It was a long dang day for the Bryant High School basketball teams, coaches and those who followed them towards Siloam Springs in the extreme northwest corner of the state where they were scheduled to play 7A/6A-Central Conference games Friday night. And now, even more than before, the Hornets and Lady Hornets could probably use a lift from a big, noisy turnout for Senior Night Saturday when Conway visits Bryant.
Friday’s games at Siloam wound up being cancelled due to snow after Bryant nearly completed the trip.
The team bus left Bryant at 9:35 a.m., just hours after they’d returned for games at Russellville Thursday night. About four hours later, the teams reached Springdale where the coaches had arranged a shoot-around at Har-Ber High School, the site of 2015 Class 7A State Tournament, which begins this Wednesday. Around 30 minutes later, they went to the Western Sizzlin in Springdale for lunch.
With lunch over, they reboarded the buses to head to Siloam Springs — another 30 minutes further — as a light snow began to fall. Just past Tontitown on the way to Siloam, the snow started getting heavier. Bryant athletic director Mike Lee, following in his car, and coaches Mike Abrahamson and Brad Matthews got word that the Russellville games against Van Buren had been cancelled with snow accumulating on either side of the interstate. They decided to turn around and head home.
They paused in Fayetteville and consulted school officials. Because of the potentially treacherous nature of Interstate 49 from Fayetteville to Interstate 40 including several long bridges through the mountains, they considered getting hotel rooms for the night but the forecast for Saturday worsened. Lee talked to colleagues in Alma and Van Buren who advised them that, if they were heading back to Bryant Friday, it was imperative they get down 49 to Alma before it got dark.
With time for that nearing, Lee made the decision to hit the road home. Hornets assistant coach Steve Wilson guided the bus safely over the mountains. There were a couple of vehicles in the ditches along the way and a fender bender inside the Bobby Hopper tunnel.
The bus reached the high school at 8:45 p.m., completing a wearying trip of over 11 hours in which all but about an hour-and-15 minutes was spent riding.
The games will not be made up, in part because they have no bearing on State Tournament seedings. And there are no more playing dates available to reschedule.
The day was eerily similar to a projection made in a BryantDaily.com blog posted on Oct. 28, 2013, after it was learned that the Arkansas Activities Association had decided Bryant would be placed in a league with Siloam Springs, Alma, Van Buren and Greenwood, along with Russellville, Conway and Little Rock Catholic.
Fortunately, thanks to Lee’s timely decision and Wilson’s bus-driving skill, the worst-case scenario did not unfold.