Bryant outlasts Fairview in 2OTs
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 continue posting 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 trailed in the late stages of regulation and both overtimes, the Bryant Hornets found a way Friday night in a highly contentious, intensely played battle against the Camden Fairview Cardinals.
Somehow, the Hornets kept staying alive, kept making plays when they absolutely had to have them until they finally extracted a vital 63-59 double overtime win.
Both teams came into the night tied for fifth in the AAAAA-South Conference going into the last week of the regular season, a position that, if they finished there, would leave them outside looking in when State Tournament time comes.
As a result of the win, the Hornets jumped into a tie for fourth with Sheridan, an upset victim at Texarkana, at 6-6 in league play, a game behind third-place Pine Bluff.
Fairview dropped to 5-7, tied with Texarkana. Those two teams finish the season with home-and-home games against each other.
Meanwhile, Bryant was set to visit arch-rival Benton on Tuesday before hosting league-leading El Dorado at 6:30 on Thursday. Sheridan was set to finish the regular season with home-and-home games with El Dorado while Pine Bluff goes home-and-home with second-placed Little Rock McClellan.
With a week of games left, there was still a chance that as many as four teams could tie for third, a scenario that would give the convoluted tie-breaking procedures a real test.
As had been the case in regulation and the first overtime, the Hornets, who seemed to be battling from behind all night, found themselves trailing going into the final two minutes of the second extra period. Fairview had taken a 55-52 advantage on a driving jumper by Nolan McWright (17 points) with 3:01 left.
After a timeout, the Hornets worked their man-to-man offense until point guard Matt Brown found Matt Thornton free for a layup, cutting the advantage to 1.
Fairview spread the floor to whittle on the clock and had it down under 1:30 before Thornton snared a tipped pass and raced for a go-ahead layup with 1:12 to go.
In turn, the Cards’ Jonathan Walker missed a jumper with carom coming out long to Bryant’s Tad Beene. As the Cardinals converged on him, Beene somehow got a pass ahead to Nathan James who hooked a pass ahead to Brown. He got the ball ahead to Jared Thomas for a layup as the home crowd came to its feet with :48 to go. Thomas was was fouled on the play but couldn’t get his free throw to go, leaving the door open for Fairview.
Down by three, the Cardinals went inside to Luke Russell for a basket then called timeout with :31 to go.
When play resumed, the Hornets worked the clock against Fairview’s tough man-to-man. Brown drove into the lane and fed Thomas who again scored and drew a foul with :19 to go.
This time, the Hornets’ big man converted at the line, giving his team a 61-57 edge, too much for Fairview to overcome.
McWright, who had buried a trio of 3’s during the game, misfired from long range but the carom went out of bounds off the Hornets with :04.8 left. Walker was fouled with :03.9 left and converted twice at the line to trim the lead to 2. After a timeout, the Hornets inbounded the ball and Brown was fouled. Fittingly, the junior guard converted both to seal the win, giving him a season-high 17 points for the game to go with eight assists.
Thomas, despite an ailing stomach, led all scorers with 22 points. Thornton added 14, James 6 and Beene 4.
For Fairview, Darrell Atkins had 12, Walker 11 and Russell 8. Courtney Nettles added 6 and Bobby Johnson 5.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” stated Bryant head coach Leo Olberts after the thriller. “It’s just a testimony to great perseverance. These guys just never gave up. It looked like a couple of times maybe we had it won, then it looked like (Fairview) had it won. It just went back and forth.
“Several individuals made tremendous plays late in the ballgame,” he noted. “Jared was sick all night, came in here and threw up at halftime but just played a tremendous fourth quarter and overtime.
“The first half, Matt Brown kind of carried us,” Olberts continued. “Matt Thornton, late in the game he was terrific. It was just a real team effort from everybody. It was just a heck of a game. We had our backs to the wall. We knew if we had a shot at the playoffs we almost had to win tonight and these guys just refused to get beat.”
Brown hit four 3-pointers in the tight first half. The game was tied four times in the opening quarter. A free throw by Thomas snapped an 11-11 deadlock then the lead seesawed. Walker hit a layup then Beene answered off an assist from Brown. Nettles canned a jumper then Thornton drove and dished to Thomas for a bucket to give Bryant a 16-15 edge.
The teams traded misses until James popped a jumper to give Bryant a 3-point advantage going into the second quarter.
But a three-point play by Johnson tied it again before Brown popped his third triple. But the lead that provided the Hornets didn’t last long as Atkins, who burned Bryant for 27 points in Camden on Jan. 25, scored back-to-back hoops. The two teams battled for two minutes without changing the score before McWright canned a 3 to give his team a 25-21 advantage. Brown fed Beene for a layup then McWright nailed another from long range to made the difference 5, the Cardinals’ largest lead of the game.
But Brown stepped up again with his fourth trey to keep it close. Fairview led 30-26 at the half.
The Hornets opened the third quarter with a flurry to regain the lead. Brown and Thomas scored to tie it then, off a Fairview turnover, Thornton hit a driving layup to put Bryant ahead 32-30.
A 3 by Walker gave Fairview the edge, however, and the Cardinals managed a 39-38 lead going into the fourth period.
James’ turnaround jumper opened the scoring in the fourth but McWright hit a 3, Darius Dilworth blocked a Thomas offering and Johnson canned a jumper to make it 44-40.
A Hornets turnover forced Olberts to use a timeout.
The game became a scramble for control as both teams forced turnovers. Atkins missed then finally, with 3:25 left, Thornton stepped up with an eye-popping drive on the baseline. He faked a pass to keep the Fairview shot blockers on the floor then went up for a layup as they stood flat-footed.
Atkins missed again and, at the other end, James was fouled going to the hoop. He converted twice at the line to tie it at 44 with 2:18 left.
It stayed that way until with 1:48 left, Walker scored on a short jumper. The Hornets, in turn, lost control of the ball under their own basket but James and Thomas, the two inside players for Bryant, stayed back and contested defensively. James tapped the ball loose in Thomas’ direction and Thomas picked it up and scored to tie the game with 1:21 to go.
The Hornets got a chance to tie after Atkins missed but Beene, on a drive to the hoop down the baseline was called for a charge as Russell stepped in with :03 left and the first overtime was on.
Thomas scored first and the Hornets held the advantage until an offensive-rebound basket by Nettles with just over two minutes to play. Dilworth blocked a shot by Brown and McWright canned a jay with 1:59 left to give Fairview a 3-point edge.
After a Bryant timeout, Brown was fouled. He missed the front end but the Hornets got a reprieve when the shot-happy McWright, inexplicably, pulled up for a long jumper and missed. Thornton was fouled with 1:22 left and he converted twice to cut the margin to 1.
Again, McWright misfired, this time on an ill-advised 3-point try, and Thomas was fouled with :34 left. He hit one free throw to tie it and when Atkins missed a jumper at the other end, the second overtime was due.
After Brown hit a free throw to start things, Russell gave Fairview the upper hand. James missed for Bryant and McWright nailed a driving jumper to make it 55-52, forcing a Bryant timeout.
That’s when the Hornets began their game-winning rally.