’ve got to execute them for them to work.
“It’s several different reads, four different options and that was option number two,” Smith noted. “It worked out great. That play was designed for anything probably two seconds or less.”
Cowart’s 3 had tied it with 1:46 left to play.
“I knew I wasn’t hitting all game on that shot,” he said later. “ But I had confidence. I knew that I could hit the 3 because I’d been shooting in practice all week. I had confidence in my shot.”
It came moments after Taylor Masters had cut a 6-point lead in half with a triple that also cut Cabot’s building momentum.
“That kind of gave our guys confidence knowing that we were still in it,” Smith said of Masters’ bomb. “We couldn’t stop them inside, they’re so big but we needed just one stop to come down and try to cut the deficit. It seemed like they scored every trip down but I guess a couple of out 3’s negated several of their 2’s.”
In fact, the Panthers converted five of their six field goal attempts in the fourth quarter but missed free throws hurt. After Masters’ 3, Cabot’s Jack Bridges was fouled at the 2:16 mark. But he missed the front end of the one-and-one, leaving the door ajar for Cowart to bury the tying troika.
And, after a timeout, Knight forced a Cabot turnover to give the Hornets a chance to go for the last shot. Smith and assistant Chad Withers called timeout with :57.2 showing.
To that point, the Hornets had been whistled for nine team fouls to just three by Cabot. It was that kind of night. Bryant shot four free throws in the entire game, Cabot was 8 of 13.
So the Panthers had fouls to give. When play resumed, the Hornets held the ball until just over 10 seconds was left. Cowart began a drive from the right wing while shooters Knight, Masters and Lewis spotted up and Sample rolled to the hoop. But a turnover resulted.
“I kind of got tripped from behind,” Cowart recounted. “I fell forward and the ball hit my shoe.”
Cabot recovered and rushed down court with star guard Adam Sterrenberg hitting a running jump-hook to give his team a 42-40 lead with :06 to go. Bryant got a timeout with :05 left.
“I was about ready to take the blame for the end of the game because we had one timeout to go and we ran the clock down for one shot,” Smith allowed. “But I said let’s just let it roll because I was afraid they may change defenses (during a timeout).”
Cabot took one of its fouls as the Hornets pushed the ball to midcourt. As a result, they had to inbound from the side with just :02.7 showing.
On the inbounds play, Lewis, who beat Little Rock Central with a 3 earlier this season, got the ball up the right sideline and launched an off-balance shot that missed. But a whistle blew.
Bryant wanted the foul on the shot so Lewis would go to the line with three free throws coming. Cabot wanted it to be waved off, arguing that the time had run out before the call.
The officials put :00.8 on the clock and gave Bryant the ball out on the right sideline. That’s when Cabot took the timeout and the Hornets set up the game-winning play.
So, the fact that Cabot had the fouls to give and took them trying to run out the clock came back to haunt them, giving the Hornets that last chance.
“It actually did,”Smith agreed. “We were going to get off a bad shot, probably a worse percentage shot than we ended up getting. But they had fouls to give and it was a smart move by them to do that. Them having fouls to give, I was afraid we weren’t even going to get a shot off. Sometimes luck’s on your side.
“You just have to credit the guys for playing hard and not giving up,” he added. “We’ve kind of got some momentum and we’re playing pretty well and this is the time of the year that you really want to play well, right before tournament time. Any win you can get in this conference, especially on the road is huge.”
To go with Cowart’s 11 points, the 6-foot-2 Masters finished with 10 along with a game-high eight rebounds despite going up against Cabot’s 6-8, 6-5, 6-4 front line. Masters’ production helped make up for the fact that Tim Floyd, who had scored 22 and 19 points in the team’s previous two games, was limited by foul trouble, fouling out with 6 points and four boards.
Bryant’s defense was also key. Sterrenberg, who scored 24 against the Hornets in a loss at Bryant earlier this season and has been one of the hottest players in the state in recent weeks, was held to just 10. Changing defenses but mostly playing man, the Hornets kept track of the him and, in key situations, they double-teamed and trapped him to make him give up the ball.
The Hornets still had their hands full with that inside game. And, though 6-8 Myles Monroe produced 10 points and 6-5 Sam Bates 12, neither was able to produce huge numbers against the scrambling Hornets.
Bryant led much of the game. With Cowart scoring 6 of his points in the opening period, Masters hitting his first 3 then feeding Floyd for a flying dunk, the Hornets built an 11-6 lead.
A basket by Sample to start the second quarter made it a 7-point advantage.
But Cabot whittled it to 13-11 before Lewis fed Sample for another bucket and, after a free throw by Austin Johnson for Cabot, Masters hit the offensive boards for a bucket and Cowart knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 19-12.
The Panthers trimmed it to 19-16 with :10 left but Lewis drilled a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to make it 22-16 at the break.
It was still a 6-point game midway through the third quarter when Cabot got on a roll and the Hornets went cold. Monroe tied it at 28 with 2:56 left then both teams missed chances to gain the advantage before a driving layup by Sterrenberg in the final minute put Cabot ahead.
The teams traded points after that. With 3:21 left, a drive by Knight had Bryant within 37-34. At the other end, Johnson drove. Lewis tried to draw a foul but was whistled with a block as the shot fell. Johnson’s three-point play gave the Panthers their largest lead at 40-34.
After a timeout, Knight launched a 3 that wouldn’t go but Floyd hauled down the carom leading to Masters’ clutch 3 and the dramatic finish.