For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
BENTON — With just over a minute left in the third quarter, the Bryant Hornets freshman team found itself down by 15 points to the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats frosh in the semifinals of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament on Thursday night.
It looked like the regular-season champion Cats might cruise to a berth in the championship game of the league tourney.
But the Hornets, who had already lost to North Little Rock twice in the regular season, roared back. And when Marqelle Barnes canned a pull-up jumper off a drive with 1:55 to go, the North Little Rock lead was just 41-38.
The Wildcats spread the floor on offense and the Hornets jumped into traps out of their man-to-man defense. With 1:15 left, North Little Rock’s Davion Larff was fouled. It was the 10th team foul on the Hornets so he was awarded two shots. He promptly obliged the Bryant comeback by missing both shots.
But, somehow, the Cats’ Lamonte Boyd got to the rebound. He was fouled and managed to make the first shot. His second attempt came off the rim and, in a battle for the rebound, the ball was tapped outside where the Cats’ Tracy Steele flagged it down. The Hornets trapped him and, to save the possession, North Little Rock called a timeout.
When play resumed, Boyd scored. Suddenly the 3-point advantage the Wildcats had been clinging to had doubled without the Hornets gaining possession.
In turn, the Hornets missed twice with the carom from the second shot going out of bounds off North Little Rock. But the Cats’ D.J. Smith stole the ball and was fouled with :32 showing. He converted twice to make it 46-38.
After a timeout, the Hornets earned a trip to the line for Arlon Jenkins. Though his shots refused to fall, Catrell Wallace grabbed the rebound. His follow shot missed but he rebounded again and scored.
Down 46-40, the Hornets’ head coach Tyler Posey called timeout with :12.4 showing. But a pair of free throws moments later by Smith set the final score, 48-40.
North Little Rock did indeed advantage to the league tournament title game but it wasn’t easy. The Hornets went out fighting as their season concluded with the loss. They finished 14-12 overall.
Bryant tried to use the same formula that worked so well the night before in a 48-46 win over Conway Blue, attacking the basket, being aggressive. But, on the first two possessions of the game, when the Hornets tried to drive into the lane, they got tripped up and lost the ball.
North Little Rock cashed in, establishing a 6-0 lead. Darrick Rose broke the ice for the Hornets with a 10-foot jumper.
Barnes was particularly effective driving against the Cats. He got fouled and converted two free throws to make it 6-4.
But the Hornets were unable to get even before the quarter was over. Barnes made a steal and hit a free throw with :26.9 left to make it 10-8.
The Cats then put together a 20-point second quarter. The Hornets were held to just one field goal attempt in the period but they were able to get to the line and hit all eight of their free throws including six by Newburn, who would finish the game with a team-high 13 points.
After struggling at the line in the win over Conway Blue Bryant went 15 of 21 on Thursday.
Still, the Charging Wildcats built their largest lead of the game, 16-points, before the half was over. The score was 30-16 at the break.
Bryant’s comeback started with 1:01 left in the third quarter. That’s when Newburn drove for a basket. Keith Merriweather Jr. followed up with a free throw and it was 35-23 going into the fourth period.
Ethan Hilkert scored off a nice high-post feed from Wallace to open the fourth quarter. Treston Harris answered for North Little Rock but Barnes drove for a basket and Hilkert grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to get the margin under 10, 37-29, with 4:16 still to play.
Two more free throws from Newburn had the difference whittled to 6 before Steele found the range again. Hilkert answered. A free throw by Bralen Nieves made it 40-33. North Little Rock gained possession off the rebound of the missed second shot and Smith was fouled. But he missed the front end of the one-and-one, setting the stage for a dramatic three-point play by Merriweather that had the Hornets within 4, 40-36, with 2:24 to go.
After a timeout, the Hornets nearly picked up a turnover as Merriweather and Hilkert executed a solid double-team after the inbounds pass. Somehow, Boyd came out of the scrum with the ball and, with 2:12 to go, Nieves hit a free throw to make it 41-36.
That led to Barnes’ driving jumper that had the Hornets within 3.
But that was as close as they could manage.
CHARGING WILDCATS 48, HORNETS 40
Score by quarters
BRYANT 8 8 7 17 — 40
No. Little Rock 10 20 5 13 — 48
Rose 1-3 0-0 2, Merriweather 1-4 4-5 6, C.Washington 1-1 0-0 2, Barnes 3-7 3-4 9, Wallace 1-2 0-2 2, Hilkert 3-4 0-0 6, Newburn 2-3 8-8 13, Jenkins 0-0 0-2 0. Totals 12-24 15-21 40.
CHARGING WILDCATS 48
Smith 2-5 4-6 9, Steele 3-10 0-0 7, Simes 4-6 0-2 8, Boyd 5-7 1-2 12, Nieves 3-3 2-4 8, Larff 1-4 0-1 2, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Bell 0-0 0-0 0, Beavers 0-0 0-0 0, Glossen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-37 7-14 48.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-3 (Newburn 1-1, Rose 0-1, Merriweather 0-1), North Little Rock 3-11 (Steele 1-6, Smith 1-2, Boyd 1-1, Larff 0-1, Harris 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 20, North Little Rock 12. Rebounds: Bryant 10-13 23 (Wallace 3-6 9, C.Washington 0-3 3, Barnes 2-0 2, Hilkert 2-0 2, Merriweather 0-1 1, Newburn 0-1 1, Jenkins 0-1 1, team 3-1 4), North Little Rock 10-5 15 (Boyd 3-0 3, Steele 1-1, 2, Simes 2-0 2, Larff 0-2 2, Smith 0-1 1, Nieves 0-1 1, Rogers 1-0 1, Harris 1-0 1, team 2-0 2). Team fouls: Bryant 20, North Little Rock 16. Fouled out: Bryant Merriweather, Barnes.