By Rob Patrick
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Hornets freshman basketball team has played the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats freshmen to the hilt three times now but they just haven’t been able to get over the top.
After losing 30-22 in the Bryant Invitational in November, the Hornets lost a 31-19 game at home against the Cats in January. On Monday, Feb. 1, the Hornets were within 6 late in the third quarter and as close as 8 with 4:00 remaining. But, once North Little Rock bumped it back up to 10, the Hornets starting gambling and flinging 3-point shots. They were down just 9 with 1:13 left but wound up absorbing a 42-29 loss.[more]
It was just the third time all season — all against North Little Rock — that Bryant was held under 32 points in a game.
The Wildcats stayed unbeaten in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference with the win, improving to 12-0. The Hornets dropped to 15-6 overall and 8-4 in the league going into its final two regular-season games. They’ll play at home for the last time on Thursday, Feb. 4, against Cabot South then finish the season Monday, Feb. 8, at Benton, trying to jockey for position going into the league’s post-season tournament at Sheridan beginning Saturday, Feb. 13.
“Maybe we’ll get another shot at them in the tournament,” mentioned Hornets coach Steve Wilson.
Though North Little Rock shot 50 percent from the field (16 of 32) including 75 percent in the second half (8 of 12) and shot 18 free throws to Bryant’s four, the Wildcats couldn’t shake the Hornets for a long time.
“We played great defense again, except right there at the end when we were trying to open it up,” Wilson commented. “We gambled and decided to go for it, to open the game up and that fell right into their hands. We had to try something.
“Offensively, we seemed a little timid at times with our passes,” he observed. “I think we got a lot of people in the right spots and either the pass was overthrown or not thrown hard enough.”
The Hornets suffered 10 of their 15 turnovers in the game in the first half while North Little Rock collected seven offensive rebounds. They got only one in the second half (but they shot the ball more efficiently).
The Hornets trailed 7-2 early then Leon Neale scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw but Zach Cambron rebounded. His follow shot, however, was blocked.
Still, Bryant was within 9-4 going into the second quarter.
Riley Hall, who led the Hornets with 9 points, connected on his first 3-pointer with 4:46 left in the half. It brought the Hornets within 12-7.
T.J. Francis and Gary Vines, who each finished with 11 for the Cats, sparked a 7-0 burst but Bryant’s Marcus Wilson drained a pair of 3’s in the final minute and the Hornets trailed just 19-13 at the half.
The Hornets appeared to have weathered the proverbial storm but, again, they just couldn’t get over the hump.
The teams traded baskets in the third quarter with Aaron Bell supplying Bryant 6 points on an old-fashioned three-point play and a long-range 3. The latter had the Hornets within 25-19 with 1:52 left in the third period.
The Hornets had a pair of chances to get closer but a turnover sabotaged the first chance. Cambron made a steal, however, but the Hornets were unable to convert. So when Vines drove for a layup, the Wildcats had a 27-19 lead going into the final period.
The lead was still 8, 31-23, after a driving basket by Bell with 4:00 left but Rodney Bryson hit a free throw, then drove for a layup and Vines knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 36-23.
Hall drained a 3 with 1:51 left to cut the margin to 10 and, after Francis connected twice from the line, Hall banked in another 3 as he was fouled. Though he was unable to get his free throw to go, the Hornets were within 9.
And thanks to missed front ends by Francis and his teammate Thomas Alexander, the Hornets had two more shots at trimming that lead before a layup by Bryson took the starch out of Bryant’s comeback. A layup at the buzzer by Francis set the final score.
CHARGING WILDCATS 42, HORNETS 29
Score by quarters
BRYANT 4 9 6 10 — 29
North Little Rock 9 10 8 15 — 42
Rayburn 0-0 0-0 0, Bell 3-6 1-2 8, Hewitt 0-1 0-0 0, J.Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Workman 1-3 0-0 2, Wilson 2-9 0-0 6, S.Davis 0-1 0-0 0, Neale 1-3 0-1 2, Hall 3-8 0-1 9, Cambron 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 11-35 1-4 29.
CHARGING WILDCATS 42
Vines 3-5 5-8 11, Bryson 3-7 1-4 7, Francis 4-8 2-3 11, C.Williams 2-4 1-2 5, Terry 1-3 0-0 2, Alexander 3-5 0-1 6, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, J.Williams 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-32 9-18 42.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-18 (Hall 3-8, Wilson 2-7, Bell 1-3), North Little Rock 1-5 (Francis 1-1, Bryson 0-2, Alexander 0-2). Rebounds: Bryant 19 (Cambron 4, Hall, Neale 3), North Little Rock 28 (C.Williams 8). Turnovers: Bryant 15, North Little Rock 12. Team fouls: Bryant 14, North Little Rock 9.