By Rob Patrick
VAN BUREN — With the four teams with the best overall records in the 7A/6A-Central Conference[more] filling the schedule over the next two weeks, the Bryant Hornets needed a win over the Van Buren Pointers on Tuesday night. After all, the Pointers had already suffered a loss in league play and came into the game at 7-7 overall. The Hornets, meanwhile, were on a roll with four wins in a row and eight in their last nine contests.
That’s why Bryant’s 51-47 loss to Van Buren at Claire Bates Arena was such a bitter one.
Things only get tougher from here.
Granted, Van Buren has tradition on its side, are always solid and, well, the Pointers’ backs were to the wall. They were cornered curs, if you will.
Hot shooting by Van Buren’s Ryan Pearson, who scored 14 of his game-high 19, sparked a surge that had the Pointers up 33-20 going into the final minute of the first half. Bryant’s C.J. Rainey scored off a drive down the left side of the key then Anthony Black made a steal and a free throw to cut it to 10 at the break.
But that made it an uphill climb for the Hornets in the second.
And they climbed it, scratching back to take a lead with 3:38 left to play when Black drove from the elbow for a layup on the heels of a jumper from the lane by Quinton Motto. Unfortunately, very little went Bryant’s way in crunch time. The Hornets were unable to score after that. Despite aggressive defensive play by the Pointers even when the Hornets spread the floor, Bryant never got to the line in those closing minutes.
They had a chance to increase their lead almost immediately when they forced a Van Buren turnover. The Hornets were running their offense when Brantley Cozart was tripped to the left of the top of the key. The ball rolled out of bounds and, much to the consternation of Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson, no foul was called. Van Buren was awarded the ball and, after a timeout, Deven Goodwin was fouled.
But Goodwin obliged by missing the front end of the one-and-one. Cozart rebounded but another turnover cost them the chance.
Yet, they got another when Motto made a steal. But another empty trip to the offensive end ensued and, with 2:32 left, Van Buren’s Ben Lanier converted both ends of a one-and-one to tie the game at 47.
Bryant’s subsequent possession resulted in a held ball when Black lost the handle near the top of the key. Van Buren gained possession and, with 1:47 left, Tyler Pearson grabbed the rebound off his brother Ryan’s missed 3 and scored the last of the Pointers four field goals in the second half.
Trailing 49-47, Abrahamson called a timeout. When play resumed, Black drove the right side of the lane and was swamped by a trio of Pointers. When no foul was called, they took the ball away and, with :50.1 to go, called a timeout.
Back on the floor afterwards, Cozart came up with a steal and drove the other way only to have Tyler Pearson sneak in behind him and swipe it back before he could get inside the free-throw line.
Goodwin was fouled with :23 showing and sealed the victory by knocking down both free throws. By then the Pointers were in the double bonus. Bryant never got to the bonus at all in the second half.
“We can only control the things we can control,” said Abrahamson. “It’s really hard when you’re trying to come back and you’re on the road and you get all the way back. Then it’s a whole other battle to get the lead and maintain a lead. It just didn’t go our way tonight.
“We did stuff we hadn’t been doing, traveling, dribbling the ball off a foot, things that we’re not used to doing,” he noted. “It really looked like we weren’t ready to play the way that we normally play. That’s unfortunate because it’s really hard to win any game. When you go on the road it’s harder to win. Then you’ve got to come this far on the road and it’s even harder to win. It takes a really mentally tough team. We didn’t play like a mentally tough team in the first half. Second half, the kids gave it all they had. I was real proud of the kids’ effort. We tried to come back. We got there, we just couldn’t nail it down.”
Motto led the Hornets with 14 points. Cozart finished with 11. Leon Neale came off the bench for 7 to go with a game-high seven rebounds.
Ryan Pearson was the only Van Buren player in double figures with 10 including four 3’s. Jordan Griffin was given the assignment of cooling Pearson off in the second half and, after he hit a 3 early in the third quarter, he didn’t score again.
Bryant actually took a 5-0 lead early on a basket by Motto off a feed from Strodney Davis. A flurry of turnovers followed so Abrahamson substituted a new five. And when C.J. Rainey and Logan Trudell combined to force a turnover, Trudell got an open look from the left corner and nailed a 3 to make it 5-0.
Van Buren got it going with an 11-2 run that featured a steal and layup for Ryan Pearson and a 3-pointer by Connor Gardner.
Trailing 11-7, the Hornets came out of a timeout with a tying burst. Motto fed Cozart for a layup and, after a Van Buren turnover, Black scored on a drive despite being fouled.
Neale hit an eight-footer to start the second quarter. That put the Hornets back on top 13-11. And they had a chance to add to the advantage when Motto absorbed a charge off a drive by Goodwin. It was one of four charges Motto took on the night.
But Cozart couldn’t get a 3 to stick and a driving layup by Ryan Pearson started the Van Buren scoring burst which included four 3’s — three by Ryan Pearson and another by Lanier.
Still, the Hornets were within 25-20 when Neale drove the baseline for a hoop with 1:34 showing. But Pearson drained back-to-back 3’s then made a steal and a layup to give his team it’s largest lead as the Hornets tried to stem the tide with a timeout.
“We got off to a bad start and they were shooting lights out,” Abrahamson commented. “We gave up a lot of points there in the first half, which is not like us. We were a little show-footed getting out to the shooters. I don’t think I was able to convince our team how good (Ryan Pearson) and (Tyler Pearson) were. I just don’t think we had the respect that we should’ve had for them."
Bryant’s initial rally began with a layup by Motto off a nice dish from Black. (It came after Motto had absorbed another charge on the defensive end.) Neale added a free throw then Motto hit a baseline jumper to make it 36-33 with 2:55 left in the quarter.
Van Buren took a timeout and, after Jalen Hewett missed a pair of free throws after slashing in to grab an offensive rebound, Nick Pagel buried the last of his team’s seven 3’s in the game.
The Pointers led 41-33 going into the fourth quarter. The ultimate Bryant surge began with a 3 by Cozart. Gardner drove for a layup and, after Motto took another charge, Cozart found the range from downtown again, trimming the margin to 43-39.
Two free throws by Cozart and a steal and drive to the rack by Neale brought the Hornets even at 43 with 5:48 left in the game.
Goodwin couldn’t get a shot to go and Cozart scrambled after the rebound, going to the floor only to be cited for traveling. Given another chance, however, Goodwin turned it over.
Bryant got three shots at taking the lead but couldn’t get one to go down. Another Van Buren turnover provided another opportunity only to have Black miss on a 3. Griffin chased down the rebound but Van Buren forced a turnover and, with 4:28 left, Lanier canned two free throws to give his team the lead.
That’s when Motto scored off an assist from Griffin and Black gave Bryant the short-lived lead.
Now 9-5 overall and 1-1 in conference, the Hornets host a hot Russellville team on Friday. After a win over Central on Tuesday, the Cyclones are 11-4 and 2-0.
POINTERS 51, HORNETS 47
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 12 10 14 — 47
Van Buren 11 22 8 10 — 51
HORNETS (9-5, 1-1) 47
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Black 2-7 1-2 0-1 1 4 6
Davis 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Griffin 1-6 0-1 1-1 2 1 2
Cozart 3-8 3-4 1-4 5 3 11
Motto 6-7 2-2 1-5 6 2 14
Rayburn 0-1 0-0 0-2 2 0 0
Trudell 1-2 0-0 0-1 1 0 3
Rainey 2-3 0-0 0-1 1 0 4
Wilson 0-3 0-0 0-2 2 1 0
Cambron 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 0
Neale 3-5 1-2 4-3 7 2 7
Hewett 0-1 0-2 1-0 1 1 0
Team 0-0 0
Total 18-44 7-13 8-20 28 16 47
POINTERS (8-7, 1-1) 51
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
R.Pearson 7-13 1-2 0-2 2 0 19
Poole 2-2 0-2 1-3 4 0 4
Lanier 2-4 4-4 0-5 5 2 9
Goodwin 1-5 2-3 0-4 4 4 4
T.Pearson 1-6 1-3 1-0 1 1 3
Gardner 3-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 7
Pagel 1-3 2-2 0-0 0 3 5
Graham 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0
Ray 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Tucker 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Team 1-3 4
Total 17-38 10-16 3-20 23 13 51
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-19 (Cozart 2-6, Black 1-3, Trudell 1-2, Griffin 0-3, Wilson 0-3, Rayburn 0-1, Rainey 0-1), Van Buren 7-19 (R.Pearson 4-8, Pagel 1-3, Gardner 1-1, T.Pearson 0-3, Ray 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 21, Van Buren 21.