Hornets notch first league win
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
With 2:40 left in the third quarter of their game against the Little Rock Hall Warriors, the Bryant Hornets led 40-35 thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Jaston Carter.
By the end of the third quarter, the Hornets trailed 46-40.
The 11-0 run was all too reminiscent of the 13-0 run by Little Rock Central in their AAAAA-Central Conference opener at home 10 days before, and the 12-0 run at the beginning of their game at Little Rock McClellan.
Bryant head coach Mark Smith was having nightmare flashbacks. “It was like, ‘okay, can we weather another bad storm,’” he said after the game.
“The key to it this time was we didn’t dig a hole,” Smith related. “We kept our heads and we did a real good job of finding the open man and we did a good job of stepping to the open places whereas, in the previous two games, we probably fought pressure with pressure. We tried to speed it up but that’s what they want you to do. I felt like tonight we got to the spots, we created good passing angles and it really made a difference. We put ourselves in position to get fouled and to go to the line.
“And our crowd was great,” he added. “They were our sixth man tonight.”
Indeed, this time, the Hornets rallied for a 63-57 victory, sparked by their 21 of 23 shooting from the line in the fourth quarter and active, vocal support from the stands of a like usually reserved for Benton games. And it included a large contingent of students who were treated to a $1 admission in part, no doubt, as a response to parents’ complaints before the school board that the administration had been over-zealous with its crowd control in the name of sportsmanship at previous home games.
The win improved to 9-5 overall and 1-2 in conference play, going into a visit to North Little Rock on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
In the final minute alone, Bryant hit 8 of 10 free throws including a pair of clutch shots by junior Nick Dorsey with :10 left to keep it a two-possession game after Hall had cut the margin to 60-57. Carter came through in similar situations twice, once with :35 left and again with :27 to go.
Carter and Benny Elder led all scorers in the game with 20 points each.
For the game, the Hornets were 30 of 39 at the line as, in the wake of the highly publicized fight that broke out between Little Rock Parkview and North Little Rock the week before, the officiating crew called the game more tightly.
In fact, one of the officials admitted embarrassment over the incident to Bryant radio announcer Jim Lagrone, saying that a conscious effort was being made by officials to gain better control of the games in the conference.
And that suited Bryant, more of a finesse team than a power squad, just fine.
“In order for us to be able to compete and have a chance to win, we’ve got to get to the free-throw line,” Smith allowed. “And not only do we have to get there, we’ve got to make them. And that’s what happened tonight. That’s a huge reason why we won the game. We put ourselves in a position to get to the line and, of course, then we knocked them down. That’s huge.
“Guys stepped up the whole game in certain areas and played big,” added the coach. “I thought Geoff Tucker came in and did a real good job defensively. And that’s what his role is. We’re not looking for him to score a lot of points. We just want him to play good defense.”
Tucker, nonetheless, was 6 of 6 from the line including a pair of free throws at the start of the fourth quarter than ended Hall’s 11-0 outburst.
“I thought Kyle (Lynch) came in and did a good job,” Smith continued. “Dwayne (Chumley) did a good job of finding the open man. And the key to it was, in the fourth quarter, we only had three turnovers. That was huge because (Hall) was throwing a lot of heat at us at the time. We didn’t panic like we’d done in the previous two games.”
The Hornets also cranked up the defense themselves to help turn it back around. Over the first 4:24 of the final period, Hall managed just 2 points.
“We rotated real well on defense, probably the best we’ve done all year as far as matching up,” Smith acknowledged. “We recognized where shooters were and, boy, they’ve got some good shooters. They’re a really good team. For the most part, too, we did a good job of limiting their second chances. They were a lot bigger than us.”
Those free throws by Tucker and two more by Elder got the Hornets back within 2 as the fourth quarter unfolded. But, within the next minute both Bryant’s starting guards B.J. Wood and Drew Devasher picked up their fourth fouls. But Derick Brown, who led Hall with 16 points, failed to convert at the free throw line and when Carter whipped a pass inside to Elder for a layup with 5:38 left to play, the game was even at 46.
Hall’s last lead was 50-49 on a driving jumper by Brown with 3:36 to go. Jerrell Walker had a chance to add to that with 3:05 left but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Brandon Hobbs rebounded the second miss for Hall but couldn’t get a follow shot to go. Tucker rebounded for Bryant and the Hornets worked it inside to Elder who was fouled with 2:37 left.
When the Hornets senior center converted twice, he put the team ahead for good, though never quite comfortably.
The Warriors had two possessions with a chance to regain the advantage but settled for 3-pointers both times and came up empty. (They were 4-of-19 from long range in the contest.)
With 1:25 left, Chumley hit a pair of free throws to bump the lead to 3. Brown again had a chance to cut into the margin at the line with 1:13 to go but missed twice.
The Hornets worked the ball until, with :35 left, Carter was fouled. His free throws made it a 55-50 game, matching Bryant’s largest lead.
Walker cut it back to 3 but Carter came through again at the line. Brown hit a long jumper but Devasher stepped up to answer at the free-throw line as Bryant continued to answer whatever Hall came up with.
Smith said he hoped his team was learning how to handle the aggressive play in the conference. “The next game will be the same way,” he said. “It’ll be the same type of pressure, the same type of athletic team that you’re going to see. It’s going to be out pressuring the ball and being able to do things that we can’t simulate in practice. That’s what makes it hard to prepare for this. But as long as everybody does what they’re supposed to do and goes to the right spot, that gives you a chance. That’s what we did tonight, we gave ourselves a chance.
“Hopefully, we have learning something. We still need to minimize turnovers. It helped that we didn’t let our turnovers become (Hall’s) offense. The turnovers that we had, I don’t remember them scoring many layups like Central and McClellan did. We still need to keep our turnovers under 20.”
The game was tied at 10 after a quarter, again at 14, 22, 24 and 26 in the second before Hall edged ahead 28-27 at the break. The Warriors pushed ahead 31-28 early in the third quarter before Bryant surged to the lead. Elder scored inside to make it a 1-point game then Carter blocked a shot by Brown and took advantage at the other end by following his own miss for a go-ahead bucket.