By Rob Patrick
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The bull’s eye that’s been on the back of the Bryant Hornets freshman team took[more] a hit Monday night.
The North Little Rock Junior Charging Wildcats snapped Bryant’s nine-game winning streak with a 49-43 win in overtime at the North Little Rock East campus gym. The win also drew the Cats even with the Hornets atop the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference standings and gave them the inside track to nail down the No. 1 seed for the league’s post-season tournament, which will be played in Bryant starting Feb. 9.
The Hornets finish up a three-game road swing on Thursday at Little Rock Catholic then host Conway Blue on Monday, Feb. 6, to wrap up the regular season. Those two teams came into Monday night’s action among the teams tied for third in the conference with two losses. They were set to play against each other Monday night.
Meanwhile, North Little Rock finishes at home against Cabot North then at Benton, both second-division teams in the standings.
The Hornets will need to win out while hoping for North Little Rock to be upset in order to gain the No. 1 seed for the tournament.
Monday’s game was the second in a row for the Hornets to go overtime. They escaped with a win at Cabot South on Thursday, Jan. 26, but could not pull it out this time.
Bryant had opportunities to win Monday’s game. At the end of regulation, the Hornets had possession after Ryan Hall took a charge with a minute left. They worked the clock down to :12 and head coach Jim Pennington called a timeout to set up a play.
When action resumed, however, Kayvon Allen blocked a last-season shot attempt by Bryant’s K.J. Hill and the game went to overtime.
As the extra period wound down, the Hornets had managed a 43-42 lead on a short post drive by Hill — the last of his 29 points in the game. With 1:04 left, North Little Rock’s Tyler Phillips was fouled after collecting an offensive rebound and attempting a shot.
But Bryant got a break when Phillips missed the first shot and had the second one waved off because of a lane violation.
But the Hornets, who struggled with North Little Rock’s zone trap, turned the ball over without running off much time. Allen drove for a layup and was fouled with :48 left, converting the three-point play to give his team a 45-43 lead.
The teams then traded turnovers before Allen came up with a loose ball, drove to the other end and punctuated his team’s late run with a dunk with :19 left.
Hill’s driving jumper missed and North Little Rock’s Kalil Hill added a pair of free throws to set the final score.
“Our kids played hard,” Pennington said. “We made too many mistakes. We made too many mental mistakes tonight to beat a good team like North Little Rock. They’re really athletically talented especially (Allen). Our kids hung around and played great but made too many mental mistakes at the end of the game, panicked a little bit, lost their composure a little bit and it cost us.
“But it’s something we can grow on,” he added. “I’m proud of them.”
Allen finished with 20 points. Robert Verges had 15 for the Cats. For Bryant, J.C. Newborn finished with 7. Brandan Warner and John Winn each hit 3-pointers in the second quarter and Hall hit a free throw.
It might’ve been an indication of what was coming when, with no score, play was stopped with 4:01 left in the opening period just before Winn drained a 3. The shot was waved off as the officials had a North Little Rock assistant coach tape down a covering for a volleyball net support hole that had come off during a scramble for a loose ball.
Moments later, Verges drilled a trey for the game’s first (official) points.
The lead seesawed through the first quarter. When Hill took a feed from Winn and scored with 1:13 left in the quarter, the Hornets were up 6-5 but a basket off a baseline drive by Ramello Jones then a long 3-pointer at the buzzer by Demerek Brown had the Cats up 10-6 going into the second quarter.
Winn knocked down a 3 to open the new period but North Little Rock then went on a 12-2 run interrupted only by a pair of free throws by K.J. Hill. The resulting 22-11 lead was the largest of the night fore either team.
The Hornets came back, however. Winn made a steal that led to a layup by K.J. Hill then Warner buried his triple. Cory Jones hit a short jumper for North Little Rock but a pair of free throws by Newborn and a driving layup at the buzzer by Hill had the lead down to 24-20.
Bryant kept the run going to start the second half and tied it at 25. Bryant was still unable to regain the lead going into the final minute of the third quarter. North Little Rock led 29-27 before Newborn tied it with a jump hook.
To start the fourth quarter, K.J. Hill grabbed a defensive rebound and raced the other way, going coast to coast for a layup that had Bryant up by 2. Kalil Hill tied it with a pair of free throws but a three-point play by Newborn gave Bryant the upper hand.
But the game was tied at 35 and then again at 40. K.J. Hill’s free throw with 1:22 left in regulation knotted it up. His second shot missed but Hall battled for the rebound, only to trip over the foot of one of the North Little Rock players. He went to the floor and was cited for traveling. As the Bryant fans protested, however, Hall went to the other end and drew the charge on Allen to give his team the chance at the last shot.
In overtime, Allen gave his team the lead initially with a pair of free throws. K.J. Hill trimmed it with a free throw then Hall and Warner set up in the lane defensively and one of them drew a charge as Verges drove over them. That gave the Hornets the opportunity to regain the lead.
Warner had a 10-foot jumper on the baseline blocked out of bounds with 1:24 left. After a timeout, K.J. Hill posted up for the basket that had the Hornets up by one before the decisive final run by the Cats.
JUNIOR CHARGING WILDCATS 49, BRYANT 43, OT
Score by quarters
BRYANT 6 14 9 11 3 — 43
NLR 10 14 5 11 9 — 49
JUNIOR HORNETS 43
Winn 1-1 0-0 3, Warner 1-3 0-0 3, K.J.Hill 10-20 9-12 29, Newborn 2-4 3-3 7, Hall 0-1 1-2 1, Withers 0-0 0-0 0. Total 14-29 13-17 43
JUNIOR CHARGING WILDCATS 49
Ka.Hill 1-6 5-6 7, Verges 7-10 0-1 15, Allen 7-15 6-8 20, Minor 0-0 0-0 0, K.Jones 0-3 0-0 0, C.Jones 1-3 0-0 2, R.Jones 1-1 0-0 2, Brooks 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 1-2 0-0 3, Phillips 0-0 0-1 0. Total 18-40 11-16 49.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-5 (Warner 1-2, Winn 1-1, K.J. Hill 0-2), North Little Rock 2-6 (Verges 1-2, Brown 1-1, Allen 0-1, Ke.Hill 0-1, C.Jones 0-1). Rebounds: Bryant 25 (K.J. Hill 8, Newborn 6), North Little Rock 18 (Verges 6). Turnovers: Bryant 21, North Little Rock 15. Team fouls: Bryant 14, North Little Rock 17. Fouled out: North Little Rock, K.Jones.