CONWAY — Both Bryant Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson and Pine Bluff Zebras coach Clarence Finley would probably tell you that it shouldn’t have come down to a last-second shot in overtime when their teams met in the consolation bracket of the Bank of the Ozarks John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational Tournament on Thursday.
Mistakes were made, you see; by all three teams on the court.
With under 20 seconds left in the extra period, the Zebras had the ball and a 55-54 lead. But Bryant’s Kevin Hunt made a steal and the Hornets worked the ball up the court and tried to get an open look. With a pump fake, Hunt dribbled past his defender and went up for a 12-foot jumper from the left wing. Another Pine Bluff defender stepped out on him and appeared to hack him on the wrist as he launched his shot.
The ball hit off the rim no good and Hunt hit the floor.
Much to the surprise and chagrin of Abrahamson and the Hornets, there was no foul called and the Zebras celebrated a one-point win.
A similar no-call came at the end of regulation when, moments after Jalan Pulliam followed up after having his initial shot blocked by Bryant’s Antavious Lewis and scoring with :20.7 on the clock, the Hornets held for the last shot with it tied at 44. Hunt got a lane to the basket with time running out but was stripped of the ball as he was going up. Not only was there no foul, the officials ruled the ball went out of bounds off of Hunt with :01.9 left.
But, after leading almost the entire first half, Bryant had chances to put the game away at the free throw line. Though they were 6 of 8 in the final period, both misses came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities inside the final two minutes when they were trying to extend the lead to make it a two-possession game.
After a missed with 1:41 left and the Hornets up 42-39, Pine Bluff Marcus Thomas, who scored 35 of his team’s 55 points, drained his fourth 3-point of the contest to tie it at 42 with 1:30 to go.
Two free throws by Hunt put Bryant back up by a pair. After a Pine Bluff timeout, the Hornets double-teamed Thomas who slipped and fell with :59.5 left. As the Zebra fans were complaining that foul should’ve been called, the Hornets went the other way and Hunt got to the foul line again with a one-and-one at :34.4 left. With a chance to make it a 4-point lead, Hunt’s first shot rimmed out leading to Pulliam’s tying bucket and the no-call that put it into overtime.
Thomas came up with a three-point play off the OT tap and Isiah Solomon scored inside as the Zebras grabbed a 5-point lead early in the extra period. The Zebras got a chance to make it 7 but Pulliam misfired. Bryant’s Romen Martin drove to the other end, scored and was fouled. Though he missed his free throw, Hunt hustled to get the rebound and was fouled with 2:32 to go. This time, he converted both shots, cutting the margin to 49-48.
At the other end, however, Pine Bluff’s C.J. Smith was fouled. He went to the line and obliged the Hornets by missing both free throws. But somehow Thomas got the rebound and scored to make it a 3-point game again.
The Hornets looked like they were in real trouble when they turned it over and Pulliam scored on a base-line drive with 1:20 left. But Hunt canned a 3 to make it 53-51. (And he was knocked down on that play as well.)
After a Bryant timeout, the Zebras held the ball until Marquis Smith was fouled with :30.4 on the clock. Though he hadn’t scored in the game to that point, Smith drained both ends of the one-and-one opportunity giving his team a 55-51 advantage.
But the Hornets ran a play to get Martin a look from the corner and the sophomore nailed his fourth triple of the game to make it a one-point contest.
The Hornets called a timeout with :20.7 to go, setting up Hunt’s steal, which produced the last-second shot.
Hunt and Martin each finished with 17 points. The Hornets got a lift from sophomore point guard Calvin Allen who scored a season-high 10 points.
Thomas drilled three of his 3-pointers in the first quarter and scored 12 of his team’s 14 points. The Zebras led 14-7 before Lowell Washington beat the buzzer for Bryant to trim the margin to 5.
Pine Bluff retained the upper hand most of the quarter. It was 19-13 with 3:23 left in the half — Thomas had 17 of that — when Hunt drove for a basket then blocked a shot at the other end. Allen cashed that in with a 12-foot jumper and, moments later, Hunt hit a driving jumper to tie it at 19. C.J. Smith scored inside to snap the tie but Allen drove to the rack with :08 left to tie it up again at 21.
Bryant never trailed again until the overtime. The game was tied at 23 but when Hunt snapped that tie with a 15-footer and Allen followed with a jumper off a drive, the Hornets had the lead.
After Thomas converted a pair of free throws, Hunt drove for a basket and Allen dropped a pair from the stripe and it was a 6-point margin. Again Thomas scored to keep his team alive. Wesley Peters delivered two free throws to counter that hoop. C.J. Smith scored but Martin trumped his basket with a 3 and Bryant had a 36-29 edge.
Thomas scored off the offensive glass but Bryant’s Marvin Moody drove for a basket. When Pulliam hit with :38 left, it made the score 38-33 going into the fourth quarter.
The Hornets maintained an advantage until Thomas’ 3 tied it with 1:30 left.
Bryant finishes up the tournament against North Pulaski on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. They then wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule at home against Watson Chapel on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
ZEBRAS 55, HORNETS 54, OT
Score by quarters
BRYANT 9 12 17 6 10 — 54
Pine Bluff 14 7 12 11 11 — 55
Martin 6-13 1-3 17, Allen 4-8 2-3 10, Lewis 0-1 2-2 2, Hunt 6-16 4-6 17, Moody 1-2 0-0 2, Peters 0-0 4-4 4, Washington 1-1 0-0 2, McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-41 (44%) 13-18 (72%) 54.
Thomas 11-18 9-10 35, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, C.Smith 4-7 0-4 8, Pulliam 4-11 0-0 8, M.Smith 0-4 2-2 2, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, Dilworth 0-2 0-0 0, Tate 0-0 0-0 0, Parker 1-1 0-1 2, Crutchfield 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-45 (44%) 11-17 (65%) 55.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-15 (Martin 4-10, Hunt 1-4, Allen 0-1), Pine Bluff 4-12 (Thomas 4-6, C.Smith 0-2, Dilworth 0-2, M.Smith 0-1, Parker 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Pine Bluff 12. Rebounds: Bryant 8-16 24 (Lewis 2-3 5, Allen 0-4 4, Martin 2-1 3, Hunt 2-1 3, Moody 1-2 3, Peters 1-0 1, Washington 0-1 1, team 0-4 4), Pine Bluff 11-18 29 (Pulliam 4-6 10, C.Smith 2-5 7, Thomas 1-3 4, Williams 2-1 3, M.Smith 0-1 1, Tate 1-0 1, Parker 0-1 1, Solomon 0-1 1, team 1-0 1). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Pine Bluff 17.