By Rob Patrick
CABOT — You can play tough defense and hold your opponent to, say, 9 of 28 shooting from the field (32 percent). You can rebound with a taller team with, for instance, 21 rebounds to their 22. You can limit your turnovers to, perhaps, 10. You can run plays that get open looks for your shooters too.
But the bottom line in basketball is still: You’ve got to make shots.
And when the Bryant Hornets absolutely had to have it on Friday night at Cabot, they just couldn’t get one to fall.
The Hornets managed to get two open looks for two of their best shooters from 3-point range when they trailed by 3 in the final 30 seconds but they just wouldn’t fall. Thus, Cabot held on for a 37-33 win that crushed Bryant’s hopes for post-season play going into the final week of the regular season.[more]
The Hornets, 2-10 in the 7A-Central Conference, could win their last two games while Cabot, 4-8, lost its last two and they’d tie but Cabot would still get the sixth bid to State from the league by virtue of its season sweep of Bryant.
“We got some looks,” acknowledged Hornets coach Ron Marvel. “We couldn’t knock down a shot. It seems like it’s kind of been an epidemic with us. We can look back at six or seven games where one more shot would’ve made the difference in the game but we didn’t happen to hit that shot.”
Bryant had led most of the game but a surge by Cabot to start the fourth quarter had the Hornets looking up at a 31-25 deficit going into the last five minutes of the game. But Brandon Parish came through with back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game with 3:16 left.
Cabot’s Darin Jones untied it with a 3 of his own.
At the other end, Bryant’s Dontay Renuard got the short end of a charge/block decision by the officials and, with 2:16 left, Cabot assistant coach Mike Tucker (subbing for head coach Jerry Bridges, who had to sit out after being ejected from the Panthers’ previous game against Little Rock Central) called a timeout.
Cabot spread the floor when play resumed and Kai Davis was fouled with 2:00 showing. Davis missed the front end of the bonus opportunity and the Hornets got back on offense, looking for the hot-handed Parish.
He got an open shot from the top of the key but it came out off the back-iron.
The Hornets’ K.J. Hampton battled for the rebound and, with 1:21 to go, Parish pump-faked the 3 to draw the defender then drove to the elbow area and scored to make it a 34-33 Cabot lead.
The Panthers then milked the clock down to :26.3 when Alex Baker was fouled. Baker, who was 1 for 9 from the field but 6 of 6 from the free-throw line, converted both shots to make it a 3-point game again.
With Cabot covering Parish tightly, Marvel called for a play that got Lairy, the team’s leading scorer for the season, a good shot from 3-point range. But it refused to fall.
Christian Armstrong rebounded for Cabot and was fouled with :12.8 showing. And he gave the Hornets life when he missed the front end.
Bryant worked for an open shot, this time from Renuard from the left wing. But his shot wouldn’t go.
Bryant fouled Jones with :02.6 to go and he converted once to sew up the victory.
“Like I’ve said so many times before, I find it difficult to explain,” Marvel said of the close loss and others that came before it. “The kids deserve to win. They play hard and, for some reason, things have just broken wrong for us all year.”
And, as usual, the Hornets didn’t get many breaks in the road loss. Admittedly, they are a perimeter-oriented team but they didn’t shoot a single free throw in the second half after going 5 of 10 from the line in the second quarter. Cabot was 13 of 18 from the line, making up for the fact the Panthers actually had two fewer field goals than the Hornets.
The Panthers only committed eight turnovers but Marvel and assistant Jim Pennington repeatedly pleaded for traveling violations to be called on Cabot players.
“You just get to the point where you can’t even think about the officiating,” Marvel mentioned. “You just kind of become numb to the officiating in this league. You just have to numb yourself to it.”
It was a tough shooting night from the start for Lairy and Renuard who combined to go 4 of 18 from the field. Lairy’s lone 3-pointer tied the game at 8 late in the first quarter. After Connor Rayburn took a charge to get the ball back for Bryant, Parish drained the first of his four triples to give Bryant an 11-8 lead at the first break.
Renuard scored off an inbounds play early in the second quarter but Davis answered with a 3 and the Panthers eventually tied the game at 13.
But the Hornets closed the half well. Lairy hit both ends of a one-and-one to give his team the lead again, 15-13. Cabot committed a turnover and Lairy fed Parish for a layup. And when Lairy converted a pair of free throws with 1:56 left in the half, Bryant held its largest lead of the game 19-13.
Davis hit another trey but one more free throw in the final seconds by Lairy had the Hornets up 20-16 at the break.
Jones got hot in the third quarter and scored all 8 of his team’s points in the period. When he hit his second 3 of the period with 4:15 left, the Panthers were ahead 24-23.
Both teams had multiple chances to change that score but it didn’t happen until Kendall Butzlaff tipped in a teammate’s miss just before the buzzer, getting the Hornets back on top 25-24.
Another 3 by Jones, who finished with 19 points, then a pair of free throws and a jumper from the corner by Baker had Cabot up 31-25, setting up the nail-biting finish.
Parish led Bryant with 16 points.
The Hornets will play their final home game of the 2009-10 season on Tuesday, Feb. 23, against North Little Rock then close out the season at Little Rock Central on Friday, Feb. 26.
CABOT 37, BRYANT 33
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 9 5 8 — 33
Cabot 8 8 8 13 — 37
HORNETS (9-17, 2-10) 33
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Lairy 1-10 5-8 0-0 0 3 8
Parish 6-8 0-0 1-2 3 2 16
Rayburn 0-2 0-2 0-3 3 3 0
Butzlaff 1-1 0-0 2-3 5 3 2
Renuard 3-8 0-0 0-3 3 4 7
Cozart 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Hampton 0-1 0-0 3-2 5 1 0
Team 0-2 2
Totals 11-30 5-10 6-15 21 17 33
PANTHERS (10-13, 4-8) 37
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Bloomberg 1-2 0-0 1-3 4 3 2
Jones 4-5 7-10 1-2 3 3 19
Baker 1-9 6-6 0-2 2 1 8
Armstrong 0-2 0-1 2-3 5 4 0
Davis 3-8 0-1 1-2 3 0 8
Martin 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Montione 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 2 0
Spry 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 2 0
Ellerbe 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 0-1 1
Totals 9-28 13-18 6-16 32 15 37
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-19 (Parish 4-6, Renuard 1-6, Lairy 1-5, Rayburn 0-2), Cabot 6-14 (Jones 4-4, Davis 2-4, Baker 0-4, Bloomberg 0-1, Martin 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Cabot 8.