LITTLE ROCK — Three times, the Bryant Hornets freshman went to the free-throw line in the final minute of Monday’s game against the Little Rock Catholic Rockets at the McAuley Center at Mount St. Mary Academy. Each time, the Hornets were trying to add to a 43-40 lead, to make it a two-possession game.
But in all three instances, the Hornets came up empty keeping the hopes alive for the Rockets. But the Bryant defense would not allow a field goal during those final :31.9 and Catholic obliged by missing the front end of a one-and-one twice along the way as the Hornets held on for the victory.
The win was Bryant second in a row and fifth in the last seven games, seventh in the last 10 as the season winds down. The Hornets evened their overall record to 10-10 and improved to 3-2 in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference going into tonight’s make-up game at Lake Hamilton.
“I feel like we are getting in the right mindset,” said Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “I think we’ve been trending up the entire year. It took us a while but we’ve battled and battled and we’re finally starting in the right direction.”
The Hornets play their final three games of the regular season at home, starting with Russellville this Thursday. The conference tournament at Russellville followed starting on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Rodney Lambert led the Hornets with 18 points against Catholic. Henry Terry added 8 including a pair of 3’s. Randy Thomas came through at crunch time, scoring all 7 of his points in the fourth quarter. Kajuan Robinson and Blaise Smith each pitched in with 5 points.
Bryant had 28 rebounds including 15 on the offensive end, several at crunch time.
The Hornets’ lead was just 38-37 with 3:20 to go but Thomas came through with a huge three-point play at 3:15.
After a miss by the Rockets, a telling sequence occurred. With 2:58 left, Smith was at the line after grabbing the carom off a miss by Thomas. Though Smith missed the free throws, Tyler O’Neal somehow came out with the rebound. He dished to teammate Josh Robinson who missed only to have Smith rebound and miss again. Thomas rebounded but couldn’t get a shot to fall. Finally, Lambert rebounded and pulled the ball out to run some clock.
After a Bryant timeout, Catholic Josh Dawson made a steal but couldn’t get his contested shot down at the other end. The carom ricocheted off the hands of a Bryant player but a second shot by Mays Porter rimmed out.
With :50.4 showing, Lambert was fouled but missed the front end of the one-and-one. But there was Thomas to rebound and get fouled, leading to his clutch free throws that, as it turned out, were the last Bryant would score.
“We didn’t play our best game but we’ll take a win any way that we can get it,” Posey said. “Our execution was a little off down the stretch and we didn’t take advantage of our free-throw opportunities. We kind of let them get a couple of extra shots but, thankfully, we grabbed a couple of rebounds there to kind of seal it off.”
The Hornets were 8 of 23 at the free-throw line for the game. But they held Catholic to just 6 points in the fourth quarter.
“We really wanted to pressure them and force some turnovers,” Posey said. “I think we did a good job of that. They got a couple of back-doors but, like I told the guys, that’s going to happen when you apply that much pressure.”
Samy Johnson led the Rockets with 14 points. Dawson finished with 13 including three 3-pointers. His final 3 came with :36 left, cutting Bryant’s lead to 43-40 and proving to be the final points of the game.
Catholic led much of the first quarter. It was 14-11 at the break thanks to a drive to a last-second basket by Lambert, who scored 9 of those first 11 points.
Johnson opened the scoring in the second quarter with a free throw but Smith came through with a three-point play for Bryant that had his team within a point, 15-14.
Johnson added a free throw but, with 4:38 left in the half, Lambert scored and was fouled. Though he missed the free throw, teammate Alex Blair came out with the rebound and got the ball back to Lambert who was fouled again.
This time, Lambert made the first show to snap the tie. His second shot was wiped out by a lane violation.
After a flurry of turnovers, Terry drilled a 3 to make it 20-16. Catholic rallied to tie. Kajuan Robinson’s free throw with 1:16 left put Bryant up 21-20. Johnson tied it again with a charity toss but, with :19 left, Blair fed Robinson for a basket to make it 23-21 at the half.
The game went back and forth in the third quarter. Catholic had a 26-25 lead midway through the period then Terry took a kick-out pass from Lambert to knock down a 3 from the corner. A Rockets turnover led to a basket on a 15-footer by Lambert that had Bryant up 30-26.
Back-to-back buckets by Jackson O’Shea had it tied up again. The Rockets would take a 34-32 lead into the final quarter.
Thomas tied it again with a layup after Lambert made a steal. A basket by Dawson had the Rockets in the lead. It was, however, the last Catholic lead.
Lambert chased down a lone rebound on the defensive end then went coast-to-coast for a basket to even it up. He made a steal and layup moments later to give Bryant the lead for good.
The Rockets’ Henry Coppens had a chance to tie it at the free throw line but only made on the two shots to cut the lead to 1 before Thomas’ clutch three-point play set up the final sequence of events.
HORNETS 43, ROCKETS 40
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 12 9 11 — 43
Catholic 14 7 13 6 — 40
Lambert 8-17 1-6 18, Terry 3-7 0-0 8, J.Robinson 0-1 0-3 0, Thomas 2-7 3-3 7, K.Robinson 1-1 3-6 5, O’Neal 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 2-4 1-5 5, Drake 0-0 0-0 0, Blair 0-1 0-0 0, Chatman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-40 (40%) 8-23 (35%) 43.
Dawson 5-10 0-2 13, Johnson 2-6 10-16 14, Allen 1-2 0-0 2, Porter 1-3 0-0 2, O’Shea 3-3 0-0 6, Coppens 0-3 1-2 1, Jenkins 1-2 0-0 2, Kennedy 0-1 0-0 0, Foster 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-30 (43%) 11-20 (55%) 40.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-11 (Terry 2-6, Lambert 1-4, Thomas 0-1), Catholic 3-7 (Dawson 3-4, Porter 0-1, Coppens 0-1, Kennedy 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 15, Catholic 16. Rebounds: Bryant 28 (Thomas 3-4 7, Smith 3-3 6, K.Robinson 2-2 4, Lambert 2-2 4, J.Robinson 1-1 2, O’Neal 2-0 2, Blair 1-1 2, team 1-0 1), Catholic 7-18 25 (Johnson 2-7 9, Dawson 0-4 4, Porter 0-3 3, O’Shea 0-2 2, Allen 1-1 2, Jenkins 1-0 1, team 3-1 4). Team fouls: Bryant 18, Catholic 18. Fouled out: Catholic, Dawson.