CABOT — Though it’s been a frustrating season for the Bryant Hornets freshman team, they gave the Cabot Red Panthers all they wanted in their Central Arkansas Junior High Conference contest Thursday night at South Junior High School.
Using a trapping defense with plenty of grit and hustle, the Hornets rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to within 3 with 1:03 to go. But Red’s Jared Vance, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, converted four clutch free throws in the final :42 as the Panthers escaped with a 43-36 win that kept them in contention for a third or fourth seed for the CAJHC post-season tournament.
Bryant was led by Tristan Calhoun’s 19 points, including 14 after intermission. Sam Chumley had 8, Luke Curtis and Brooks Ellis 4 each and Brandon Murray 1.
The Hornets trailed 34-21 going into the final minute of the third quarter but an eight-foot jumper by Calhoun started a rally. Chumley nailed a 3 with :04.8 left in the period and it was 34-26.
A tip-in by Ellis made it a 6-point game. Cabot Red’s Landon Vaught traded free throws with Curtis then the Hornets had two chances to get closer as Calhoun rebounded Curtis’ miss on his second shot. His follow refused to fall but Curtis muscled for the carom and got the ball to Brandon Hill. His shot rimmed out and Cabot Red got the board.
A driving jumper by Vance interrupted the Hornets’ frantic comeback. After two missed shots, however, Ellis made a steal that led to a bucket by Calhoun on a baseline jumper with 3:05 left.
Bryant forced a Cabot turnover and the Panthers took a timeout with 2:49 to go. When play resumed, Chumley knocked down a 15-footer from the wing and the Hornets were within 37-33.
The Panthers worked the clock before Vaught was fouled and converted a pair of free throws with 1:25 to go. After another Cabot Red timeout, Calhoun buried a triple to make it a 3-point game.
And the Hornets forced a turnover, giving themselves a chance to tie it with a 3. But a Bryant turnover with :46.4 showing undermined that effort. That led to Vance’s first two free throws, which stretched the margin to 5.
In turn, Bryant got two chances to answer. After a missed shot, they got the rebound but turned it over. With :13.4 on the clock, Vance sealed the deal with both ends of a one-and-one.
The Panthers opened the game with a 9-1 run with only a free throw by Chumley interrupting. The Hornets’ first field goal was a trey by Calhoun from deep on the left wing. Murray followed up with a steal and was fouled at the basket. He converted once to make it 9-5.
A 3-pointer for Cabot was countered by free throws from Chumley after he grabbed an offensive rebound. Vance misfired and Calhoun hit a pull-up jumper to make it 12-9 going into the second period.
The margin widened to 8 going into the final minute of the half. Curtis scored to make it 20-14 at the break.
Vaught and Vance scored the first two baskets of the third quarter and the Panthers had their first double-digit advantage. A pair of baskets by Calhoun were answered by a couple from Vance. A steal by Chumley led to a 3 for Calhoun but Vance answered and a three-point play by Noah Allgood produced the 13-point lead that Bryant nearly whittled away completely.
The Hornets will close out their season on Thursday, Feb. 19, at Conway White.