February 6 in Bryant athletic history: 2010

Hornets turn back Rockets down the stretch to notch league win on the road

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).

By Rob Patrick

LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Hornets’ last two games had ended with painful results: A loss by 2 at North Little Rock and a 4-point loss at home to Little Rock Central when a shot that probably would’ve won it refused to go down.

It was downright discouraging.

So it was nail-biting time in the closing minutes of Friday night’s 7A-Central Conference game at Little Rock Catholic. The Hornets, who had fallen to the Rockets at home by a demoralizing 56-39 final to open league play, had played them off their feet this time, building as much as 10-point lead, 46-36.[more]

But then things started happening that were far too reminiscent of those gut-punch losses of the previous week. Catholic rallied. With :48.2 left, Cameron Cronin went to the line for the Rockets with a chance to tie the game. He made the first shot to cut Bryant’s lead to 1, 47-46, but missed the second. Bryant’s Connor Rayburn tracked down the rebound down the right baseline and was fouled.

Just moments before, Rayburn had converted one of two shots at the line to turn a 46-45 lead into the 47-45 edge before Cronin’s free throw.

With :45.1 left and the Hornets in the double bonus (two shots on all fouls), Rayburn calmly stepped to the line and knocked down both shots to make it a 3-point game.

K-Ron Lairy then foiled Catholic’s bid to cut into the lead or draw even with a 3 by making a steal. He passed ahead to Kendall Butzlaff behind the Rockets’ defense but when Butzlaff went up for the lay-in, the defense caught up and he was hit, going down hard and hurting his ankle. The ball trickled off the iron then off a hand or two before Lairy flashed to nab it.

He was fouled with :17.9 to go. Needing one shot to fall to make it a two-possession game, Lairy converted once.

At the other end, the Rockets’ couldn’t get a 3-pointer to go but Marco Piccinini rebounded and was fouled hard, preventing the chance for a three-point play.

Piccinini went to the line with :05.2 showing and converted his first shot and Bryant head coach Ron Marvel called a timeout to make sure his team was all on the same page, reminding them that they just needed to take care of the ball and let the Rockets foul them because, at worse, they’d still have a 2-point lead. The players were also reminded of their duties against the press.

And, indeed, Piccinini converted his second shot to make it 50-48. Catholic then called a timeout to set up the press.

The Hornets got it in to Lairy who was fouled immediately. With :04 left, he coolly knocked down both shots to put the game out of reach, setting the final at 52-48.

It was a critical win for the Hornets and their bid to make the Class 7A State Tournament. They improved to 9-13 overall and 2-6 in conference play, tied with Cabot for the sixth spot and just two behind the Rockets for fifth. Van Buren, the fourth-placed team that narrowly defeated the Hornets in its gym, 44-38, on Jan. 12, come to Bryant on Tuesday.

“This was the best gave we’ve played,” declared Marvel. “Down to the last three minutes. In the last three minutes, we kind of reverted back. They put a lot of pressure on us. They made us do some things we’ve been doing in the past.

“We missed some clutch free throws but then we made some clutch free throws,” he noted. “The free throws we missed put us in the position for them to be clutch at the end. Connor hit some big free throws for us.”

“But the kids had stepped up there early,” Marvel asserted. “They blocked out, they rebounded, they took care of the little things. You know, they set screens. It was just by far our best performance. The kids really deserved to win and I was so afraid there at the end they were going to get the same results they’d gotten the last two games. I think that would’ve been just devastating to them.

“The way it turned out, it could turn our season if the kids will just pick it up from here and go,” Marvel related. “It’s going to be late but we can turn it around.”

Dontay Renuard regained his shooting touch, gunning in 22 points including four 3’s. He had three triples in the first half. Lairy finished with 21 points including 7 of 10 from the line in the fourth quarter. Brandon Parish hit a 3 and finished with 5 points and Rayburn had 4, all on key fourth-quarter free throws.

“Everybody was just pumped,” Renuard insisted. “We were ready to play. We needed this win and I’m glad we got it. All these close games, we should win. We’re ready. We’re trying to make State.”

Lately, the senior forward has been alternating between big nights scoring and off nights. He had 21 at North Little Rock but 5 against Central.

“I need to get to the point where I start believing in my shots,” he said. “Because when I don’t, I get to the point where I shut down. I’m letting myself and the team down.”

“Dontay hit some big shots,” Marvel acknowledged. “Dontay played well. And the whole game he was telling me, ‘Coach, my chest is hurting. I may have to come out.’ And every time I’d ask him, ‘Hey, you all right?’ It was ‘Yes, sir, I’m all right.’ So he stayed until the bitter end and he did a good job.”

“I don’t know what it is, it was just killing me,” Renuard related. “It was just hard to breathe. I’m pretty good now but I don’t know what it was, but I had to keep going.”

The Hornets led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter. It was 25-21 at the half. Bryant led 35-29 going into the fourth quarter then extended the margin to 39-29 for the first double-digit lead. Once it got to 46-36, Catholic put together a 9-0 run to trim the lead to 1 going into the final minute of play.

“We stayed focused the whole game and just gradually pulled out there,” Marvel said. “K-Ron stepped up big for us tonight. He really played well. And K.J. (Hampton) really hit the boards strong.

“But, you know, I would have to say the star of the game was the team. Not an individual tonight, it was a team effort,” he concluded. “I think it was just the overall attitude of the kids tonight (that was the difference). They came ready to play tonight. Something we’ve been preaching all year, they finally got it tonight.”

The only other 7A-Central team to beat Catholic at home this season was league-leading Conway (18-2, 8-0) by the same margin, 59-55, last Tuesday.

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