For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
No doubt, there was some tossing and turning for the Bryant Hornets players and coaches as well as the big turnout of fans on hand at the Hornets Nest Friday night. The mind goes over every missed layup, every missed free throw, the rebounds that got away, a careless turnover — so many little things that seem so big in light of the results.
Donald Richardson nearly carried the ball when it stuck for just a flash on his thigh as his weaving drive through the Bryant defense reached the top of the key. Somehow, he kept his dribble. Somehow he got 10 feet away and before the buzzer to end overtime, he lofted a shot up that kissed the glass and ricocheted into the basket.
Richardson and his Little Rock Central Tigers’ teammates celebrated as they escaped with a 72-70 win over the Hornets to avoid going 0-2 to start the 7A-Central Conference season. The excruciating loss left the Hornets 1-1 in the league, tied with the Tigers.
The winning basket came just moments after Bryant senior Romen Martin drilled a clutch 3-pointer with :11.1 left in the extra period, knotting the game up. Central had led by 5 going into the final minute but an offensive-rebound basket by Braylen Steen cut the margin.
An ill-advised shot by Central’s Jacobia Platt rimmed out and Steen knocked the rebound off Platt as he was falling out of bounds, giving the Hornets possession as Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson called a timeout to set up a play for a potential tying triple.
It was a barn-burner from the outset with the Hornets’ largest lead at 7 late in the third quarter and Central’s biggest advantage of 5 near the end of the first half.
“In a game like this that you lose close or lose at the buzzer, it’s not just that buzzer shot, although that was a factor, obviously,” Abrahamson said. “There’s so many things through the course of the game that you could’ve done differently.
“In the first half, we were getting dominated on the boards,” he noted. “Central had so many offensive rebounds. Throughout the course of the game, we missed a bunch of layups. Obviously, foul trouble was a factor. On top of all that, Central’s really talented. They’re really good. It was a lot to overcome and we were still right there. In that sense, I’m proud of our guys.”
But the coach saw brief periods when his team got a little off track.
“When the kids trust their roles and they do what they’re coached to do — not that they’re blatantly going against me but — when they can be tough enough in the moment to do what they’re coached to do, they have a good chance to succeed,” he stated. “There were a couple of plays throughout the game where we didn’t. And that’s also a factor in a 2-point loss.
“There were a lot of things that could’ve gone — if we had done differently or it would’ve bounced differently,” he added. “We could’ve had a different outcome.”
The work on the boards was significant. Central out-rebounded Bryant 50-27 with burly 6-7 post Raekwon Rogers hauling down 17 caroms including seven on the offensive end. Twenty-six of the Tigers rebounds came at the offensive end.
Rogers finished the 14 points but Cameron Johnson scored 31.
Martin finished with 18 for Bryant, all but 2 in the second half. Steen had 16, Calvin Allen 13 and Kaleb Turner 11. The Hornets hit nine 3’s in the game.
In the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 51, 53 and 55, the latter on a pull-up jumper in the lane by Martin. A Central turnover led to a jumper by Steen that returned the lead to the Hornets with 2:51 left in regulation.
Platt’s 3 put Central up 58-57 but when Allen was fouled during a scramble after a loose ball, Tigers coach Oliver Fitzpatrick was hit with a technical foul. As he was arguing the call, he got too far out of the coach’s box after being warned.
Allen converted one of his two shots then Martin shot the technicals. The Hornets had a 60-58 lead and the ball. And they got a layup only to miss it.
But Martin made a steal and dashed to the other end for a layup to extend the margin to 62-58.
The Tigers’ Ky’Lyn Arnett had missed his first six 3-point tries before finally finding the range earlier in the fourth quarter. He managed his second trey in the clutch with 1:27 left, trimming the Hornets’ lead to 62-61.
Both teams missed chances to change that score. After Johnson’s miss, there was a held ball for the rebound and, initially, the ball was awarded to the Tigers. After a discussion among the officials, it was awarded to Bryant with 50 seconds left.
Out of a Central timeout, Allen was fouled. He converted once at the line to make it 63-61. Moments later, Rogers got the ball in the lane and appeared to take steps before he knocked down a short jumper that tied the game.
The Hornets had time to work for a final shot but wound up turning the ball over and it went to overtime.
Johnson gave Central the early advantage in the extra period. Steen tied it with a pair of free throws.
The Hornets got a break when Johnson missed two shots with 3:09 left. The Hornets got two shots at snapping the tie before Arnett gunned in another 3. Off a Bryant miss, Johnson got fouled and, this time, converted twice to make it 70-65 going into the final minutes of the period.
Bryant had gotten out to a good start, building a 6-2 edge. Central rallied for a 7-6 advantage before Turner busted a 3 off a kick-out from Allen.
It was tied at 9 and 11 before Deron Canada hit both ends of a one-and-one with :25 left, giving the Hornets a 13-11 lead.
The first half was plagued by fouls. Central was cited for 15, Bryant 16. Two players for each team had three fouls by halftime. For the Hornets, it was Marvin Moody and Lowell Washington, both inside players. Rogers and Platt picked up three as well.
Free throws by Turner, Allen and Canada had the Hornets up 19-13 before Johnson snapped off a 3-pointer.
Canada had a layup off a feed from Allen, giving the Hornets a 21-18 edge. But the Tigers rallied and actually built a 27-22 lead. But Steen scored inside off a dish from Canada and, after a Central turnover, Steen drained a 3 to tie it up going into the intermission.
Steen hit his second 3 to start the third quarter. All six of Bryant’s field goals in the third quarter came from 3-point range including a buzzer-beater by Garrett Cowart that gave the Hornets a 46-42 lead going into the fourth stanza.
Johnson hit two free throws but free throws by Allen and a basket by Washington off a feed from Allen had the Hornets up 50-44.
Arnett’s break-through 3 sparked the Tigers as they surged into the lead. Cowart hit a free throw to tie it at 51 and, after Johnson drove for a bucket, Allen returned the favor to knot it at 53.
Johnson converted a pair of free throws — he was 10 of 14 from the stripe for the night — before Martin tied it to set up the dramatic finish to regulation and overtime.
The Hornets will try to bounce back on Tuesday when they travel to Fort Smith Southside.
“It’s important that we face reality and face why we couldn’t pull this one out,” Abrahamson concluded. “Then we have to learn from it and we have to move on. But we can’t just move on without learning from it.
“We treat every game the same so we’re going to stick to our routine,” he added. “We’re going to stick to what we do. In this league, every night’s going to be brutal. We’ll bounce back. Our kids are resilient.”
TIGERS 72, HORNETS 70, OT
Score by quarters
LR Central 11 16 15 21 9 — 72
BRYANT 13 14 19 17 7 — 70
LR CENTRAL (11-5, 1-1) 72
C.Johnson 10-22 10-14 31, Platt 2-9 0-0 5, Richardson 2-5 1-2 5, Moore 1-4 0-0 2, Rogers 4-6 6-9 14, G.Johnson 1-1 1-1 3, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Arnett 3-9 3-4 12, Rudolph 0-0 0-2 0, Dudley 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 23-59 21-32 72.
BRYANT (12-3, 1-1) 70
Martin 6-12 3-5 18, Turner 2-3 5-6 11, Allen 3-10 6-8 13, Steen 6-12 2-3 16, Washington 1-5 0-0 2, Moody 0-2 0-0 0, Canada 12 4-4 6, Cowart 1-1 1-5 4, McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-47 21-31 70.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 9-15 (Martin 3-7, Turner 2-3, Steen 2-3, Allen 1-1, Cowart 1-1), LR Central 5-25 (Arnett 3-9, C.Johnson 1-8, Platt 1-5, Dudley 0-3). Turnovers: Bryant 12, LR Central 11. Rebounds: Bryant 8-19 27 (Steen 2-5 7, Canada 1-4 5, Allen 2-2 4, Martin 0-3 3, Washington 1-2 3, Moody 2-1 3, Turner 0-2 2), LR Central 26-24 50 (Rogers 7-10 17, Moore 5-3 8, Richardson 3-4 7, C.Johnson 4-2 6, Rudolph 2-1 3, Platt 2-0 2, G.Johnson 0-1 1, Arnett 0-1 1, team 2-3 5). Team fouls: Bryant 26, LR Central 26. Fouled out: Bryant, Moody; LR Central, Rogers. Technical fouls: LR Central coach Fitzpatrick.