Hornets snap out of winless skein
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
If it seems like it’s been a long time since the Bryant Hornets won a basketball game, well, it has. Though the losing streak they carried into Tuesday’s AAAAA-South Conference game against the Texarkana Razorbacks was just five games, because of bad weather and the Christmas holiday break, it’d been since Dec. 8.
Tuesday, the Hornets ended the dryspell.
With three players scoring in double figures and another on the verge, the Hornets knocked off the Razorbacks 61-49 at the Bryant gym to improve to 4-9 on the season and 1-3 in league play.
Texarkana, which came into conference action with a nice 8-2 mark, dropped to 0-3 against the league with the loss.
It was an impressive performance by the Hornets, particularly in light of their most recent loss at El Dorado on Friday. It was their first lopsided defeat all year.
“We just didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes tonight,” observed Hornets head coach Leo Olberts. “We really played hard on the defensive end, did a better job, probably, rebounding tonight than we’ve done all year and it was against a pretty athletic team. And, offensively, we only had 12 turnovers, so we really cut our turnovers way down. It makes a big difference when you don’t make a lot of turnovers.”
Not that Texarkana played passive defense, either. The Hogs went man-to-man the entire game and jumped into fullcourt pressure on occasion.
Senior point guard Matt Brown contributed one of his finest efforts of the season with a team-high 14 points including five of five at the free-throw line. He also had a number of assists and kept his turnovers down against the pressure defense.
The Hornets, in fact, made a lot of hay by attacking the basket against the Razorbacks, particularly at the start of the fourth quarter when they were able to hold off a potential rally.
Ben Olberts added 13 points and Jaston Carter came off the bench for 12. Josh Ridge, playing though ailing, added 9, Jeremy Reeves 7 and senior Colin Weatter pitched in with 6 off the bench along with some key rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
“I thought we did a really good job of passing the ball, particularly on the inside,” Coach Olberts mentioned. “We had a lot of nice passes and had a couple of fast break points.
“Colin, off the bench, probably had his best game of the year and Jaston, off the bench, really had a good ballgame,” he added.
“I thought we were aggressive, going to the hole tonight, so it was just, all around, probably our best game so far,” said the coach. “It’s disappointing we haven’t played a little better in a couple of other games. But every night’s going to be tough. We’ve got to come out every night and play extremely hard to have a chance. We did tonight.”
It actually took the Hornets awhile to get things going offensively. They didn’t score until the game was over three minutes old. But Texarkana led just 4-0 when Ben Olberts hit a short jumper to get things going.
The Razorbacks led 14-9 going into the final minute of the period when Olberts made a steal and basket. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw. Yet, Weatter kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound. He missed on a follow but there was Carter with the stickback to make it 14-13 at the first break.
Carter knocked down a 15-footer to open the second-quarter scoring. Anthony Burks hit a 3 to regain the lead for Texarkana but Olberts tied it with a pair of free throws and when Brown canned a 3-pointer with 4:05 left in the half, the Hornets were ahead to stay.
Still, Texarkana was within 22-21 before Olberts fed Carter for an open jumper in the lane. After Alex Peoples hit a free throw, the Razorbacks gained a chance to tie when Chez Carr made a steal. Carr fed David Byrd who drove to the hoop only to miss the layup as the Hornets hustled back to defend.
Moments later, Weatter hit a short jumper to beat the buzzer and give Bryant a 26-22 halftime lead.
Free throws by Floyd Hayes (18 points) and Walter Clark (11 points) brought Texarkana within a point early in the third quarter. But Brown attacked the basket and was fouled. He converted twice and, moments later, Brown grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Carter for a hoop and a 30-25 lead.
Hayes scored, but Carter answered off a lob from Reeves then Weatter canned a 15-foot jumper to make it 34-27.
Clark hit two free throws but Weatter hit a baseline jumper and, after Texarkana’s Jevon Scroggins misfired, Reeves hit the offensive glass for a bucket and a 9-point advantage.
Texarkana had to have a timeout. And when play resumed, Hayes and Carr canned 3’s around an Olberts bank shot from eight feet out. The Razorbacks were within 5 and remained that close, 42-37, going into the fourth quarter.
But three-point plays by Brown and Ridge early in the final period re-established Bryant’s 9-point edge.
Texarkana cut it to 6 a couple of times down the stretch, but could get no closer as the Hornets kept answering. It was 53-47 with four minutes left. A three-point play by Reeves bumped it back to 9.
Joe Williams hit two free throws for the Hogs with 2:57 left but that was the last his team would score in the contest. Bryant spread the offense which produced an open drive to the hoop for Olberts and free throw chances that Olberts and Brown converted to set the final margin, which was the largest of the game for either team.
The Hornets will need a continuation of their performance this Friday when they travel Pine Bluff to take on the league-leading Zebras.
“We certainly feel a lot better going to Pine Bluff having won,” Olberts noted. “Pine Bluff’s awfully tough. It’s always tough when you go to Pine Bluff but anything can happen.”