For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here; photos also courtesy of Paul Dotson
One more free throw, one layup that was missed, a tip-in — any of these things at the right time would’ve provided the Bryant Hornets with an upset win over the number one team in the state Tuesday night at Hornet Arena.
As it was, Bryant took the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats to double overtime before absorbing a 77-72 loss.
The Cats stayed unbeaten in the 6A-Central Conference, improving to 15-3 overall this season while the Hornets fell to 11-8 and 3-3.
The Hornets were coming off a deeply disappointing loss at Cabot on Friday in a game they led from the outset.
That was just part of a heavy dose of adversity the team has faced this season. But as a wild old coach once said, “Every team is going to have adversity along the way. It’s all in how you handle it.”
And, in that regard, the Hornets responded well.
Now if they could’ve just hit more than just 22 of their 44 free-throw attempts, the Hornets would’ve likely pulled the upset. They missed four in the second quarter, three in the third quarter, six in the fourth quarter then went 7 of 11 in the two overtime periods.
North Little Rock finished 23 of 31 at the line. The Cats converted 9 of 11 in the second overtime.
Bryant had chances to win in regulation and after the first overtime.
“That’s the frustrating thing,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “Our kids played so hard and I’m so proud of their effort — we’ve had more adversity this year than people think — but, if we make some free throws . . .
“That’s the story of why the final score was the final score,” he asserted. “It was two teams really competing, but the free-throw differential is what got us. If we make free throws, it’s not a double overtime game. But we didn’t and we will address it. As our athletic director Coach (Mike) Lee said, ‘We’re going to keep pounding the rock.’”
North Little Rock’s quality depth helped out, particularly with three of the Cats fouling out including 6-10 sophomore Kelel Ware who was held to 13 points and seven rebounds. But Hornet nemesis Spencer Simes scored 18 points and collected 10 rebounds. D.J. Smith added 13 and Tracey Steele had 10 to go with 10 from Bryson Warren.
Meanwhile, Hornets’ senior Treylon Payne pumped in 30 points to go with 18 rebounds. Aidan Adams added 12 off the bench and Khasen Robinson hit for 11 points.
North Little Rock dominated early. Bryant led 6-4 then the Cats went on a 17-0 run. Finally, Payne hit his second 3 of the quarter, sparking a Hornet rally. After Simes scored, Robinson was credited for a basket on a goal-tending call against Ware. Adams’ first triple had the lead under 10.
Warren scored for North Little Rock but in the final 1:30, the Hornets went on an 8-0 run. Adams had a layup then Payne drove to the basket as Bryant took it right at Ware. Two free throws by Robinson and a short jumper by Landyn Newburn finished off the surge that allowed the Hornets to whittle that 21-6 deficit to 25-22.
“In the first quarter, they were just basically shoving it down our throat,” acknowledged Abrahamson. “We weren’t stopping the ball in transition. We weren’t stopping their drives. They were able to get deep into the lane, which is problematic.
“Our guys did a much better job after that of stopping that,” he said. “I was really proud of our guys’ response. They played extremely hard tonight. They gave Bryant High School everything they had. I’m extremely proud of that.”
The Hornets pulled ahead midway through the second quarter. Trailing 27-24, Bryant had Adams at the line shooting two free throws. Though he missed both shots, Devin Pitts rebounded and fed Robinson for a layup. Both teams missed opportunities to change the score before, with 3:48 left in the half, Robinson drove for another layup to put them on top 28-27.
Payne followed with a three-point play.
Though they missed chances at the line to extend the lead further, they were able to lead 35-30 at the intermission as Robinson punctuated the comeback with a 3.
The Cats started the second half strong as well but, thanks to Payne’s two buckets, the Hornets still led 39-38 at the 5:42 mark.
Smith put the Wildcats back on top.
After a North Little Rock timeout, Adams bombed in a 3 to put the Hornets ahead again. Though they missed some free throws along the way, they were able to hold a 48-44 lead going into the fourth quarter. And offensive-rebound basket by Catrell Wallace despite being fouled set the score.
Free throws by Steele and a basket by Simes tied the game at 48. Over the next minute, however, the Hornets went converted one free throw out of a possible six. Each visit to the stripe was the front end of a one-and-one.
Ware hit a free throw to snap the tie but two free throws by Payne put the Hornets back on top. Jenkins drove for a layup and it was 53-50 in Bryant’s favor.
Smith cut in with a pair of free throws but when Adams connected from distance for the third time then Robinson and Payne combined to force a turnover, an offensive-rebound basket by Pitts had the Hornets ahead 58-52 with 2:30 left to play.
The Hornets maintained the edge until Simes’ running jumper with :39 left tied it at 61. Bryant missed three of four free throws in the final 1:30, leaving the door open for the Cats.
Going for the last shot, the Hornets got looks for A.J. Jenkins and Payne only to miss.
In the first OT, all of the Hornets points came from the free-throw line. They were 6 of 8. The game was tied at 65 then again at 67 when Payne converted a pair of free throws. The second of those was a gift. Payne had missed his second shot but one of the North Little Rock players stepped into the lane too early. Given the second chance, Payne knocked down the free throw to tie it at 67.
Simes had a shot to win it but Wallace blocked it.
Wallace scored the first basket of the second overtime but the long parade to the free throw line followed. North Little Rock was able to build up a lead of 77-69 while shutting out the Hornets. Payne hit a free throw with :18.4 left and, later, drove for a basket.
But it was too little too late as the Cats held on for the win.
The Hornets will try to get back on track this Friday when they travel to Conway.
CHARGING WILDCATS 77, HORNETS 72, 2OTs
Score by quarters
No. Little Rock 25 5 14 17 6 11 — 77
BRYANT 22 13 13 13 6 5 — 72
CHARGING WILDCATS (15-3, 6-0) 77
Smith 4-11 4-5 13, Steele 3-10 4-6 10, Warren 3-7 2-4 10, Simes 7-17 4-4 18, Ware 4-10 5-6 13, Sheppard 1-3 2-2 4, Collier 1-4 0-0 3, Wade 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan 2-6 2-4 6, Etim 0-0 0-0 0, Frazier 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-69 (36%) 23-31 (76%) 77.
HORNETS (11-8, 3-3) 72
Payne 7-20 14-21 30, Jenkins 2-6 1-2 5, Robinson 3-9 4-9 11, Montgomery 1-2 0-0 2, Diggins 0-4 0-0 0, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 4-7 1-4 12, Pitts 2-3 1-4 5, L.Newburn 1-2 0-0 2, Wallace 2-3 1-4 5. Totals 22-46 (48%) 22-44 (50%) 72.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-20 (Adams 3-6, Payne 2-7, Robinson 1-5, Jenkins 0-1, Montgomery 0-1), North Little Rock 4-17 (Warren 2-4, Smith 1-4, Collier 1-3, Jordan 0-3, Steele 0-1, Simes 0-1, Sheppard 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, North Little Rock 12. Rebounds: Bryant 14-29 43 (Payne 7-11 18, Pittes 2-4 6, Wallace 1-4 5, Adams 0-5 5, Robinson 1-1 2, Montgomery 0-1 1, Diggins 1-0 1, Schroeder 0-1 1, L.Newburn 1-0 1, team 1-2 3), North Little Rock 25-33 58 (Simes 6-4 10, Ware 2-5 7, Sheppard 1-6 7, Warren 0-6 6, Smith 2-2 4, Steele 3-0 3, Wade 0-1 1, Jordan 0-1 1, Frazier 0-1 1, team 2-0 2). Team fouls: Bryant 22, North Little Rock 28. Fouled out: Bryant, Wallace; North Little Rock, Steele, Sheppard, Ware.