By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
In the first half against the Ridge Road Rams of North Little Rock, the Bryant Blue Hornets[more] eighth grade team of Bethel Middle School appeared to put their opponent in an unusual position when they ran out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter and held a double-digit advantage at halftime.
The taller, athletic Rams, who trailed by as much as 14 points in the game, came out with renewed intensity in the second half and, thought it took them awhile, eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter and held on for a 44-41 win.
The Hornets had a chance at a tying 3-pointer at the end but Desmond Duckworth couldn’t get it to go as the Rams held on.
“We missed two critical one-and-ones from the free throw line late in the game,” acknowledged Bryant Blue coach Derek McGrew. “We drew up a play at the end for the game-tying 3-pointer and it rimmed out.
“I thought that we competed very well and played hard,” he noted. “They were very big and hurt us on the boards. They were also very long and athletic.”
The game concluded a splendid season for the Hornets, who finished 12-5.
“This is a very good group of basketball players,” McGrew said of his team. “They went 26-9 in two years at Bethel. I look for good things from them in the future.”
The Hornets were downright impressive in the first half against the talented Rams. With the game tied 2-2, they put together a 10-0 run starting with a basket inside by Hunter Handly. They forced a turnover and Duckworth hit a running jumper. Moments later, he canned a 3-pointer to make it 9-2.
Ridge Road missed a pair of free throws and, after taking a charge on defense, Derek Blake grabbed a loose ball in the lane, scored and was fouled. When he converted the free throw, it was 12-2.
The Rams scored before the quarter was over to cut the margin to 8. They were within 16-9 early in the second stanza when Calvin Allen popped a 3. Duckworth added a pair of free throws then, after making a steal, so did Allen.
Calvin Allen would led the Hornets with 15 points. Duckworth got 11. Blake finished with 5, Caylin Allen and Handly 4 each and Phillip Isom-Green 2.
Bryant led 23-11 at the half and when Calvin Allen drove for a basket to start the third quarter, the advantage was back to 14.
Ridge Road went on an 8-0 run to get within 6 but the Hornets answered. Duckworth drove into the lane, drew the defense and dished to Handly for a layup and, after Duckworth made a steal, Calvin Allen added a free throw to put it back to 28-19.
But before the quarter was over, the Rams came back to cut the advantage to 32-30. A stickback by Blake made it 34-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Ridge Road’s rally continued as the fourth quarter commenced. A quick 7-0 run produced the Rams’ first lead of the game.
Free throws and a driving jumper by Calvin Allen got the Hornets back on top with 3:36 left but the Ridge Road surge continued eventually producing a 44-38 lead going into the final two minutes.
The Hornets produced opportunities by forcing turnovers and holding the Rams scoreless the rest of the game (the final 2:25). But on four trips to the free-throw line they were only able to collect 3 points out of a potential of 8.
Ridge Road came up empty on two front ends in the final minute. McGrew called a timeout after the second occasion with :14.6 showing to set up the last-chance try at a 3.