Hornets knock off perennial Missouri power
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).
ROGERS — Despite one of the most impressive wins in recent school history, the Bryant Hornets were consigned to play for the consolation trophy at the annual Arvest Mountaineer Classic tournament at King Arena after the host team shot 30 free throws in a 42-36 win in a semifinal game. The Hornets, who upended the nationally renowned Vashon Wolverines of St. Louis, 45-42, in the opening round, shot just three free throws in the loss to Rogers. They bounced back, however, on Saturday to take the third-place trophy with a 57-45 win over Bentonville.
Vashon, a midwestern version of the basketball factories at DeMatha in the Washington, D.C. area, St. Raymonds of New York City, Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, Mater Dei in Los Angeles and the like, has won 11 Missouri State championships. The Wolverines broke out to a 13-2 lead to start the game with the Hornets but Bryant rallied in the second half to earn the victory.
The Hornets rallied to within 15-10 by the end of the first quarter but still trailed 30-19 at the half.
“We battled, played hard and started executing better in the second half and not giving them so many offensive rebounds,” recounted Hornets head coach Mark Smith. “They were just tenacious on the boards. We forced them into a couple of turnovers which was kind of surprising but we decided to fight fire with fire, we pressed them because they were pressing us.”
Tim Floyd, who helped get the team going in the first half with a power dunk, tied the game 41-41 with 2:06 left. Hunter Sample hit two free throws with 1:34 to go to put Bryant ahead. The Hornets were 6 of 7 from the line in the last three minutes.
The clincher came with :07 left when Knight dove on a loose ball to force a held ball that was awarded to Bryant. On the inbounds play, he was fouled and connected on his free throws to give the Hornets it’s three-point advantage.
A 3-point attempt at the buzzer failed.
Zach Lewis led the Hornets with 17 points. Sample added 8, Knight 7, Floyd 6, Dijon Benton, Taylor Masters and Brandon Cowart 2 each.
On Friday, the Hornets jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the first quarter but suffered through a long dryspell as Rogers, which lost to Little Rock Hall in the championship game, rallied to take a 14-12 halftime advantage. A reverse layup by Andrew Tilley in the final minute was the Hornets’ lone basket of the second period.
Rogers led 25-20 going into the fourth quarter then hit 15 of 19 from the line as part of their 24-of-30 total for the game down the stretch to hang on for the win. Bryant was 3 for 3 at the line in the contest.
“It was as bad as you could possibly imagine,” Smith declared. “It was unreal. We did some things wrong. We missed some easy shots, especially in the first half. We played a pretty good first quarter. We just couldn’t score in the second quarter and some of that was Rogers was playing aggressive defense and did a good job but a lot of it was ourselves. We had some unforced turnovers, some forced shots, things that prevented us from scoring.
“But, at the same time, the free-throw disparity was unbelievable,” he added. “They may have been a little more aggressive than we were but we just weren’t getting any calls. We fouled some out of frustration. A lot of our fouls were fouls. The problem was they were fouling too and it wasn’t getting called. That’s what bothers you the most.
“After all that, we still had a shot,” he concluded. “We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Hornets got within 27-25 after a 3 by Knight with 4:26 to play. Later, Cowart’s three-point play pulled Bryant within 36-34 with 1:02 left. But the Mounties hit those free throws to hold on.
Knight finished with 17 points, Benton 6, Cowart 5, Floyd 4, Lewis 2 and Tilley 2.
In the third-place game, Knight pumped in 20 points, Sample broke loose with 14 and Cowart added 10 as the Hornets never trailed. Going 13 of 24 in the first half, the Hornets built a 21-7 advantage before Bentonville rallied within 21-16 at the end of the first quarter.
Three-pointers by Knight and Benton got Bryant back on track at the start of the second period and the lead grew back to 12 late in the half. It was 37-26 at the break.
Bentonville whittled the lead to 45-41 in the fourth quarter but the Hornets went on an 8-0 run to put the game away.