Hornets come through in clutch to edge Cyclones
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
The Bryant Hornets might never have been better in the clutch than they were on Friday, Jan. 11, against 7A-Central Conference rival Russellville.
Unable to shake the small but deadeye Cyclones, who hit 11 3-pointers in the game, the Hornets found themselves trailing 49-47 with 2:27 left after Jared Williamson hit the last of those triples.
The Hornets, in turn, worked for a shot at the other end and Taylor Masters was left open on the left wing, drilling an answering trey at 2:07 to give his team a 50-49 edge.
Bryant forced a Cyclone turnover and Hunter Sample hit a free throw to make it a two-point game. Williamson answered with a free throw but when his second missed and came out long to him, Russellville had a chance to take the lead again. A.J. Broadnax was fouled with :48.7 on the clock. He converted once to tie it.
The Hornets calmly got the ball up the floor and called timeout with 37 seconds left. They worked the clock down to :15.5 and called another one to set up a play that would get the ball in the post to Masters in hopes he could make a strong move and either score or get to the line.
As the play evolved, Sample, working on the wing, got the ball to Masters as planned. But feeling a double team, Masters kicked it out to Dijon Benton who drove the left baseline, pulled up short of the hoop and shot. The attempt came off the rim on the off side where the Hornets’ Zach Lewis was waiting. Lewis went up, grabbed the ball and shot it before coming down, banking it in for what proved to be the winning basket with :04 showing.
Russellville got a timeout with :03.6 to go. When play resumed, they rushed the ball up the floor and got it to Williamson in the right corner. Williamson launched a 3 but Sample was there to block the shot at the buzzer, preserving the win.
“Huge block by Hunter at the end,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “That was just a gigantic block. Great play by him.”
The win improved the Hornets to 2-1 in conference play, 10-6 overall, part of a three-way tie for third in the 7A-Central, a game behind co-leaders Little Rock Central and Catholic. They were set to visit one of the teams they’re tied with, Conway, on Tuesday, Jan. 15, before returning home to take on Cabot on Friday.
Unlike their previous two games, the Hornets got off to a good start against Russellville, building a 13-6 lead that was capped by a dunk by Sample at the 3:09 mark. They had two chances to build on that before Russellville started to rally. It was 14-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Cyclones’ 8-1 run to start the second period gave them a 16-15 lead. Chad Knight hit a 3 to get the Hornets back on track but the game was tied at 23 at the half.
“I think they just really got hyped up,” Smith said of his team. “It seemed like after Hunter got the dunk was when we really got so pumped up, our heart was in it but our head wasn’t.
“We gave up a big lead early and that came from poor shot selection, poor decisions on passing, poor decisions on who was open and who wasn’t open,” he explained. “We got that point across at halftime I think.
Broadnax hit a 3 to start the third quarter and the game of nip-and-tuck was on after Sample hit a short jumper and Tim Floyd nailed a 3 for Bryant.
Floyd scored all of his team-high 14 points in the second half, making 6 of 7 shots from the field including a dunk. But Russellville kept hanging around. Bryant led 38-36 going into the fourth quarter.
At the 6:39 mark, a three-point play by Floyd produced the largest margin of the second half, 43-38. But 3’s by Terrell Carter, Broadnax and Williamson produced the 49-47 edge for Russellville.
“Gosh, they were killing us from the 3-point line,” Smith noted. “We were trying to match 2’s with 3’s the whole game. It seemed like we could never get away from them. I think it was just because of the 3’s. But I tip my hat to them. They played awfully hard too. They did everything they could to win.”
It was an important game for Russellville, which dropped to 0-3 in the conference with the loss.
Of his team’s effort, Smith added, “We took our time in the second half and we executed better, we looked for the open man a little better instead of rushing what we were doing. The guys just focused better in the second half in my opinion and got the job done.”