Free throws, rebounds help Kittens survive comeback by Hornets freshmen

By Rob Patrick

CONWAY — The Bryant Hornets freshman team had erased a fourth quarter 9-point deficit scrambling furiously to tie the Conway White Wampus Kittens, 45-45. Greyson Giles had capped the run with[more] a driving scoop shot with 1:11 left to play.

To that point, the Hornets had committed just four second-half fouls so they could continue to play aggressively on defense. But they quickly used up the three fouls that got the Kittens into the bonus. With :54 showing, Conway’s Carson Cook went to the line, shooting a one-and-one. And when he missed the first shot, it looked like the Hornets would have a chance to take their first lead. But a pair of Bryant players battled with a Conway player for the rebound and the ball slipped out of bounds. It was awarded to the Kittens.

On the inbounds play, however, Cook got the ball again and was fouled on his unsuccessful shot inside. With :49.9 left, he went to the line to shoot twice and he converted his first shot to snap the tie. He missed the second, however, so the Hornets figured to have another shot at taking the lead.

But Conway’s Dustin Tims somehow came out of the mass of bodies with the ball. He got the ball to Sidney Moore and, with :43.7 to go, he was fouled. Moore, who led all scorers with 22 points, knocked down both shots.

The Hornets, in turn, tried to set up Giles for a look at a 3. He had drained two from long range during the first half in which he scored 15 points, moving the Kittens to start playing a box-and-one defense on him. His shot refused to fall and, with :22.6 left, Cook converted two free throws to make it a two-possession game.

A long 3-point try by C.J. Rainey rimmed and Tims sealed his team’s hard-earned victory with a free throw that set the final score at 51-45.

It was a tough loss for the Hornets, their first in three conference games going into Thursday’s home contest against Cabot South.

“We gave up too many points early on and got ourselves down,” commented Bryant coach Steve Wilson referring to a 16-6 deficit early in the second quarter. “But we did come fighting back and played hard. I was real proud of that. I think we need to be more focused before the game so we don’t start out like we did.

“It was a very physical game,” he acknowledged. “We adjusted but there at the end there were some times we had a chance to make up some points and we probably tried to do it individually instead of as a team. Not for the whole game, but there were a few spots.”

The Hornets actually battled back twice. In the first half, they erased that 10-point deficit in the second quarter, pulling even at 27 by halftime. Giles sparked the surge with 11 points in the quarter.

Brian Reed got the comeback started with a pair of free throws then Giles drove for a basket off a Conway turnover. Reed made a steal that led to a layup by Rainey cutting the margin to 16-12.

Moore interrupted with a layup but Giles connected on his first 3 then, despite the box-and-one, drove to the rack and came up with a conventional three-point play that had Bryant within a point.

Moore and Bryant’s Caleb Strain traded layups then Moore and Rainey did too. A driving jumper by Moore made it 25-22 with 1:00 let but Giles nailed his second triple to tie it. And when Cook hit two free throws and Madre London answered with a slashing move to the hoop, it was 27-27 going into intermission.

But Conway started the second half with a 9-0 run and the Hornets had to rally again. Initially, they cut it to 5 by the end of the quarter thanks to 3’s by Rainey and London and a rebound bucket by Strain.

Jaylen Jones, however, knocked down a trey to start the fourth quarter for Conway. Chase Christie hit a free throw for Bryant but Moore hit two for the Kittens and the lead was back to 9, 45-36, going into the final four minutes.

Bryant’s final charge sputtered initially. After London had a pair of shots refuse to fall, Cedarrian Crosby made a steal but Christie couldn’t get a fall-away jay to go.

Conway had to use two quick timeouts to keep from suffering a turnover but, after misses by Cook and Andre Willard, London was fouled on a drive. His two free throws with 3:18 to go started Bryant’s 9-0 surge.

Giles took a charge as Moore tried to drive to the hoop and a driving jumper by Rainey continued the rally. After a Conway miss, London hit a free throw then Rainey made a steal and Giles got to the line. Though he missed the front end, the Hornets forced a turnover and Rainey drove to the hoop and scored on a short jumper off a whirling move in the paint, cutting the margin to 45-43.

Another Kitten turnover led to Giles tying bucket and the subsequent frustration under the boards on the Conway end.

To go with Giles’ 17, Rainey finished with 11 and London 10 for Bryant. Jones added 8 and Tims 7 to Moore’s 22.

Bryant is set to return to action at home on Thursday against Cabot South.

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