By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Hornets freshman basketball team is starting to develop a knack for winning close games. It may serve them well as they head down the stretch drive of their schedule leading into the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference post-season tournament.
For the third time in four games, the Hornets earned victories in the South Division of the CAJHC and, in each, their opponent had a chance to win or tie with a shot at the buzzer that failed to fall.
On Thursday, Jan. 15, the Hornets stunned Conway Blue, which had been one of the top teams in the division, 38-35. In a tight game, Bryant took a 1-point lead in the final minute on a stickback by Cody McPherson. Conway, in turn, missed a free throw then had to start fouling. The Cats had just two team fouls at that point. They had to foul four times in the last 20 seconds to get the Hornets to the free-throw line. But before they could commit the seventh foul that would’ve done the trick, Brantley Cozart broke free behind the defense for a layup to make it a 3-point game.
Conway got a shot to tie it at the end but couldn’t get it to go and the Hornets held on.
Prior to that, Cabot South had a chance to tie it with two free throws in the final seconds. After the first try failed, the Panthers’ J.D. Melby bounced the second shot off the rim and the backboard, beat everybody to the carom but missed the last-second shot that would’ve sent it into overtime.
On Thursday, Jan. 22, there they were again. Cozart had snapped a 21-21 tie with a drive up the baseline for a scoop shot that rolled in with 1:09 to go.[more]
At the other end, Sheridan’s Kurt Stinnett tried a 3-pointer from the left corner that rimmed out. McPherson rebounded and Sheridan had to start fouling. To that point, the Stingers had committed just one team foul in the half, which meant they needed six more to get the Hornets to the line.
In the process, the Stingers lost point guard Nick Ware to fouls.
With :20 left, however, the Hornets turned the ball over. Billy Wicker, in for Ware, attacked the basket only to have Bryant’s L.J. McLaughlin block his shot.
But Wicker hustled back to reclaim the ball which had deflected off one hand then another.In a scramble, Bryant got it back only to have Sheridan swipe it back. With :08 left, the Stingers called timeout to set up a play to try to tie or win it.
And Stinnett got a look from the left base line. But the shot wouldn’t go and the Hornets had held on for a 23-21 win.
Bryant improved to 10-8 overall and 4-5 in the division heading into a game at Little Rock Catholic on Monday, Jan. 26.
The final difference in the game matched the Hornets’ biggest lead of the game. Sheridan’s largest margin was 6 late in the first half.
Though the Stingers spread the floor on offense in the final five minutes trying to preserve a 21-17 lead and open up driving lanes to the hoop, the Hornets held them scoreless the final 5:20 as they rallied to win.
Bryant got a spark off the bench from Derek Johnson at the end. Johnson drove the lane and dished to Quinten Motto who knocked down a 10-foot jumper from the base line to cut the lead to 21-19.
The Hornets got an immediate chance to tie it by forcing a turnover but McPherson, on the break, drove into the lane and was called for charging as Sheridan’s Dillon Oliver got back and set up defensively. In turn, Cozart made a steal but, again, Oliver got back and took a charge. Tyler Nelson swiped a pass but the Hornets couldn’t get a shot to go.
In turn, Johnson returned the favor on the Stingers. Stinnett drove to the hoop and Johnson absorbed the charge to give the Hornets another chance to tie.
And, with 2:21 left, on an inbounds play under their own basket, McLaughlin made a nice feed to Johnson for a layup that knotted it at long last at 21.
The Hornets forced another turnover that eventually led to Cozart’s drive up the baseline that provided what would be the winning margin.
The Hornets led just 5-4 at the end of the first quarter on a three-point play by Jonathan Parks and a drive by Cozart.
As it turned out, Parks’ free throw was the only one Bryant would attempt in the game.
After Oliver and Johnson traded baskets to start the second quarter, Sheridan went on a 7-0 run to build the largest lead of the game, 13-7, with 1:22 left in the half.
McPherson knocked down a 3 for the Hornets to snap a four-minute drought, making it 13-10 at the break.
Josh Miller, who led all scorers with 11 points, led the Stingers with 9 of those in the first half.Taylor’s offensive-rebound basket and Cozart’s steal and layup had the Hornets back up at the start of the third quarter.
By the end of the period, though, Sheridan had reclaimed the edge, 19-17, on free throws by Ware and Miller.Ware’s steal and layup with 5:20 left in the game produced a 4-point edge but proved to be Sheridan’s last points of the game.
Cozart finished with 9 to lead the Hornets.
JUNIOR HORNETS 23, STINGERS 21
Score by quarters
Sheridan 4 9 6 2 — 21
BRYANT 5 5 7 6 — 23
Ware 2-5 2-5 6, Gibbs 0-2 0-0 0, Stinnett 0-2 1-2 1, Oliver 1-4 0-0 2, Miller 4-6 3-3 11, Elliott 0-0 1-2 1, Glidden 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Wicker 0-1 0-0 0.
Totals: 7-20 7-12 21.
Cozart 4-9 0-0 9, Nelson 1-3 0-0 2, McPherson 1-4 0-0 3, Parks 1-2 1-1 3, McLaughlin 0-2 0-0 0, Trudell 0-1 0-0 0, Motto 1-1 0-0 2, Johnson 2-3 0-0 4. Totals: 10-25 1-1 23.
Three-point field goals: Sheridan 0-5 (Gibbs 0-2, Ware 0-1, Stinnett 0-1, Oliver 0-1), Bryant 2-11 (Cozart 1-6, McPherson 1-2, Nelson 0-2, Trudell 0-1). Rebounds: Sheridan 14 (Miller 6), Bryant 13 (McPherson 4, Parks 3). Turnovers: Sheridan 12, Bryant 10. Total fouls: Sheridan 10, Bryant 12. Fouled out: Sheridan, Ware. Technical foul: Bryant, Motto.