Hornets bomb Benton, 64-46
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
BENTON — Welcome back, Benny Elder.
Well, not that he’s been away really, of course. Elder, the six-foot junior post player for the Bryant Hornets had just been struggling in recent weeks. After being among the Hornets top scorers early in the season, Elder had run into a few too many centers that were taller, jumped higher and were allowed to rough him up a little in the name of blocking his shots.
It had frustrated him quite a bit and that frustration came out in a couple of instances on the floor that contributed, along with his scoring woes, to his diminished role on the team.
But, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, Elder got back into the swing. He let the game come to him, sotospeak. With senior starters Jeremy Reeves and Josh Ridge sidelined with two first-half fouls, Elder came on to pick up the slack and wound up leading all scorers with 20 points in Bryant’s 64-46 romp over the rival Benton Panthers at Benton Arena.
With the win, the Hornets kept their hopes alive for a trip to the Class AAAAA State Tournament in Fort Smith next week. A 48-46 win by Pine Bluff over Lake Hamilton pulled the Hornets into a tie with the Wolves for fourth in the five-team race for four State bids from the AAAAA-South Conference going into the final games of the regular season.
Bryant and Lake Hamilton trailed El Dorado and Pine Bluff by a game in the standings with Camden Fairview another game better. The Cardinals, with a win over Texarkana, clinched at least a share of the league crown Monday night.
The season was set to conclude with three games on Thursday, Feb. 21, and one on Friday, Feb. 22. The Thursday games including Bryant’s must-win trip to El Dorado, Lake Hamilton at home against Benton and Pine Bluff visiting Texarkana. With the right combination of results in those games, four teams could wind up tied for second in the league with only three of them making State.
The Hornets, coming off a couple of disheartening losses, turned in one of their best performances of the year. Though they never trailed in the game, they didn’t really bust it loose until the second half.
Actually, it was an 18-3 run that began late in the second quarter. The Hornets held a 27-23 edge when Elder hit a pair of free throws and, after Benton’s Torey Shelnut connected once at the line, Elder beat the buzzer with a layup.
He then started the fourth quarter with a short jumper as again and again the other Hornets whipped eye-catching passes to him inside.
An offensive rebound by Reeves, who scored 11 despite his foul trouble, gave the Hornets their first double-digit lead, 35-24 less than a minute into the second half.
After a free throw by Kyle Belew for Benton, Dwayne Chumley laced a pass to Elder for an easy deuce then Scott Yant got free for a layup behind the Benton defense to make it 39-25.
Belew interrupted with a basket off a drive down the baseline but Ridge countered with a driving layup. It stayed 41-27 for awhile before Chumley dished to Reeves for a short jumper. Yant made a steal but the Hornets couldn’t get a shot to fall. Chumley then rejected a shot by Brandon Peck and the Hornets worked the break with Yant feeding Jaston Carter who hit a finger roll over a Benton defender to complete the blitz and put the Hornets ahead 45-27.
It was 47-32 going into the final minute of the quarter. Elder scored off a spinning move inside then Yant took a charge as Belew barrelled into the lane. The Hornets held for the last shot and Ridge nailed a 3 to make it 52-32 going into the final period.
A driving layup by Chumley, who had 10 points in the game, and a 12-foot jumper by Ridge made it 56-32, Bryant’s largest lead of the game.
Despiet 3-pointers by Shelnut and Matt Gore, the Hornets matched that high-water mark later in the quarter when Chumley made a steal and drove for a dunk and, after another Benton turnover, Andrew Davasher fed Elder for his final basket to make it 62-38 with 2:56 left.
Soon thereafter, both coaches cleared the benches.
Belew as the only Panthers player to score in double figures with 10.
Bryant led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter. Benton closed to within 2 twice early in the second period. The first time, Bryant’s B.J. Wood made a steal that led to a layup by Chumley. The second time, Ridge drove into the lane and dumped a pass off to Elder for a bucket.
Wood then drilled a 3 and, after Reeves picked up a loose ball in the backcourt, Chumley drove to the hoop again to make it 22-13.
After a timeout, Benton rallied to get within 27-23. But the Panthers, who converted just 9 of 17 free throws in the game missed four of six chances at the line in the final minute as the Hornets began their decisive run.