Defense keys Bryant win
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
By ROB PATRICK
SHERIDAN — Mark Smith had mixed feelings about his first win as a high school basketball coach. His Bryant Hornets topped the rival Sheridan Yellowjackets on the road, 50-42, in their 2002-03 season opener on Thursday, Nov. 21.
“You want to win them all, you try to win them all, but you also hope that your team executes throughout the game and plays according to the game plan,” Smith said, afterwards. “We got off our game plan.
“I’m really proud of the way we played, as far as playing hard,” he added. “We just didn’t play very smart though and that’s somewhat of a letdown. That’s what we, as a coaching staff, preach to them. A win’s good, but there’s definitely room for improvement.”
Smart play, you see, will be a prime point of emphasis for the Hornets this season, particularly when they get into conference action in January. There will be little room for error for Bryant against some of the best, most talented teams in the state. The AAAAA-Central annually produces not just one or two but sometimes six or seven of the best teams in the state.
“We played real well in spurts,” Smith allowed. “At the first of the first half, I thought we played really, really well then we just didn’t execute against their zone the way we were supposed to.
“I kind of thought Sheridan would come out really up, really high and play real hard for a few minutes then have a letdown,” he added. “But really it was the opposite.”
Indeed, it was the Hornets that set the tone early despite the fact that Sheridan already had a game under its belt (a lopsided win at Central Arkansas Christian earlier in the week) and was playing its home opener. Seniors Benny Elder and Jaston Carter, who combined for 33 points in the game, accounted for the team’s first 13 as the Hornets built a six-point edge.
A 3-pointer by Sheridan Troy Campbell with 3:12 left in the opening period cut the margin in half but that was the last the Jackets scored in the quarter. Senior B.J. Wood flushed an answering trey for Bryant and before the end of the period, Carter and Elder each added to their totals to give the Hornets a 20-10 advantage after the first eight minutes.
“We came out and played real well, got some shots, Jaston started doing real well,” noted Smith. “Then, we kind of hit a lapse there where we weren’t running any of our plays, plays that we go over day after day after day.
“When Sheridan went zone, a good call by Coach (Randy) Gatling, that kind of got us,” he added. “We went for awhile without scoring. Luckily, they weren’t any more effective on offense than we were or it would’ve been a different ballgame.”
Bryant led 24-13 when Gatling made the switch with 6:19 left in the half. The Hornets were limited to one free throw by Elder the rest of the quarter. Sheridan, however, still trailed at the half. After hitting just 3 of 8 free throws during that stretch, in fact, the Jackets needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Phillip Monk to pull to within 25-22.
Carter got the Hornets revved up again in the second half with a 3-pointer and the team’s defense continued to be tough against the cold-shooting Yellowjackets. Sheridan didn’t score in the third quarter until it was more than halfway over. The Hornets had built the lead back up to 10 before Sheridan’s Nick Baker scored inside to end the dryspell.
Two free throws by Monk cut the lead to 32-26 but Nick Dorsey drilled a 3 for Bryant. A free throw by Lance Clary and a layup by Simon Romine trimmed the advantage to six again in the final minute of the quarter, however, and Bryant led 35-29.
But Wood fed Geoff Tucker for a layup inside to start the fourth quarter for Bryant. Drew Devasher followed with a steal that led to a layup by Carter and the margin was 10 again.
Sheridan would never get it back down to six the rest of the way.
It was 39-32 when Devasher drove for a basket, Monk missed and Elder scored to give Bryant its largest lead at 43-32 with 4:05 to go.
“We held the ball late in the game, hoping that it would draw (Sheridan) out into man and it did,” noted Smith. “We went to our offense and we didn’t run it at all. It just had no similarity to our offense but, luckily, our defense held up.”
Sheridan was just 2-of-11 from the field including 0-for-5 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. The Jackets hit 9-of-13 from the line to keep within striking distance.
Defensively, Sheridan was forced to extend its defense and even though the Hornets didn’t execute their offense as Smith might’ve hoped — they committed seven of their 15 turnovers in the final period — they hit 6-of-8 from the field and 3-of-3 at the line to hold on.