PINE BLUFF — Watson Chapel appeared to have the inside track to victory Tuesday night against the visiting Bryant Hornets when forward Victor Clegg hit an 8-foot jumper with 1:35 left to give the Wildcats a 45-44 lead in what had become a seesaw battle. Then the Hornets got two shots from close range only to have both rim out. The carom off the second shot went out of bounds to Chapel.
After a Wildcats timeout with 1:08 to go, the Hornets jumped into a halfcourt trap, springing it just as point guard Bruce Rollins crossed the half-court. He tried to make a jumping half-court pass to an open teammate near the opposite sideline only to throw it away.
The Hornets brought the ball into the front court and, with just under a minute to go, had an inbounds play underneath the basket. Point guard Calvin Allen whipped a pass in to Marvin Moody, who hit a layup — his only basket of the game — to tilt the seesaw back Bryant’s way, 46-45.
Chapel’s D.J. Williams, who led all scorers with 16 points, misfired at the other end and the Hornets rebounded. They worked the clock until, with :23.7 showing, Kevin Hunt was knocked to the floor.
Though an intentional foul may have been called for, the Hornets weren’t going to get that call on this night at the Chapel gym. Still Hunt went to the line in the bonus and converted once to make it a 2-point lead.
The Wildcats got the ball up the floor and called timeout with :17.9 to go. When play resumed, another errant pass against the trap gave the Hornets a chance to ice the game. But Chapel forced a turnover with :12.8 to go.
At the :06.9 mark, Williams went to the line in the double-bonus with a chance to tie the game. He made the first but missed the second. The rebound came out long, ricocheted off the hands of two Watson Chapel players then was scooped up by Allen, who was fouled with :04.1 showing.
With a chance to put the game away, Allen converted just one of his shots, leaving the door open for the Wildcats to tie it with a 3 but Derrick Marks didn’t get a very good look and missed as the Hornets held on for a 48-46 win to snap a two-game skid.
“I don’t know how we won the game,” declared Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson.
It was the first loss of the season for Chapel, which had defeated Pine Bluff, Searcy and Little Rock Christian previously, three tough teams. The Hornets improved to 7-2.
Bryant didn’t scorch the nets, finishing at 30 percent from the field (16 of 54) and 55 percent from the free-throw line (12 of 22) but it may have been their scrappiest win to date.
Abrahamson pointed to improved defense, particularly in the second half when the Hornets held the Cats to 18 points after trailing 28-24 at the half.
“I found out they were shooting 43 percent at halftime, which we knew, and, at the end of the game, we had them down for 30 percent,” the coach said. “So that tells me a lot, that our defense really stepped up.”
It was a physical game, called loosely sometimes and not so much other times. Frustratingly, the Hornets were called for light hand checks a few times, never for Chapel. And twice, Allen was called for pushing off while handling the ball, something the Wildcats did just as much or more without being cited.
Abrahamson acknowledged his team faced some adversity, but added, “I’ll just say this: Our kids almost got rattled but they never really did. I was proud of them for that.”
Chapel led most of the first half, opening with a 7-2 run. The Wildcats used the drive-and-dish effectively and out-rebounded the Hornets during the opening quarter. They led 12-7 at the initial break.
A 3-pointer by Kaleb Turner closed the gap to start the second period. Yet, the Wildcats led 20-15 with just over three minutes left in the half. A 3-pointer by Christian McIntosh started a Bryant surge. After a Chapel turnover, Allen took a dish from Hunt and nailed a triple, giving the Hornets a 21-20 lead.
Bryant got a chance to add to that when Turner took a charge but, a miss followed, and Williams drilled a 3 to get his team going. Sophomore Daron Canada gave the Hornets a lift with a free throw and, after Clegg scored, a layup off a nice pass from Hunt to make it 25-24 in the final minute.
But Marks nailed a 3 and Watson Chapel took a 28-24 lead into the locker room.
“They took the ball to the basket, it seemed like, at will,” Abrahamson mentioned. “It was a little better in the second half. Blocking out is still an issue. Rebounding, at the start of the game, was awful. Not one of the five guys on the floor was blocking out the first five or six shots.
“The three things that really stick out to me tonight are guarding the ball and not letting it get into the lane, blocking out, and our free throws but we made enough winning plays to win the game,” he added. “We missed some shots around the basket but we were able to just keep coming and keep coming, enough contested shots, enough defensive rebounds, enough shots put in the hole.”
Chapel’s largest lead of the game was 6 after Williams opened the third quarter with a basket. But it stayed 30-24 for almost three minutes before Lowell Washington scored inside for Bryant. Romen Martin made a steal and, though the Hornets missed a pair of chances to get closer, a third trip produced a three-point play by Hunt, who led the team with 13 points.
Washington followed up with a steal to give the Hornets a chance to gain the lead but his drive to the basket resulted in a blocked shot on which he was knocked the floor.
Bryant, however, retained possession only to miss twice inside. Williams extended the margin with a 3 and, after a free throw by Bryant’s Braylon Steen, Dariun Evans scored to make it 35-30.
Once again, the Hornets cut the lead to 1 when Martin drove for a layup and Allen fed Hunt for an open 8-footer. Clegg answered but when Steen posted up for a bucket and Hunt got to the free throw line off a steal by Allen, he tied it at 37 going into the fourth quarter.
Washington opened the final period with a steal but had it taken back. Hunt, however, took a charge. Moments later, Allen was called for pushing off with his off arm as he drove into the lane. But he got the ball back with a steal and his drive to the other end resulted in a goal-tending call against Chapel as the Hornets took the lead.
A free throw by Washington made it 40-37 but Marks gunned in a 3 to tie it at 40. Steen, who along with Washington, was in double-digits in rebounding, scored off the offensive glass to put the Hornets back up with 4:57 to go.
After Marks missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Hornets gave themselves several chances to push the lead some more. Steen had two offensive rebounds. Off a third miss for the Hornets, Hunt came flying in to try to tap one in only to be called for a foul.
After much discussion about whether it was a player-control foul or not, whether Chapel would go to the line or not, Williams hit a free throw but missed the second as the Hornets retained the edge for the time being.
But when Hunt missed a front end, Marks drove for a basket to put the Wildcats back on top 43-42 with 3:23 left. Bryant missed twice but Michael Williams missed a front end.
Finally with 1:54 left, Washington went to the line and converted twice to put Bryant back ahead 44-43. Clegg followed up with the basket that produced what turned out to be the Wildcats’ last lead.
“I’ve got give Calvin Allen credit for suggesting a play that I didn’t want to run,” Abrahamson mentioned, “because it’s a zone set that we have that we like to run when that zone is a little bit wider. He suggested it and I said, ‘Man, I don’t know. They’re just tight in there.’ But I said, let’s try it.
“Well, we got on a run with that play,” he noted. “We probably ran it eight times in a row and scored several times out of it. So I’ve got to give Calvin credit. Calvin’s awesome. He’s just so intelligent, has such a high IQ, wants to be a coach one day. He’s a basketball junkie. Give him credit for that. It was awesome.”
The Hornets will break for Christmas now but return to action on Monday, Dec. 28, with a 4:10 p.m., game against North Little Rock in the first round of the 2015 Coke Classic at the Stubblefield Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.
HORNETS 48, WILDCATS 46
Score by quarters
BRYANT 7 17 13 11 — 48
Watson Chapel 12 16 9 9 — 46
HORNETS (7-2) 48
Allen 2-5 1-4 6, Hunt 4-10 5-8 13, Moody 1-3 0-0 2, Washington 2-10 3-4 7, Martin 2-13 0-0 5, Steen 2-7 1-2 5, Turner 1-3 0-0 3, Canada 1-2 2-4 4, McIntosh 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 16-54 (30%) 12-22 (55%) 48.
WILDCATS (3-1) 46
Rollins 0-3 0-0 0, Marks 4-16 1-3 12, D.Williams 4-11 6-10 16, Hill 0-3 0-0 0, Clegg 6-10 0-0 12, Hawkins 0-2 0-0 0, M.Williams 2-3 0-2 4, Evans 1-2 0-0 2, Wyrick 0-0 0-0 0, Dorsey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-50 (34%) 7-15 (47%) 46.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-20 (Martin 1-10, Turner 1-3, Allen 1-1, Hunt 0-5), Watson Chapel 5-15 (Marks 3-8, D.Williams 2-6, Rollins 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Watson Chapel 19. Rebounds: Bryant 17-24 41 (Washington 3-8 11, Steen 6-4 10, Moody 1-4 5, Turner 1-2 3, Canada 1-2 3, Turner 1-1 2, Allen 0-2 2, Hunt 0-1 1, team 5-2 7), Watson Chapel 13-25 38 (Clagg 5-3 8, D.Williams 1-5 6, M.Williams 1-3 4, Rollins 1-3 4, Marks 1-3 4, Hill 2-1 3, Hawkins 2-0 2, Evans 0-1 1, Dorsey 0-1 1, team 0-5 5). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Watson Chapel 18.