For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
CABOT — The old ABC Wild World of Sports tagline: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” applied for the Bryant Hornets the last time they played at Cabot High School’s Panther Arena.
It was the 2016 Class 7A State Tournament, just a little more than a year ago now. The thrill came from an eye-catching 65-54 win over the top-ranked Fayetteville Bulldogs in the quarterfinals. The agony came on the next day when the Hornets battled the host Panthers, a battle that needed overtime to decide before Cabot escaped, 50-47, earning a bid to the State championship game, which they won over Bentonville and Malik Monk (currently a sensation for the Kentucky Wildcats).
The return on Friday night was far too reminiscent of that semifinal game last season. It went overtime again and, once more, the Panthers came out on top, 61-53. The victory avenged Bryant’s 50-40 win over Cabot earlier this season.
Going into the game, the Hornets had an outside shot of moving up in the 7A-Central Conference standings and earning a fourth or maybe even a third seed to this year’s Class 7A State Tournament at Van Buren. With the loss, it’ll be between them and Conway for the fifth or sixth seeds. Bryant and Conway close out the regular season against each other on Friday, Feb. 24, at Conway.
The Hornets will celebrate Senior Night this Tuesday against North Little Rock, which clinched at least a share of the league championship Friday with a triple-overtime win over Fort Smith Northside. Bryant played North Little Rock down to 2 points at North Little Rock earlier this season.
With the Hornets 10-points better than Cabot in their earlier meeting, they maintained that advantage for the first half of Friday’s game. It was a scintillating half for Bryant as they built a 30-20 lead despite having three key players on the bench much of the way with two fouls.
The Panthers, with four starters back from their State title team, really looked overmatched in the first half but, in the second half, they caught fire and shot 78 percent (14 of 18) from the field. As a result, they pushed to a lead of has much as 5 down the stretch before the Hornets rallied to tie it and send it into overtime. Braylen Steen’s two clutch free throws with :22.7 left in regulation drew the Hornets even at 53.
In overtime, both teams missed chances to score until Cabot point guard Bobby Joe Duncan, on his third 3-point try of the extra period, finally nailed one to give his team the lead with 1:53 left.
The Hornets, as it turned out, were held scoreless in overtime.
“It’s easy to get hot when you shoot layup after layup,” said Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson, regarding Cabot’s second half.
“They know what to do,” he said of his team. “It was the moment, the environment. Unfortunately, that was it. The moment became too big for us.
“We stopped doing what we work on in practice,” the coach continued. “We stopped executing our plan. We stopped executing what we train ourselves to do. As a result, they come back and win. We don’t score in overtime. I call something. We don’t execute it.”
Even though Bryant was just 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter and Cabot hit 7 of 8 shots, the Panthers were just barely able to gain the upper hand. Their first lead of the game didn’t occur until 6-8 Matt Stanley hit a jump hook with 1:48 left in the quarter to make it 36-35.
Bryant’s last lead came when Lowell Washington opened the fourth quarter with a basket off a feed from Romen Martin. The Hornets forced a Cabot turnover to get a chance to extend the margin but they turned it back over without getting a shot.
Stanley, who was held to just 6 points at Bryant, wound up with a game-high 24 points, 10 in the fourth quarter. His three-point play with 5:54 left in regulation gave the Panthers the lead.
Jarrod Barnes drove for a layup to make it a 4-point edge. Martin, however buried a 3 to cut it to 1.
Stanley and Washington traded baskets then Logan Gilbertson and Washington did as well. A free throw by Gilbertson then a three-point play from Stanley had the Panthers in position to gain some separation. They got it to 51-46 but Calvin Allen knocked down a 3 for Bryant to keep it close.
After a Bryant timeout, Gilbertson hit another layup. With :41.2 left, Stanley was fouled. It turned out to be the fifth for Martin who left having scored 11 points.
Stanley, however, missed the front end of the one-and-one and, with :30 to go, Steen scored on an offensive-rebound bucket to cut it to 53-51.
After another timeout by Bryant, Allen and Steen combined on a steal. With :22.7 left, Steen converted the tying points from the charity stripe.
Cabot had a chance to win it but the Hornets denied them and the game went into overtime.
“The last stop, they really executed,” Abrahamson said. “For a whole half and then overtime when you don’t execute hardly at all to then have a last stand like that was really good.
“And I don’t understand why they’ll stick to it in some moments and why they won’t in other moments,” he pondered. “I don’t understand but I know we’ve got one-and-a-half weeks to get it fixed. And it seems like we need more time than that so we’re going to have to kick it into overdrive here.”
Overdrive was exactly where the Hornets seemed to be in the first half. Martin came out and popped back-to-back 3-pointers. Cabot eventually cut the Bryant lead to 13-12 but, at the buzzer, Allen hit a base-line jumper to extend the advantage.
Washington, who led Bryant with 13 points in the game, got free for the first basket of the second stanza. After Gilbertson’s three-point play made it 17-15, the Hornets went on an 11-3 run to extend the lead to 28-18. Washington’s 3 started the surge. Rodney Lambert drove for a layup then Sam Chumley drained a 3 to make it 25-15.
Jared Vance and Kaleb Turner traded 3’s. Stanley scored and, off a Bryant turnover, it appeared Barnes had a layup that would’ve cut the margin to 6 but Stanley came in behind and grabbed the rim trying to a follow dunk. But the ball stayed in the cylinder off Barnes’ shot and goal-tending was called to keep it 28-20.
And when Christian McIntosh was fouled with :00.6 left and made both shots, Bryant had a 20-10 lead.
But the Panthers came out in the second half and scored the first 6 points on three layups to start the comeback that, nonetheless, didn’t catch the Hornets until the end of the quarter.
PANTHERS 61, HORNETS 53
Score by quarters
BRYANT 15 15 5 18 0 — 53
Cabot 12 8 16 17 8 — 61
HORNETS (16-9, 5-7) 53
Martin 3-9 2-2 11, Turner 1-4 1-2 4, Allen 3-11 3-4 10, Steen 2-7 4-4 8, Washington 6-11 0-0 13, Cowart 0-0 0-0 0, Moody 0-0 0-0 0, Chumley 1-7 0-0 3, Lambert 1-2 0-0 2, Canada 0-0 0-0 0, McIntosh 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 17-51 12-14 53.
PANTHERS (19-4, 9-3) 61
Duncan 2-8 0-0 5, Barnes 2-3 3-3 7, Brown 4-8 0-1 10, Gilbertson 5-8 2-3 12, Stanley 10-13 4-5 24, Vance 1-1 0-0 3, Weir 0-0 0-0 0, Allgood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-41 9-12 61.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 7-21 (Martin 3-8, Chumley 1-6, Turner 1-3, Allen 1-3, Washington 1-1), Cabot 4-13 (Brown 2-6, Duncan 1-4, Vance 1-1, Barnes 0-1, Gilbertson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Cabot 18. Rebounds: Bryant 12-16 28 (Steen 4-3 7, Washington 1-3 4, Martin 2-1 3, Moody 2-1 3, Canada 1-2 3, Turner 0-1 1, Cowart 0-1 1, Chumley 0-1 1, Lambert 0-1 1, team 1-2 3), Cabot 4-22 26 (Stanley 2-9 11, Duncan 0-3 3, Gilbertson 1-2 3, Vance 0-2 2, Brown 0-2 2, Barnes 0-1 1, Weir 0-1 1, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Cabot 15. Fouled out: Bryant, Martin.