Bryant answers Zebras’ challenge for crucial 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
The best thing about the Bryant Hornets’ vital 67-59 win over the Pine Bluff Zebras at the Bryant gym on Friday, Jan. 18, wasn’t the impressive 16-point lead the Hornets compiled in the first half. And it wasn’t the fact that four Bryant players scored in double figures or that junior Jaston Carter slammed home his first authentic, in-game dunk or even that six-foot forward Jeremy Reeves continued to befuddle taller players inside to the tune of 20 points.
Rather, it was the fact that after the Zebras rallied in the second half to actually take a 3-point lead early in the fourth quarter, the Hornets got in gear again and put together their own surge, producing the victory.
With their backs to the wall after a disappointing loss on the road against a better-than-that 1-14 Texarkana team, the Hornets were for all intents in a must-win situation. Pine Bluff came into the game as one of four teams tied for the AAAAA-South Conference lead including wins over the two league teams that had handed Bryant its losses. The results on Friday left the Hornets, Zebras and the El Dorado Wildcats tied at 3-2 in the league for the time being, a game behind co-leaders Lake Hamilton and Camden Fairview. Lake Hamilton’s lone league loss came at the hands of the Hornets who were set to visit Fairview next.
A pair of unanswered 3-point baskets by Jarome Addison had the Zebras ahead 47-44 and they had two possession to increase the margin before Bryant head coach Leo Olberts called a timeout for a little discussion.
“The main thing we were upset about was that we were just making a lot of silly mistakes,” Olberts said. “Sure, they were hitting some big shots but, defensively, we weren’t getting out and getting on people. We were getting out-hustled under the basket and they were getting some second shots. We were a little careless on offense. All the things you can’t do against a team like that.
“After that,” he said, “I felt like we really made a lot of good decisions and hit some big shots. We had a lot of good hustle.”
When play resumed, Dwayne Chumley, who had seven assists in the game, fed Reeves for a layup. Chumley then made a steal and delivered to Scott Yant for an easy deuce that put the Hornets back in front. A bucket off a baseline drive by Josh Ridge made it 50-47.
But Pine Bluff pushed back and led 53-52 with 3:49 left to play. Chumley tied it with a free throw and, after a Pine Bluff turnover, Yant drained a clutch 3 to make it 56-53 with 2:58 to go.
The Hornets did not trail again.
“Ridge, Reeves and Yant — those three seniors gave us a lot of leadership tonight,” Olberts declared. “Scotty hit that big 3 when we really needed some momentum. Just one big play after another.”
A basket by Brandon Walters to cut the lead to 1 was answered by free throws from Chumley. Brandon Stigger’s hoop was trumped when Chumley rifled a pass inside to Reeves for a basket and a foul. The three-point play started Bryant’s game-ending 9-2 run that included a steal and three-point play by Carter and free throws by Yant, Reeves and Ridge.
“At halftime, we were up 14, we knew they were going to really come out strong and we just had to try to hold everything together the first couple of minutes and we didn’t,” Olberts commented. “The next thing you know we’re up just four or five going into the fourth quarter then we’re down three with about five minutes to go. From then on, I thought we just played downright great.”
Just like in that first half.
It was actually a slow start for both teams. The game was scoreless for the first couple of minutes until Reeves broke the ice with a three-point play off a nice feed from Chumley.
Pine Bluff tied it with a three-play play by Stigger but the Hornets responded with a 14-0 run during which Chumley had assists on the first three scores. The first was a feed for a layup by Ridge. On the second, Chumley penetrated and kick out to Carter for a 3. The third was another dish to Reeves who was fouled. On his way to an 8-for-8 performance at the line, Reeves knocked down both shots to make it 10-3.
The onslaught continued with a layup by Ridge and a bucket off a drive by Reeves. Carter put the finishing touches on the binge with his second trey.
Pine Bluff’s Navonta Kentle hit a short jumper to end a four-minute drought for his team but another drive by Reeves made it 19-5 at the end of the first period.
The largest margin came when Chumley hit two free throws then Carter fed Benny Elder for a basket inside early in the fourth quarter to make it 23-7.
Pine Bluff whittled the margin down to 9 but Chumley knocked down a 3 from the corner then Carter came through with a steal and his jam to make it 31-17 and bring the Bryant fans to their feet. The noise got even greater when, moments later, Kentle, Pine Bluff’s 6-6 sophomore, blew a dunk.
Bryant led 35-21 at the half.
“Against a really good team, that was definitely one of our best first halves,” Olberts said. “We came out really focused, really played hard and really got after it on the boards which is something we’ve got to do a better job of every game.
“The game plan was pretty much, play a zone — match-up and 1-3-1 and keep switching — we had to beat their press and we did a pretty good job against it, and don’t give up too many second and third shots,” added the coach. “On offense, push it when you can and be patient when you can’t push it. For the most part, we did a pretty good job at that. A couple of times, we pushed the ball and made some silly decisions. But overall, I just can’t say enough good things about these guys.”
Initially, Pine Bluff’s second-half rally cut the Bryant margin to 5 by midway in the third quarter. A Bryant turnover game them a chance to get closer but Brian Cal misfired and, at the other end, Reeves was fouled. Reeves then took a charge on defense, wiping out a basket by Kerry Coleman. In turn, Ridge scored off a baseline drive. Yant made a steal and Chumley wound up at the line where he converted once to make it 44-34.
That’s when Pine Bluff began its surge to take the lead. The 13-0 run included a buzzer-beating 3 by Cal to end the third quarter 44-41 in favor of the Hornets and setting up Addison’s bombs that put the Zebras ahead.