CABOT — The Bryant Hornets freshman team had bolted to an 8-0 lead at the start and had held an advantage of as much as 11 points in the third quarter but the Cabot North Panthers put together a 7-0 run last in the third quarter and eventually got within 3 points early in the fourth.
With things suddenly getting tense, the Hornets responded and, with a number of different guys making plays, to extract a 44-38 victory in their Central Arkansas Junior High Conference opener Monday.
No doubt still fresh in their minds was the win that got away in their previous outing against the Malvern Leopard Cubs in the third-place game at Bryant Invitational Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The Panthers, sparked by Houston King, who led his team with 13 points, were within 30-26 entering the final quarter, riding momentum. To start the fourth, Bryant guard Marqelle Barnes drove to the hoop and was fouled hard.
He made one of the free throws and followed with his only miss in eight free-throw attempts in the game.
Though it ended Bryant’s drought, King drove for a basket at the other end and, with 5:37 left to play, the Hornets’ lead was 31-28.
A free throw by Tre’Vun Herron pushed it back up a point. The Hornets forced a turnover but couldn’t take advantage. When, in turn, Cabot’s Clayton Gray missed a 3-point try, the Hornets pushed up the floor and Keith Merriweather Jr., fed Catrell Wallace for a bucket inside.
Another Cabot miscue resulted in a timeout by the Panthers. The Hornets patiently worked the clock once play resumed before Darrick Rose knocked down a clutch 12-footer.
The Hornets forced another turnover and, with 2:52 left, Merriweather stepped to the line and delivered a free throw to make it 37-28.
The Panthers were never as close again but it remained tense. Austin Poole got them back on track with a pair of free throws but Rose answered with a drive to the hoop. King did the same at the other end to keep his team within 39-32.
With 1:28 left, Barnes stepped to the line and drained both shots. Gray scored with 1:02 to go but Rose converted a free throw to keep it a three-possession game.
The Panthers’ Jakob Petross followed his own missed free throw to make it 42-36 in the final minute but, with :24 left, Bryant’s Ethan Hilkert drove the baseline for a layup that closed the door.
A buzzer-beater by Poole was too little too late.
“We found a way to win an ugly game right there at the end,” stated Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “That was a big thing for us to finish that game out. We knocked some free throws down. We got the ball and stayed tough with it.
“On the press, we did create a lot of pressure,” he noted. “I’m proud of the guys for that. We sped ourselves up a little bit too much at certain times and didn’t get good shots. But, overall, I’m proud of the way they fought, coming into a very hard place to play here in Cabot and coming out 1-0 in conference.”
Hilkert led the Hornets in scoring with 10 points. Merriweather added 9 with Rose and Barnes each scoring 7.
Though the Hornets wound up speeding themselves up a little too much, the strategy coming in was to do that to Cabot North.
“Try to speed them up, pressure them,” Posey explained. “They don’t have really a true point guard. We just tried to get them uncomfortable with the basketball and it worked starting out. But they started to settle in a little bit more. They’re a really good, smart, well-coached team. They started to figure it out.
“We’ve got a couple of things that we’ve got to go back and fix,” he related.
The opening blitz was spurred by Merriweather, who made a steal and a layup. He followed up with another one and canned a driving jumper, forcing Cabot North to call a timeout.
After King missed after the break, the Panthers managed to rebound only to have Hilkert make a steal and drain a pull-up pop at the other end. Back on defense, Hilkert blocked a shot and, at the other end, scored in nearly the exact same way to make it 8-0.
Gray converted two free throws after following his own miss to get the Panthers on the board but Rose found Keshawn Scott spotted up for a 3 to make it 11-2.
Cabot North rallied to within 13-11. Brock Martin hit a 3 with 4:47 left in the half to cap the surge.
After a timeout by Posey, Barnes got penetration and was fouled. His free throws got the Hornets back on track. Cade Drennan took a charge at the other end and the Hornets cashed in when Barnes fed Hilkert for an open look from 12 feet.
As would be the case at the end of the game, the Hornets kept answering Cabot North’s challenges. After the Panthers cut it to 17-13, Merriweather drove for a bucket. King answered but Rose hit the offensive glass to counter. King hit a free throw but, with :02 showing, Merriweather found his way to the rim again and Bryant held a 23-16 lead at the half.
Ahmad Adams started the second half with a three-point play after grabbing an offensive board. Gray and Barnes traded free throws and Mawrtin and Hilkert swapped buckets as the lead reached 30-19 with 3:12 left in the third period.
That’s when Poole, who finished with 10 points, sparked the Panthers’ run that eventually made it a 3-point game.
The Hornets return to action with a league contest at Lake Hamilton on Monday, Nov. 28.
HORNETS 44, PANTHERS 38
Score by quarter
BRYANT 11 12 7 14 — 44
Cabot North 4 12 10 12 — 38
West 0-3 0-0 0, Rose 3-8 1-2 7, Merriweather 4-5 1-2 9, Adams 1-5 1-1 3, Hilkert 5-5 0-0 10, Drennan 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 2-2 0-0 4, Scott 1-1 0-0 3, Newburn 0-4 0-0 0, Barnes 0-0 7-8 7, D.Washington 0-2 0-0 0, Herron 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 16-35 11-15 44.
Pauley 0-0 0-1 0, King 5-15 3-6 13, Rosenbaum 0-1 1-2 1, Poole 3-5 4-4 10, Gray 1-7 3-4 5, Owens 0-1 0-0 0, Martin 3-4 0-1 7, Petross 1-3 0-2 2, Hunt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-36 11-20 38.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-7 (Scott 1-1, West 0-3, Rose 0-1, Merriweather 0-1, Newburn 0-1), Cabot North 1-7 (Martin 1-1, King 0-3, Gray 0-2, Rosenbaum 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Cabot North 12. Rebounds: Bryant 8-15 23 (Adams 3-2 5, Drennan 0-4 4, Rose 2-1 3, Merriweather 1-1 2, Washington 1-1 2, Hilkert 0-1 1, Wallace 0-1 1, Newburn 0-1 1, Barnes 0-1 1, team 1-2 3), Cabot North 10-12 22 (Gray 2-4 6, King 4-1 5, Petross 2-1 3, Pauley 1-0 1, Poole 0-1 1, Martin 0-1 1, Hunt 0-1 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls: Bryant 20, Cabot North 14. Technical foul: Bryant, Merriweather.