For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Consider this:
The Bryant Hornets basketball team won 22 games last year and came a shot away from playing for the Class 7A State championship.
Going into Tuesday night, the senior-laden squad had was 14-3 with two of their losses by 2 points, both in overtime.
That’s 36 wins in a season and three-quarters, with some impressive ones along the way including last Friday’s 10-point victory over the defending State champion Cabot Panthers.
So, when discussing the fact that his team fell behind 15-0 at the outset of their 7A-Central Conference showdown with a share of first place on the line at North Little Rock Tuesday, head coach Mike Abrahamson said, “We had a little bit of a timid mindset.”
Timid? With that kind of resume?
But sure enough that’s the way it seemed. Granted, the Charging Wildcats came out on fire but the Hornets missed their first 11 shots from the field, some from point-blank range.
Could it be that this Bryant Hornets team has no idea how good they are, how great they can be?
If anyone needed any more evidence, they can now look back at how the Hornets responded to that terrible start as they eventually, incredibly came all the way back and had a shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
And Calvin Allen got all the way to the basket on a floor-length drive. He ran into plenty of congestion at the rim but no foul call was forthcoming on the Charging Wildcats’ home floor and the shot came off the iron as North Little Rock barely held on 61-59.
It was one of two first-place battles on Tuesday as Bryant, North Little Rock, Cabot and Fort Smith Northside each came into the night tied atop the league with one loss. At Cabot, the Panthers bounced back to knock off Northside.
“One of the takeaways from tonight is a confirmation of how good we can be or how we can miss opportunities to be something special,” Abrahamson stated. “This team has the chance to be good, very good, special but we have to control things that we’re not controlling right now that we’re able to control. You can’t control everything but there are some things you are able to control that we didn’t tonight.”
Of the early hole, the coach said, “Obviously, that was the difference. North Little Rock is a great team, super-athletic, deep. They get after you defensively and they shoot the ball really well. They’re tough to defend.
“But they didn’t get our best effort for the majority of that game and that’s what’s disappointing,” he added. “I will say this, I’m proud of them for coming back and I feel like we just ran out of time there at the end. If we have another minute or so, maybe it’s a different outcome. But you don’t get another minute. You don’t get that opportunity. But, as disappointed as I was with their start, I was equally as proud of their finish.”
The coach acknowledged too there was no do-over for the first quarter either.
“You don’t get to go back and play the first quarter,” he stated. “You don’t get five more minutes. You don’t get a second chance. And that’s one of the messages I’m trying to send to our team.”
The Hornets repeatedly cut into the Wildcats’ lead but just couldn’t break through the 8-point barrier. It was 59-49 with 1:39 left on a dunk by Collin Moore.
Romen Martin, who scored all 16 of his points in the second half after being sidelined with two fouls for much of the first, hit a free throw with 1:30 to go. At the other end, Deion Dobbins, who led all scorers with 22 points, took an ill-advised shot and missed.
The Hornets rushed the ball up the floor and Allen tried a 3. It rimmed out but Lowell Washington gathered the rebound and got it right back to the Hornets’ point guard. This time, he rang the bell and the lead was finally less than 8, 59-53, with :49 left.
Abrahamson took a timeout and, when play resumed, the Hornets fouled B.J. Walker. He converted once. Moments later, however, Martin ripped a 3 and, with the lead whittled down to 60-56, the Hornets took a timeout with :27.4 showing.
They got a break when, still attacking the basket, the Wildcats turned the ball over at :21.4. At :13.6, Martin drained another triple to make it a 1-point game.
The Hornets fouled Jarvis Ricks, the North Little Rock point guard, with :09.2 remaining. Shooting the one-and-one, Ricks missed. On the rebound, Washington and teammate Braylen Steen contended with Dobbins, who appeared to be over the back. No foul was called and the ball ricocheted out to Walker, who was fouled.
Walker stepped the line to shoot two as the Charging Wildcats were in the double bonus. But when he missed the first shot, some of the players went for the ball and the clock started.
As both coaches lobbied for a beneficial time, the clock was eventually re-set at 0:06.5 and Walker went back to the line where he sank the second shot to make it a 2-point game.
The Hornets inbounded to Allen, who streaked up the floor and into the paint from the left wing.
So the Hornets had a third two-point loss, this time in regulation. They fall to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the league going into a home game with rival Conway this Friday.
North Little Rock, which shot 22 3-pointers in the game, went 6 of 14 from the arc in the first half to establish the lead.
Bryant’s first points didn’t come until Sam Chumley, who filled in nicely for Martin, gunned in a 3 at the 2:08 mark of the first quarter. Ricks countered with a trey and, moments later, Dobbins tipped in a teammate’s miss to make it 20-3. Washington scored inside in the final minute to make it a 15-point game going into the second quarter.
Washington would finish with 10 points and nine rebounds for Bryant. Allen had 9 and Kaleb Turner 8. Ricks had 14 for the Wildcats.
The lead was 25-11 halfway through the second quarter. Turner hit a floater off a drive to the hoop and, after a North Little Rock miss, Deron Canada hit the offensive glass for a bucket. A North Little Rock turnover resulted in a timeout as Marvin Moody was fouled.
Moody would convert once for the Hornets, trimming the margin under double digits for the first time since the first 10 points of the game.
Dobbins countered with a 3 but Turner got a tip-in to keep the margin 10. And it looked like it would go to the half that way. But Ricks provided a momentum-draining cut when he beat the buzzer with a 3 to make it 31-18 at the break.
The Hornets trailed 35-22 two minutes into the third quarter but then surged to trim it to 8 for the first time. Steen tipped in a shot and Martin hit a free throw. With 4:11 left in the period, Steen scored and was fouled. Though his free throw refused to fall, the Hornets were as close as they’d been, 35-27.
Going into the fourth quarter, North Little Rock led 44-34. The margin seesawed from 10 to 8 for much of the final period.
Dobbins had baskets on either side of a Martin free throw to push it to 57-46 with 2:25 left. Martin bombed in the first of his trio of fourth-quarter 3’s to cut it to 8 and the Hornets had a chance to get closer when Moore missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:49 remaining.
But a turnover ensued leading the Moore’s dunk and the unfolding of the dramatic finish.
CHARGING WILDCATS 61, HORNETS 59
Score by quarters
BRYANT 5 13 16 25 — 59
No.Little Rock 20 11 13 17 — 61
HORNETS (14-4, 3-2) 59
Martin 4-8 4-8 16, Allen 4-16 0-0 9, Moody 0-1 3-4 3, Steen 3-7 0-1 6, Washington 4-9 2-2 10, Canada 1-2 0-0 2, Turner 4-8 0-0 8, Chumley 2-3 0-0 5, Cowart 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 9-15 59.
CHARGING WILDCATS (14-5, 4-1) 61
Ricks 6-10 0-1 14, Walker 1-7 2-5 5, Moore 3-4 2-4 8, Fudge 2-5 2-2 7, Dobbins 9-21 1-2 22, Fresh 1-2 0-0 2, Watkins 0-1 0-0 0, Duckworth 1-1 0-0 3, Sheppard 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 23-51 7-16 61.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-20 (Martin 4-8, Allen 1-6, Chumley 1-2, Steen 0-2, Turner 0-2), North Little Rock 8-22 (Dobbins 3-7, Ricks 2-5, Walker 1-6, Fudge 1-3, Duckworth 1-1). Turnovers: Bryant 15, North Little Rock 10. Rebounds: Bryant 16-22 38 (Washington 4-5 9, Steen 3-4 7, Martin 0-4 4, Allen 0-4 4, Canada 2-2 4, Turner 2-1 3, Chumley 1-1 2, Moody 1-0 1, team 3-1 4), North Little Rock 11-19 30 (Dobbins 4-7 11, Fudge 2-3 5, Walker 1-2 3, Ricks 2-0 2, Moore 0-2 2, Fresh 1-1 2, Sheppard 0-2 2, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 14, North Little Rock 17.