For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
CABOT — There have been moments of frustration this season for the Bryant Hornets freshman team but none may have been more so than Monday night’s Central Arkansas Junior High Conference game at Cabot South.
Though they still led most of the way, the Hornets managed just one field goal in the second half as the Panthers snuck off with a 21-20 victory to sweep the season series between the two teams.
For the night, the Hornets were 7 of 30 from the field (23 percent). That meant that all three Bryant teams that played at the Cabot South gym on Monday shot less than 25 percent from the field.
In the first game, Bryant Blue’s eighth grade girls were 5 of 29 (17 percent). In the second game, the freshman Lady Hornets were 9 of 40 (23 percent).
The Hornets could not solve the Panthers’ tight 2-3 zone that packed it inside and cut off almost all penetration. Cabot South dared the Hornets to beat them from the perimeter and Bryant hit just 1 of 11 3-point tries.
Still, Bryant led 18-13 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. Ethan Hilkert had just grabbed an offensive rebound and scored for the Hornets. But that was the last Bryant field goal of the game.
Cabot South’s Kalyb Smith scored off the offensive glass at the buzzer ending the third period to make it 18-15 then, to open the fourth quarter, Rhett Thurman knocked down the Panthers’ only 3-pointer of the game, tying it at 18.
Keith Merriweather Jr., who led Bryant with 7 points, tried a 3 and missed but hustled to grab the carom. The Hornets, however, turned the ball over and Cabot South worked the clock until, with 3:31 left, Hunter Horka was fouled. He converted the second shot to give his team its first lead since it was 4-2.
Incidentally, the 3 by Smith and the free throw by Horka were the only points either of them scored in the game.
The Panthers were paced by Weston Vaught’s 11 points, which he really had to work to get as Colby Washington and Catrell Wallace took turns guarding him.
The Hornets, down by a point, looked to have an answering layup as Washington got free under the hoop but Vaught blocked his shot from behind, despite calls from Bryant coach Tyler Posey for a foul.
At the other end, Vaught drove the right side of the lane and had his shot blocked by Wallace. Horka made a steal but turned it right back over to the Hornets. Wallace got behind the Cabot defense and went high to catch a long pass. He was undercut as he came down with the ball but no foul was called.
After a timeout, the Hornets forced another Cabot turnover. Marqelle Barnes, usually clutch at the line, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 1:52 to go. A minute later, however, Barnes made a move into the lane and was fouled again. He converted twice this time and the Hornets held a 20-19 lead with :51.8 to go.
But a wild shot off a headlong drive by Cabot South’s Jackson Muse put his team back in front with :21 showing.
After a Panthers’ timeout, the Hornets worked the ball around the perimeter of the zone until Barnes saw a crease and got into the lane. Once again, he was fouled, this time with :10.8 on the clock.
And, much like most of the shots the Hornets attempted from anywhere on the night, Barnes’ free throws refused to go down.
Still, the Hornets got another chance as they forced a turnover with seventh seconds left. Again, Barnes got into the lane and was knocked to the floor. This time, however, there was no foul call and the Panthers held on for the victory.
The Hornets fell to 13-10 overall and 10-6 in conference play going into the final regular-season game at Conway White. They are set to be the No. 5 seed for the eight-team CAJHC post-season tournament at Benton, beginning Wednesday, Feb. 15. They’ll be pitted against fourth-seed Conway Blue in the opening round even though the two Conway teams could end up tied for third after Thursday. Conway White has the tiebreaker with a 40-38 win in its only game against Blue.
In fact, with a win over White and a Blue loss to North Little Rock, the Hornets could tie Blue for fourth but would be the lower seed because, in their two games this season, Blue defeated the Hornets by a wider margin than when the Hornets defeated Blue.
At Cabot South, the Hornets trailed 4-2 with 2:41 left in the first quarter then held the Panthers to 2 points the rest of the half. Though they were able to build a lead, they were unable to really put together a big surge.
Barnes hit a floating baseline jumper to tie it at 4 then Merriweather scored off a drive. Another running jumper by Barnes made it 8-4 going into the second quarter.
The second quarter was almost three minutes old before Bryant’s O.J. Newburn found the range from 3-point land — the only 3 for Bryant on the night. The only basket over the next four minutes was by Muse with :45 left in the half. But Merriweather got that back by canning an 8-footer with :12 to go, making it 13-6 at the half.
Vaught got going in the third quarter, scoring 7 points around a free throw by Wallace as the Bryant lead dwindled to 14-13. Free throws by Wallace and Merriweather kept the Hornets in front then Hilkert scored to produce the largest lead of the game for either team, 18-13, setting up the disappointing finish for the Hornets.
PANTHERS 21, HORNETS 20
Score by quarter
BRYANT 8 5 5 2 — 20
Cabot South 4 2 9 6 — 21
Rose 0-4 0-0 0, Merriweather 3-10 1-3 7, C.Washington 0-1 0-0 0, Barnes 2-3 2-5 6, Wallace 0-1 2-4 2, Newburn 1-5 0-0 3, Hilkert 1-2 0-0 2, Drennan 0-1 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, West 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 7-30 5-12 20.
Vance 0-4 0-0 0, Muse 2-5 0-2 4, Thurman 1-5 0-0 3, Vaught 5-10 1-1 11, Horka 0-1 1-2 1, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 9-26 2-5 21.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-11 (Newburn 1-5, Merriweather 0-3, Drennan 0-1, Jenkins 0-1, West 0-1), Cabot South 1-7 (Thurman 1-4, Vance 0-3). Turnovers: Bryant 8, Cabot South 17. Rebounds: Bryant 9-14 23 (Wallace 3-3 6, Merriweather 3-3 6, Rose 1-1 2, Barnes 0-2 2, Newburn 0-2 2, Hilkert 1-1 2, Drennan 0-2 2, team 1-0 1), Cabot South 5-18 23 (Vaught 0-7 7, Muse 0-4 4, Horka 1-1 2, Vance 1-0 1, Thurman 0-1 1, Smith 1-0 1, team 2-4 6). Team fouls: Bryant 11, Cabot South 12.