Hornets earn much-need 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
When the Bryant Hornets lost their AAAAA-Central Conference opener on the road against Little Rock Central, coaches Mark Smith and Chad Withers knew it was an opportunity lost. The Tigers were 2-10, for one thing. For another, they were scheduled to get some talented players eligible after mid-term tests which would make them much tougher to beat in the second go-round in the league’s home-and-home schedule.
Smith and Withers also figured the Central might be one of the teams the Hornets could sweep in their quest for a Class AAAAA State Tournament. But with the loss and their 2-5 record the first time through the league, suddenly their home game against the tougher Tigers loomed as a critical contest they almost had to win to keep their hopes alive.
And alive they still remain.
The Hornets played three quarters-plus of some of their best basketball of the season, building as much as a 16-point lead then holding on for a 63-58 victory.
Bryant improved to 12-8 overall and 3-5 in conference play, evening them with the Tigers (5-15 overall now). And the Hornets’ hoped-for climb up the league standings was set to continue with a trip to Little Rock McClellan on Friday, Nov. 3, to take on the fourth-place Lions (10-10 and 4-4).
“(Central) was a team that was a rung in front of us and we had to get up on them,” Smith acknowledged. “At least we’re even with them. McClellan is the next one above us. Hopefully, we can make another step toward the top.”
The Hornets, playing without 6-5 senior forward Chase Shaw who injured his shoulder in the previous game against Little Rock Catholic, got a big lift off the bench from sophomore Chad Knight. He finished with 9 points including 7 in the first half. Senior Micah Farish led all scorers with 20, Jeremy Nordman added 15 and Phillip Porchay 13. Farish, Nordman and Chris Chumley hit key free throws down the stretch to help hold off a furious Central rally which never got closer than the final margin.
“It was a team win,” Smith declared. “The guys played hard. I thought that certainly Chad Knight energized us. We hit open shots when we had to, to make (Central) change defenses. For the most part, I thought we took care of the ball and made good decisions. There were a few times, late, where we may have tried to anticipate something happening and it didn’t happen for us and we might’ve turned it over. That probably made it a little closer at the end than probably what it should’ve been. But I thought it was a great effort from everybody. We told them, ‘Play with energy and play with intelligence and good things happen.’ And they did tonight.”
Central’s last lead was 3-2. Nordman hit a pair of free throws to put Bryant ahead then Chumley threaded a pass to Knight, who made a splendid catch at full speed and reached back from under the backboard for an eye-catching bucket that made it 6-3.
McClellan’s Anthony Hurvey hit a 3-pointer to tie it but Nordman, just seconds later, answered in kind and the Hornets were ahead to stay.
They led 14-9 at the end of the quarter and Central fouls had them in the bonus at the start of the second quarter.
Farish had finished the scoring in the first quarter with a 3. He then hit a pair of free throws to start the second quarter scoring. Porchay made a steal and layup then took advantage of a Central turnover by hitting a 3 to cap a 10-0 run that made it 21-9.
The Tigers answered with a bit of a run themselves, trimming the lead to 21-16 before Nordman got the Hornets back on track with a 3.
Central’s 6-8 center Arbry Butler, who finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds including a trio of follow dunks, scored inside as did teammate Arthur Gray and the Bryant margin was 24-20.
But Nordman canned another troika and, after a free throw by Butler, so did Knight to bump the lead back to 9. Butler’s offensive-rebound slam with :16 left cut that but Knight beat the buzzer with a dash down the baseline and reverse layup to avoid Butler’s block attempt to send the Hornets to the locker room on a high, leading 32-23.
Porchay hit the offensive boards to score the first basket of the second half and Bryant’s lead was back in double digits. The teams traded points until late in the third period. Central was within 37-29 when Knight hit a baseline jumper and Porchay followed a Central miss with a pair of free throws for a 12-point advantage.
It was 43-33 going into the final 30 seconds of the period. With Chumley sitting with three fouls, senior Adam Miller made a splendid pass to Porchay, who was going backdoor. He hit the bucket and was fouled. With the completion of the three-point play the Hornets had their largest lead of 13 going into the final eight minutes.
Hurvey scored the first basket of the final period but then Chumley fed Farish for a layup, Nordman hit a free throw and Farish hit a pair at the line and the Hornets enjoyed a 51-35 advantage with 5:34 left in the game.
Central cut it to 9 but could get no closer until the final minute.