Hornets shackle Sheridan
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
Despite his sturdy 6-6 frame, Jared Thomas has not been known as a physical player, for mixing it up inside. He’s got a fine jump shot, good range, can handle the ball well when needed, and has a deft touch around the basket, but it has not been what you’d call the classic power game. That’s usually the forte of his 6-2 teammate Nathan James.
But Friday night, it was Thomas’ job to defend Sheridan’s 6-9 Jake Yancey, an early signee with Sidney Moncrief’s UALR basketball program and, after a halting start, Thomas bowed up on his opponent, took it to him with authority on offense and, on defense, muscled him out of his comfort zone on the block. Yancey still managed 18 points but Thomas had 14.
Both wound up with four fouls but Yancey missed a crucial stretch in the second quarter when Bryant overcame an 8-point deficit to take the lead by halftime. Then, after Sheridan rallied in the second half, Thomas limited Yancey to just two free throws in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter while the Hornets took control of the game on the way to a vital 63-56 victory.
The win evened the Hornets’ AAAAA-South Conference record at 1-1 going into this Friday’s home game against El Dorado. Bryant is 11-3 overall. Sheridan dropped to 8-5. It was the Yellowjackets’ conference opener.
Offensively, Friday, Bryant came through with some cold-blooded, clutch baskets under pressure in the late going. After trailing at halftime, Sheridan had rallied to regain the lead in the third quarter which ended with the Jackets up 39-38 on the strength of a jump hook by Yancey with 1:21 to go in the quarter.
A free throw by Jason Wood made it a 2-point Sheridan lead in the early stages of the fourth quarter. But just as Sheridan appeared to be gaining the momentum edge, Bryant’s Matt Thornton, with a man in his face, buried a 3-pointer from the right wing to put his team back on top.
The Hornets forced a turnover and, in quick succession, Yancey committed his fourth foul as Thomas hit the offensive glass following his own miss. Thomas hit a free throw to make it 42-40.
Sheridan’s Steven Brooks tied it with a drive to the hoop. He too was fouled but failed to complete the three-point play. Tad Beene, who finished with a game-high 22 points, put the Hornets back on top to stay with a driving layup with 5:21 to play.
Yancey had a chance to tie it but missed the front end of a bonus trip to the free-throw line.
At the other end, Bryant point guard Matt Brown, who had hardly attempted a shot all night, calmly buried a 3-pointer to provide a little separation.
A tip-in by Sheridan’s Mack Clegg followed but, again, Brown almost non-chalantly burned the Jackets with another trey to make it 50-44.
A driving jumper by Sheridan’s Terrance Hawkins was countered by Thomas, who had maneuvered Yancey onto his hip. Thomas whipped the Jackets’ star with a nice drop-step move for a layup and a 52-46 lead with 3:10 left.
The Jackets, in turn, missed on a 3-point attempt. The rebound came out long to Beene who controlled it on the run near midcourt. It was a race to the hoop. Clegg tried to get back to take a charge but was called for a blocking foul. Beene got the layup and a trip to the line where he converted the three-point play which gave Bryant its largest lead.
Down the stretch, the Hornets hit just enough free throws to keep the Jackets at bay. Sheridan cut the lead to 4 with :49 left but Beene hit a free throw and, after the Jackets’ Aaron Thomas missed a 3-point try, Brown converted once to make it a two-possession game again going into the final :20.
Yancey’s final bucket cut it to 60-56 but the Hornets closed out with a flourish, a free throw by Brown and a fastbreak layup by Thornton to end the game.
“Jared played real strong tonight,” Hornets head coach Leo Olberts said afterward. “Nathan James played real strong as well — really the whole first five just did a great job. We got down a little bit late and they just really sucked it up and made some good plays and got some big rebounds.
“It was just a typical conference game for us,” he added. “We’re going to have to play real well and we’re going to have to be in the game late and make some key plays. We’re just not very big and not very deep. All the little things add up and we’ve got to do them well every night. We told them before the game that heart and desire can take you a long way and it did tonight.”
Sheridan had had the best of it early as Yancey, Clegg (who finished with 16 points) and Hawkins (11 points) helped establish a 14-8 lead by the end of the first quarter that expanded to 18-10 early in the second.
But, on a nice move by Thomas, Yancey picked up his second foul with 6:10 left and came out of the game.
The Hornets missed 3-of-4 free throws which could’ve tightened it right then. Hawkins scored to make it 20-11 then sophomore Ben Olberts, on for the foul-troubled James, came through with a three-point play that helped get the Hornets rolling. It started a half-ending 18-5 blitz that included 3’s by Thornton and Beene, the former, which tied the game at 23, was set up by a steal from sophomore Josh Ridge. Beene’s trey gave Bryant the lead.
Clegg hit a jumper in the lane with :48 left to cut the margin to 1 then Beene hit a free throw after he was fouled going for a skip pass that appeared to be headed out of bounds. Beene missed his second shot but Thornton sprung into the lane, grabbed the carom and, before coming down, launched a follow shot that flushed for a 29-25 halftime advantage.
Jared Thomas scored the first hoop of the second half but then Yancey sparked a 12-3 run that included 3’s by Aaron Thomas and Hawkins both of which snapped ties.
The Hornets regained the edge, 38-37, on a layup by Beene off a nice feed from Thornton on the break and an easy 2 for Jared Thomas off a sparkling assist from Brown.
But Yancey closed out the quarter with a jump hook to make it 39-38 then, early in the fourth period, made a steal that eventually resulted in Wood’s trip to the line.
Thornton added 14 points and Brown 9 for the Hornets, who committed just eight turnovers in the game.