Hornets hold off Catholic
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
Bryant Hornets first-year head coach Mark Smith is still looking for his team’s best.
Even in Friday’s 52-45 — or was it 51-46 — win over the Little Rock Catholic Rockets, the Hornets, he said, didn’t put together their best game.
“We did just enough things right to win and we didn’t do enough things right to make it an easy win,” he commented after the game. “I guess it’s a learning process for all of us as far as what we’re trying to accomplish, what we want to do. We need to know when are the right times to slow the ball down and when are the right times to push it. We’re having a hard time differentiating that right now.”
Forget the fact that the Hornets improved to 10-8 overall with the win, already more wins than many gave them a chance to manage when the season started. Smith knows, after the team’s first trip through the league, there are only two teams that had the Hornets overmatched — Parkview and Conway, the top two teams in the state. And that they could turn their 2-5 league mark around in the second half of the round robin.
“We’ve just got to become more consistent and put together a complete game,” he stated. “Really, we haven’t played a 32-minute game yet where — I know there’s going to be flaws in the game but you have to limit your flaws or you’re not going to be able to win very many ballgames, especially in this conference as tough as it is.
“We’re about to start the second round and, especially in order to win on the road, you’ve got to play almost a perfect game and we’re still looking for that perfect game. We haven’t found it yet. Hopefully, it’s going to show up pretty soon.”
The Hornets were set to start the second round at Little Rock Central on Tuesday, Feb. 4 (see related story).
Against Catholic, the Hornets gained the upper hand late in the first half but never got too comfortable right down to the end of the game.
“Catholic does a good job,” commented Smith. “If you have a weakness, they’re going to find it and they’re going to exploit it. They pass the ball so well and find the open man. Luckily, they missed a couple of threes late in the game and we were able to knock down some free throws. Free throws played a big part for us tonight, especially down the stretch.”
The discrepancy about the final score developed early in the second quarter. With 6:06 left in the half, Benny Elder hit the offensive glass for a three-point play that should’ve put the Hornets ahead 18-13 but the free throw was somehow credited to Catholic.
Bryant led 24-21 at the half after Jaston Carter made steals on consecutive plays in the final :15 and converted twice to overturn a 22-19 deficit. But the scorebook had the score 23-22 Bryant at the half and remained unchanged after the discrepancy was discovered.
Fortunately, it didn’t matter in the end.
Carter, who led all scorers with 18 points, scored inside to start the second half. Catholic’s Jake Smith, who led his team with 11 points, answered with a jumper from the corner but B.J. Wood snapped a long personal cold spell from 3-point range to bump the margin up again.
Carter made a steal and Dwayne Chumley converted to make it 30-24. After a Rockets timeout, Carter made yet another theft and layup and Bryant had its largest lead of the game at 8.
But Catholic rallied and when Smith canned a 3 to beat the buzzer ending the third quarter, Bryant’s lead was just 34-32.
A steal and layup by Keith Richardson kept the Hornets ahead. After Smith knocked down another jay, Richardson fed Nick Dorsey for a short jumper and Carter buried a 16-footer.
The Hornets just couldn’t shake the Rockets, however. With 2:39 left, Jimmy Anderson’s baseline drive brought Catholic within a bucket at 40-38.
Dorsey fed Richardson for a layup and Elder picked off a pass, leading to a trip to the free throw line for wood with 1:13 to go. Wood converted both ends of the pressure-packed one-and-one chance and Bryant led 44-38.
Dax Miller’s driving layup trimmed the lead again only to have Chumley convert at the stripe. With :40 left, Catholic’s Zach Cash was fouled on a drive to the basket but Miller was cited for a technical foul. Cash made his free throws but so did Chumley and, on the subsequent possession, Wood hit a free throw and the Rockets were unable to get as close until Neal Klein hit a pair of free throws with :06.9 showing, cutting Bryant’s lead to 50-46.
At the other end, Carter hit a free throw to set the final score then the Hornets forced a turnover to seal the victory.
“I thought B.J. handled the ball well at the point,” commented Coach Smith. “I thought Keith came in and did a good job. Nick Dorsey helped a lot off the glass.”