By Rob Patrick
A win over a team that came in tied for first place in the 7A-Central Conference would’ve been huge for the struggling Bryant Hornets.Playing through a four-game gauntlet of the top teams in the league, the Hornets came into their game with the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats on Tuesday, Jan. 27, on a three-game skid.
So it was another bitter pill when, after overcoming an 11-point deficit to take a lead with two minutes left in the game, they came up on the wrong end of a 55-52 final.
The Wildcats improved to 5-1 in the league, 9-8 overall with the victory. The Hornets fell to 1-5 and 7-11 going into a date at Little Rock Central on Friday, Jan. 30.[more]
Bryant just couldn’t get a shot to fall after K-Ron Lairy’s 3-pointer with 2:00 left gave them a 52-51 lead. They got a chance to extend the margin when the Wildcats’ Omar Nichols missed a shot. Head coach Mark Smith wanted his team to massage the clock some, especially in light of the fact that the Wildcats had only been cited for one team foul the entire half at that point. But Lairy, who led the team with 19 points, found a crease and drove into the lane attempting a running jumper. He was hit across the arm and shoulder as the shot was blocked but no foul call was forthcoming.
At the other end, the Wildcats got it inside to 6-8 Terry Tidwell who dropped in the last of his 24 points in the game to put his team back on top.
Bryant called a timeout with :49.2 remaining to set something up for a counter punch. Lairy got a look from 3-point range but his shot rimmed out.
The Hornets had a couple of fouls to give as well and finally got Nichols to the line with :20.5 showing. He converted twice to make it a 3-point game.
In turn, Bryant worked the ball up the court and Smith took his final timeout with :09.6 on the clock. The Hornets tried to get a good look for Tim Floyd (17 points) but North Little Rock played tight defense and neither Floyd nor Lairy could get an open look.
At the end, Floyd drove the lane, apparently hoping for an old-fashioned three-point play but he misfired and no foul call was made as the Wildcats escaped with the win.
No doubt Smith would’ve liked to have had another timeout and he normally would, as he noted, but he’d used three already to try to keep his team in the game. The first came after North Little Rock jumped out the 9-2 lead that would become 11-2. And the timeout helped. Floyd scored inside, Lairy made a steal that led to a layup for Brandon Parish and, after a Tidwell free throw, Floyd buried a 3 to make it 12-9 going into the second quarter.
The second timeout came after Tidwell scored back-to-back buckets inside and the Hornets followed up two rushed 3’s with a turnover midway through the second quarter. The Wildcats still pushed the lead to 10 before Cameron Whaley hit two free throws in the final seconds to get the Hornets within 27-19 at the half.
To start the third quarter, Floyd hit a 3 to slice the lead to 5 but North Little Rock put together an 8-2 spurt to take the lead to 11 and Smith called another timeout to try to stem the tide.Again, it helped as the Hornets worked a backdoor play for an alley-oop dunk for Floyd that fired them up. Dijon Benton got up to block a shot by Tidwell at the other end and Lairy hit a pair of free throws. When Floyd grabbed an offensive rebound and banked in a shot, the lead was back to 5.
North Little Rock pushed it back to 11 once more on a three-point play by Tidwell and a 3-pointer by Nichols but the Hornets surged again. Lairy and Benton knocked down 3’s around a Tidwell bucket. A Wildcat turnover led to a layup by Kendal Butzlaff off a nice feed from Benton, then Lairy nailed another triple.All of a sudden the Hornets were within 43-41 with 1:22 left in the quarter.
They just couldn’t get over the top however, until later. North Little Rock led 49-41 when Dontay Renuard canned a trey, Lairy hit a running jumper and, after a Tidwell free throw, Floyd flushed a 3 to tie the game at 49 with 4:15 left.
Bryant had a chance to take the lead but Benton’s shot was blocked by Tidwell and, at the other end, Nichols grabbed an offensive rebound and scored.Both teams had chances to change the 51-49 score but it didn’t happen until Lairy hit the 3 that gave the Hornets their short-lived lead.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK 55, BRYANT 52
Score by quarters
NoLittle Rock 12 15 20 9 — 55
BRYANT 9 10 22 11 — 52
NORTH LITTLE ROCK (9-8, 5-1) 55
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Nichols 2-9 2-2 2-2 4 1 7
Bryles 5-10 0-1 1-0 1 1 11
Campbell 4-5 0-0 2-3 5 0 9
Malvin 1-6 2-2 1-6 7 0 4
Tidwell 9-12 6-10 3-2 5 1 24
Drake 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Evans 0-1 0-0 1-0 1 2 0
Tyler 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Team reb. 1-1 2
Totals 21-43 10-15 11-16 27 5 55
BRYANT (7-11, 1-5) 52
Player fg-fga ft-ft reb fls pts
Lairy 6-9 2-2 0-3 3 2 19
Parish 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2
Benton 2-9 0-0 0-2 2 3 5
Floyd 7-13 0-0 1-2 3 4 17
Renuard 1-2 2-2 1-1 2 4 5
Butzlaff 1-1 0-0 1-0 1 0 2
Whaley 0-0 2-2 0-0 0 0 2
Whitfield 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Team reb. 1-2 3
Totals 18-37 6-6 4-12 16 14 52
Three-point field goals: Bryant 10-18 (Lairy 5-7, Floyd 3-5, Benton 1-3, Renuard 1-2, Parish 0-1), North Little Rock 3-8 (Nichols 1-3, Bryles 1-3, Campbell 1-1, Malvin 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, North Little Rock 11.