By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — When the Bryant Hornets were winning six of their first nine games, they seemed to have developed a knack for clutch play down the stretch. They won in overtime (four of them) against Wynne and Camden Fairview and came through late to beat Russellville.
But that trend seems to have reversed itself over their last three games, a frustrating turn of events, capped off by a 51-46 loss to the Pulaski Oak Grove Hornets on Tuesday in the consolation round of the Summit Bank Spa City Shootout at Summit Arena.[more]
Two previous losses to Benton in which the Hornets had their chances to snatch away victories might be chalked up to the nature of the rivalry. Against Oak Grove, however, the Hornets led by 7 early in the fourth quarter and haled a 44-43 edge with 3:22 to play. But they scored just 2 points after that as, time after time, good breaks evaded them.
Bryant will try to salvage a win in the tournament on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., against Mountain Pine. A trip to Sheridan on Tuesday will precede the opening of their grueling 7A-Central Conference slate on Friday at home against Little Rock Catholic.
“I thought, when we won two or three close games, it’d give us the confidence,” commented Hornets coach Ron Marvel. “But now that we’ve lost two or three close games, it’s going to take that away. It definitely tears you down.“But I think our kids will bounce back,” he asserted. “They’ve played hard every game and I think they’ll continue to play hard.”
The loss dropped the Hornets to 6-6 on the season. The three-game skid comes on the heels of a three-game winning streak.
“Every game that we have a chance to win is obviously going to be a close game because we’re not good enough to run anybody out of the gym,” Marvel said. “You have to be careful with all your substitution patterns and all sorts of other things and sometimes you make good decisions, sometimes you make bad.
“Our kids play hard,” he emphasized. “They don’t make the best decisions either, kind of like coaches. We made some poor decisions late in the game with what to do with the ball and we got the results that we got.”
Dontay Renuard, who led all scorers with 17 points to go with 11 rebounds, hit two free throws to put Bryant ahead 44-34 at the 3:22 mark. After a time out, Oak Grove got the ball inside only to have Bryant sophomore Quinton Motto block a shot. After Motto snatched the rebound, he was bumped off balance in the scuffle and was cited for a traveling.
Given another chance to answer, Oak Grove took the lead on an offensive rebound bucket by Josh Perkins (11 points, 10 rebounds). It was one of 17 offensive rebounds for Oak Grove’s Hornets, part of a 43-35 rebounding advantage.
Bryant, trailing by a point, had two chances to answer but L.J. McLaughlin’s short jumper refused to fall and when Renuard chased down the rebound and drove to the hoop, he got the raw end of a collision which brought a charge call rather than a block.
With 2:14 left, Oak Grove’s A.J. Ivory increased the advantage to 47-44 with a running jumper. He and the green Hornets jumped into their press, which they had employed much of the night, and forced a Bryant turnover. A timeout with 2:05 left enabled them to keep possession.
When play resumed, Oak Grove was set to inbound the ball under its own basket. The Bryant defense made it difficult. Inbounder Jakeel McClure started to throw the ball in but held it. But he lost his balance and started to fall inbounds. He called timeout and was granted it, though Marvel argued that he’d already stepped foot inbounds before his call for time was recognized.
That would’ve been a turnover that Bryant really needed but Marvel’s protests went unheeded.
Further frustration ensued. McClure launched a shot and missed but Perkins rebounded. He missed too but Ivory claimed the carom and got the ball down the left baseline to Marquis McClinton. Starting a headlong drive toward the basket, McClinton appeared to be out of control as he collided Motto. His shot missed wildly but Bryant couldn’t get the break it needed. Motto was charged with the foul.
McClinton, as it turned out, had to be helped off the floor after apparently hitting his head. So Oak Grove coach Shayne Herron pulled Cedrick Williams off the bench to go to the line in his stead.
Now, Williams turned out to be his team’s top scorer with 14 points, 10 of which came at the free throw line. This time, however, he missed twice, leaving the door open for Bryant with 1:47 left.
Bryant point guard K-Ron Lairy, who had missed about three minutes of the first half with a cut on his left hand, broke the Oak Grove press and drove into the lane. But his running jumper caromed off the rim.
The blue Hornets had to use up three fouls quickly to get Oak Grove into the bonus. The seventh foul finally game with :46 to go but it wound up sending Williams to the line where he, once again, converted twice to make it a 5-point game.
When Bryant had been able to break the Oak Grove pressure, there were often times during the game when they wound up with three-on-two situations. Though there were times when they struggled to take full advantage, they executed this time and Renuard hit a layup that had the margin back to 3, 49-46 with :39 left.
But, with :34 to go, Williams went to the line again and converted both ends of the final one-and-one to set the final score, 51-46.
Lairy got a couple of looks from 3-point range around missed free throws by Oak Grove’s Deramus Sam but both refused to drop.
The game was close throughout. Bryant held a 13-11 advantage at the end of the first quarter when Renuard, who wound up alone behind the Oak Grove press, hit a layup to beat the buzzer.
A driving layup by Lairy, who had returned with a bandage on his left hand, made it a 4-point game and Bryant maintained the lead the rest of the half. Oak Grove, which used all 15 of its players in each of the first three quarters, was within 17-16 before Motto picked up a loose ball and fed Renuard for a basket and, after a series of missed opportunities by both teams, Lairy picked up a loose ball and drove for a layup to make it 21-16.
Williams hit a free throw but Brandon Parish’s reverse layup off a nice feed from Lairy gave Bryant its largest lead of the half 23-17 in the final minute.
It was 23-19 at the break.
Oak Grove eventually tied the game in the third quarter and managed a 29-26 lead. McLaughlin, who was often in the middle of the 3-on-2 breaks for Bryant, fed Renuard for a baseline jumper then blocked a shot by A.J. Ivory at the other end. With 3:45 left in the third quarter, McLaughlin was fouled following his own miss and converted both free throws to put Bryant back on top.
Renuard made a steal but Sam returned the favor and scored as the game became a seesaw affair.
Oak Grove led 33-32 with 2:30 to play in the third. At the 2:14 mark, McLaughlin’s stickback started a Bryant run that appeared to put the Hornets in the driver’s seat. Parish fed Kendal Butzlaff for a basket inside and, after an Oak Grove turnover, drove for a layup to make it 38-33 going into the fourth quarter.
Another sparkling pass from Parish to Butzlaff who cashed it in to start the final period had Bryant up 40-33, the largest margin for either team to that point.
Perkins hit the offensive glass to get Oak Grove back on track. And, after Bryant sophomore Brantley Cozart missed a long 3, Eric Parks hit one from downtown. Butzlaff’s short jumper rimmed out and Peyton Davari scored inside for Oak Grove and suddenly it was tied 40-40.
It stayed that way for almost two minutes. After McLaughlin missed a jumper from the corner, Oak Grove turned the ball over three consecutive trips up the floor including once on a charge that Motto absorbed.
Finally, with 4:29 left, McLaughlin fed Renuard for a layup on the break to put the Hornets back on top. Oak Grove’s Tyler Jordan misfired on a 3-point try and McLaughlin was fouled gathering the rebound. On the bonus opportunity at the line, however, McLaughlin’s first shot did everything but go down and Ivory took advantage with a 3-pointer that put his team ahead 43-42 with 3:33 to play before Renuard’s free throws at the 3:22 mark gave Bryant its final lead.
PULASKI OAK GROVE 51, BRYANT 46
Score by quarters
BRYANT 13 10 15 8 — 46
Oak Grove 11 8 14 18 — 51
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts.
Lairy 3-9 0-0 0-2 2 4 6
Parish 4-11 0-0 1-1 2 1 8
McLaughlin 1-6 3-5 2-4 6 2 5
Butzlaff 2-3 0-0 1-1 2 1 4
Renuard 7-12 2-4 1-10 11 4 17
Hampton 1-1 2-4 3-3 6 1 4
Rayburn 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 2
Motto 0-4 0-0 0-3 3 2 0
Cozart 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Nossaman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Team 0-2 2
Totals 19-48 7-13 8-27 35 16 46
OAK GROVE 51
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts.
McClure 1-4 0-0 0-2 2 1 2
Parks 2-2 1-2 0-1 1 0 6
Williams 2-9 10-14 1-0 1 2 14
Davari 2-3 0-0 2-4 6 1 4
Perkins 5-12 0-0 3-7 10 2 11
Heard 0-3 1-2 3-0 3 1 1
McClinton 0-4 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Tolbert 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 0 0
Gaston 1-3 0-0 1-2 3 3 2
Sam 2-6 0-1 0-2 2 0 4
Givens 0-3 0-0 2-0 2 0 0
Jordan 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Goodwin 1-1 0-0 1-1 2 0 2
Ivory 2-3 0-2 1-3 4 2 5
Robinson 0-2 0-0 1-3 4 1 0
Team 2-2 4
Totals 18-57 12-21 17-26 43 13 51
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-10 (Renuard 1-3, Lairy 0-4, Parish 0-1, McLaughlin 0-1, Cozart 0-1), Oak Grove 3-16 (Perkins 1-4, Parks 1-1, Ivory 1-1, Williams 0-4, McClinton 0-3, Gaston 0-1, Sam 0-1, Jordan 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Oak Grove 13.