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CABOT — Going into the final minutes of their Central Arkansas Junior High Conference game on Thursday night, the Bryant Hornets freshman team had been awarded just four free throws. And they’d missed all four.
Meanwhile, the home-standing Cabot North Panthers were, at that point, 2 of 15 at the line. And, after leading much of the game, they trailed just 37-35.
But Aiden Adams, who led his team with 12 points in the game, converted four free throws in that final minute to secure a 41-35 victory.
“We did not play very well,” stated Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “That’s what I call an ugly win. Sometimes, during the course of the year, you’ve just got to get stronger by winning ugly somehow.
“However I can get it, I’ll take it all day long,” he asserted.
Coming in off an emotional 44-40 win over the rival Benton Panthers and taking on a Cabot North team with just one win in league play in nine games including a 41-29 loss at Bryant back in November, the Hornets struggled to ignite any intensity in the game despite pressing the Panthers full-court.
Though they still led most of the first half, by the 1:55 mark of the third quarter, the Hornets trailed the hustling Panthers, 25-18.
“We just needed to play harder,” Posey related. “The first half, we just came out flat and not playing very hard; just kind of expecting to take care of business, it seemed like, without playing to our speed and our tempo. And it showed when we attacked. They just seemed to be a step faster than we were tonight.”
But inside the final two minutes of the third, the Hornets revved it up, sparked by point guard Jalen Montgomery’s drive to the rack where he scored as he was being fouled. Though he couldn’t get the free-throw to go, teammate Austin Ledbetter followed up with a steal and a layup as he was fouled.
The fourth Bryant free throw of the game to that point rimmed out but Montgomery made a theft and, though he missed, teammate Myles Aldridge was there for a nice offensive-rebound basket, trimming the lead to 25-24.
Hunter Smith, who led the Panthers with 12 points, drove for a layup in the final minute to preserve Cabot North’s lead at least for a little bit longer.
The Hornets opened the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run. Braden Godwin popped a 12-footer off a short drive. After a Panther miss, Aldridge scored inside. Montgomery made yet another steal but Adams missed on a 3-point try. In turn, Cabot North couldn’t get a 3 to go and, moments later, Bryant’s Ryan Riggs drained a triple to make it 31-27.
Smith, who was 1 of 9 from the line, missed two with 3:51 left to play and, after a timeout, Austin Schroeder drove up the baseline and canned a pull-up pop.
Suddenly, the Hornets had a 33-27 lead.
But the Panthers weren’t going away with just under three minutes to play. Smith drilled a 3 to cut the margin in half. Ledbetter drove for a basket only to have Cabot North respond.
With 1:40 remaining, Smith went to the line for two shots after a hard charge at the basket. Again, however, he couldn’t connect.
At 1:14 left, another pair of free throws for the Panthers produced one point to make it 35-33, still one possession.
With Cabot North in a press, Montgomery beat it and drove to the basket for a deuce only to have the Panthers answer again to cut it to 37-35 with under a minute to go.
The Hornets spread the floor and Adams got fouled with :49.3 to go. He connected twice and, after a Panther timeout and turnover, Adams was fouled again and drained both shots to set the final score.
Along with Adams’ 12, Ledbetter finished with 10 for the Hornets. Montgomery and Aldridge had 6 each.
“Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, we started getting it going and we carried that momentum,” Posey said. “We made a little run to get the lead then hit the big free throws there at the end.”
The Hornets led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter, with a 2-point basket by Adams, a driving jumper by Montgomery and a last-second 3 for Adams.
The Panthers surged to a 10-7 lead before the Hornets could score again. Ledbetter’s trey tied the game with 3:25 left in the half. Ledbetter made a steal but Schroeder’s shot just wouldn’t go down.
Smith, however, came up empty on two free throws and Adams canned a 3 to give the edge back to Bryant. Cabot North surged to a 14-13 lead then, in the final seconds, the Hornets inbounded under their own basket. Aldridge took the pass and scored it before hitting the ground. And it was 15-14 Bryant at intermission.
Cabot North came out with some inspired ball to start the third quarter. The result was the 11-0 run that had them up 7 before Montgomery sparked the Hornet surge.
The Hornets improved to 11-6 overall and 5-5 in the conference with the victory. They’ll return to action at Lake Hamilton on Thursday, Jan. 18.
HORNETS 41, PANTHERS 35
Score by quarters
BRYANT 7 8 9 17 — 41
Cabot North 3 11 13 8 — 35
Montgomery 3-7 0-1 6, Riggs 1-4 0-2 3, Adams 3-8 4-4 12, Schrader 0-0 0-0 0, Brunson 0-2 0-0 0, Schroeder 1-3 0-0 2, Ledbetter 4-4 0-1 10, Aldridge 3-4 0-0 6, Godwin 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-34 (47%) 4-8 (50%) 41.
Chisolm 4-10 0-0 8, Organ 2-5 0-2 5, Smith 5-9 1-9 12, Tonnessen 2-4 0-0 5, Owen 1-3 0-1 2, Hutcherson 0-0 1-2 1, Finley 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 15-30 (50%) 2-15 (13%) 35.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-10 (Adams 2-5, Ledbetter 2-2, Riggs 1-2, Schroeder 0-1), Cabot North 3-11 (Organ 1-3, Tonnessen 1-2, Smith 1-1, Chisolm 0-3, Owen 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Cabot North 11. Rebounds: Bryant 7-16 23 (Ledbetter 0-5 5, Aldridge 2-2 4, Schroeder 0-3 3, Riggs 1-2 3, Adams 1-1 2, Schrader 2-0 2, Montgomery 0-1 1, Brunson 0-1 1, team 1-1 2), Cabot North 5-15 (Chisolm 2-4 6, Smith 1-2 3, Tonnessen 0-3 3, Organ 0-2 2, Finley 2-0 2, Owen 0-1 1, team 0-3 3). Team fouls: Bryant 14, Cabot North 12.