Hornets catch fire, burn Cabot
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
It was only a matter of time before the Bryant Hornets’ shooters went off. The only question was, would it happen in time?
It did. And just in time.
The Hornets poured in nine 3-pointers in the first half and 10 in the game, shot 50 percent from the field on their way to a 68-54 win over the Cabot Panthers that gave them an inside track to a State Tournament bid going into the final week of the season. Any combination of a Bryant win or a loss by Conway will send the Hornets to Springdale Har-Ber for the Class 7A State tourney.
The Hornets would be the six seed from the 7A-Central Conference and open the tournament on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 against the third-seeded team from the West, probably Rogers or Fort Smith Northside.
Junior Taylor Masters hit the first 3 but classmate Chad Knight and senior Jeremy Nordman did most of the long-range damage to the Panthers. Knight hit four 3’s and Nordman three in the first half — heck, Cabot players knocked down four of their own — as the Hornets rallied from a 10-3 deficit to build a 38-32 halftime lead. And, though the 3’s didn’t rain down in the second half like that, the Hornets picked it up on defense, used the avenues to the hoop created by all that bombing, and expanded the lead to as much as 18 in the second half.
Knight finished with a season-high 24 points, Nordman with 12, Brandon Cowart and Masters added 9 each and Hunter Sample came off the bench to add 7. Masters had a strong night on the boards with eight rebounds.
Sophomore Adam Sterrenberg led Cabot with 28 while 6-8 post Alex Sharp was held to 12 points and just two rebounds by, primarily, Sample and Kevin Butzlaff.
“We really may have shot more 3’s than I was comfortable with but, if they’re going in, what can you say?” commented Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “It really had to help us, from the standpoint of them playing a zone. And it changed the complexion on the game.
“Chad shot the ball extremely well,” he added. “I think when he hit the first couple of shots, it gave him some confidence. He got into rhythm and really set the tone for all of us. And our guys had the presence of mind to keep feeding him the ball and getting it to him in scoring position.
“It makes a tremendous amount of difference; when Chad and Jeremy both get hot at the same time, we can ring up some numbers. And, of course, that’s going to help open up the inside. One feeds off the other.”
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Hornets.
“Playing well can be contagious the same way that playing bad can,” Smith noted. “I thought our intensity tonight was really good from the opening tip. I thought we were focused and everyone played their role really well.”
Cabot had reeled off 10 unanswered points after Masters’ opening 3 when Smith called a timeout with 4:21 left in the first quarter. When play resumed, Masters hit the offensive glass and was fouled. His two free throws started a 14-2 blitz. Knight connected on his first trey and, after Sharp got a stickback for Cabot, Cowart hit a free throw. The Hornets forced a turnover and Knight hit a baseline jumper to get the Hornets within 1. Following a Panther miss, Nordman flushed his first triple giving Bryant a 14-12 lead going into the second quarter.
Knight scored Bryant’s first 9 points of the second period on a trio of 3’s then Zach Lewis banked one in from the top of the key. Cabot answered every bucket but, because the Panthers’ were 2-pointers, the Hornets were able to build a 26-18 lead nonetheless.
Cabot cut it to 27-24 but Knight hit a free throw then Nordman took his turn from long range. A 3 by Jack Bridges and a pair of free throws by Sterrenberg trimmed it to 31-29 going into the final minute. Cowart hit a jumper in the lane and Bridges answered with another trey to get the Panthers to within a point only to have Nordman can his second troika of the quarter and, at the buzzer, Sample followed his own miss with a basket inside to make it a 6-point difference.
The Hornets were 6 of 7 from 3-point range in the second quarter.
The teams traded baskets for half of the third quarter. With 3:28 left, Masters hit a pair from the line and, a minute later, Sample took advantage of a Cabot turnover for a layup to make it a 10-point game. Cowart took a charge at one end and, at the other, took a nice feed from Sample for a layup.
Bryant led 53-42 going into the fourth quarter, then took control of the game by outscoring Cabot 11-4 over the first five minutes of the final period. Free throws by Cowart and Nordman started the run then Nordman got free on a backdoor cut, took a feed from Knight and scored to make it 58-42.
It was 60-46 when Cowart hit two more from the line at the 3:39 mark. After Sterrenberg misfired, Masters found Knight for a layup and the lead was 18.