By Rob Patrick
VAN BUREN — You better be playing some tremendous defense or hitting at least a few free throws if you’re going to stay in a game while only managing one field goal in each of the quarters that start the halves.
The Bryant Hornets found themselves in that predicament on Tuesday night at Clair Bates Arena at Van Buren High School. And, being on the road, it didn’t figure they’d be shooting a lot of free throws. But they did play some pretty good defense in the first quarter when, despite going 1 for 7 from the field, they only trailed the 12-3 Pointers 5-2.
Both teams generated a little more offense in the second quarter and thanks in large (in more ways than one) part to Hooper Vint, listed at 6-11, the Pointers led 17-13 at the half.
Bryant’s struggles returned in the third quarter but Van Buren, with the Hornets’ defense packed in to try to contend with Vint, began to knock down 3-pointers and built a lead of as much as 16.
Using a small line-up, the Hornets scrambled in the fourth quarter and more than doubled its point total but the 21-point outburst wasn’t enough as Van Buren hit 7 of 9 free throws down the stretch to hang on for a 44-38 win.[more]
The Pointers were denied the maximum win differential (10 points) for end-of-the-season tiebreakers but, after losing its 7A-Central Conference opener at Little Rock Central, they were just glad to get their first league victory.
The final margin was as close as the Hornets could get as they dropped to 7-9 overall and 0-2 in conference play going into Tuesday’s home contest with Russellville, a team they beat in a tournament earlier this season.
“We have a hard time generating offense anytime,” stated Hornets coach Ron Marvel. “I know a lot of people think that we’re playing a slow-down game but we’re not trying to slow the ball down, we just have a hard time scoring. The kids play hard, they try hard and, you know, our defense is pretty good most of the time. But every now and then our defense breaks down and the third quarter tonight, our defense broke down. With the way we finished the fourth quarter, we might’ve got back into the game if it hadn’t. But the kids played real hard and I was pleased with the effort they gave.”
The Hornets actually held Vint to 10 points in the game, 8 of those came in the first half. In the second half, he was not only limited to 2 points but just managed three field-goal attempts along with a pair of missed free throws.
Still, the Pointers led 9-2 early in the second quarter when Dontay Renuard, who’d given Bryant a 2-0 lead at the start of the game, ended a drought that was just 13 seconds short of a full quarter with a 15-foot jumper.
But Van Buren, thanks to a 3-pointer by Jessie Schoolcraft and a three-point play by 6-4 Drew White, pushed the lead to 15-4.
K-Ron Lairy, who wound up with a game-high 19 points, knocked down a 3 to spark a Bryant rally in which the Hornets reeled off a 9-0 run. Lairy hit a 12-footer then Brandon Parish contributed a pair of free throws and, after Parish and Quinton Motto combined to force a turnover, Parish fed Renuard for a layup that had the Hornets within 15-13 in the final minute of the half.
Van Buren worked a lob to Vint that he went up and guided through the hoop as Marvel and Pennington called for an offensive goal-tending violation.
But that set the halftime score.
Vint got nothing in the third quarter but the Hornets too were frustrated by Van Buren’s match-up zone and man-to-man defenses. Bryant didn’t score until Lairy hit a free throw with 3:10 left in the quarter. By then, Logan Patterson and Deven Goodwin had hit 3-pointers and the lead had ballooned to 25-13.
Patterson hit another trey and White hit a driving jumper to produce the largest lead at 30-14 before Lairy finally got Bryant’s first field goal of the second half with :25 left in the third, nailing a triple to make it a 13-point difference going into the fourth quarter.
Tyler Spoon’s 3 to start the final period had the lead back to its apex of 16 but Connor Rayburn, in off the bench for Bryant, answered. Xander Johnson hit a free throw for Van Buren to make it 34-20.
After a missed shot, the Hornets forced a Pointers turnover and, with 6:00 left, Bryant went to a smaller lineup with Lairy and Parish, the starting guards, combining with Rayburn and Reid Prescott, making just his second appearance, after returning from a knee injury after the holiday break. They joined with post player K.J. Hampton and cobbled together some production while extending the defense.
Though Vint blocked a shot inside by Hampton (one of five rejections he had in the game), Lairy was fouled moments later and converted a free throw to make it 34-21.
But Hampton fouled out with 4:35 to go as White knocked down two free throws to pump the margin back up to 15.
Bryant’s struggles continued. With 2:02 left, the Pointers still led by 15, 40-25.
But Kendall Butzlaff made a steal as the Pointers tried to get the ball to Vint and Lairy drove for a layup. Spoon, in turn, misfired on a 3 only to have Rayburn knock one down at the other end to cut the lead to 40-30.
Parish made a steal and called timeout to retain possession and, when play resumed, Prescott was fouled driving to the hoop. His free throw got the lead down to single digits with :39.9 showing.
White, however, converted a pair of free throws. Lairy trumped that, however, with another 3 that had the lead down to 8.
Goodwin converted twice at the line but Lairy hit a baseline jumper. Patterson missed the front end of a one-and-one with :11.1 showing but time ran out on the Hornets as Lairy scored off an offensive rebound just before the buzzer to set the final score.
“We didn’t plan that,” allowed Marvell of the deployment of the four guards together. “It just kind of happened out of circumstance because Coach (Jim) Pennington said he wanted to put the two (starting guards) back in. So I’m assuming he wants them to go back in for the two they came in for but wound up with those four little ones on the floor and I’ll be darned if that wasn’t the right combination just out of happenstance. I was real pleased with how they scratched and clawed and the effort they gave. We might can do something in the future with that small lineup at times. Connor and Reid both helped. I was real pleased with them.”
Rayburn finished with 8 points, all in the fourth quarter. Renuard had 6, all in the first half. Prescott hit three free throws in the fourth quarter and Parish finished with 2 points.
To go with Vint’s 10, White had 11 and Spoon 8.
VAN BUREN 44, BRYANT 38
Score by quarters
BRYANT 2 11 4 21 — 38
Van Buren 5 12 13 14 — 44
HORNETS (7-9, 0-2) 38
Player fg-fta ft-fta reb fls pts
Lairy 7-14 2-4 2-0 2 3 19
Parish 0-5 2-2 0-1 1 1 2
Hampton 0-2 0-0 2-2 4 5 0
McLaughlin 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 2 0
Renuard 3-9 0-0 0-3 3 1 6
Butzlaff 0-1 0-0 2-3 5 1 0
Motto 0-2 0-0 1-0 1 1 0
Rayburn 3-5 0-1 0-1 1 0 8
Prescott 0-0 3-4 0-1 1 0 3
Team 1-3 4
Totals 13-39 7-11 9-15 24 14 38
POINTERS (13-3, 1-1) 44
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Patterson 2-7 0-1 0-1 1 1 6
Goodwin 1-6 2-2 0-4 4 3 5
Spoon 3-5 0-0 2-4 6 1 8
White 3-6 5-5 3-4 7 2 11
Vint 4-8 2-6 1-4 5 2 10
Schoolcraft 1-1 0-0 0-2 2 1 3
Johnson 0-0 1-2 2-1 3 0 1
Team 0-2 2
Totals 14-33 10-16 8-22 30 10 44
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-12 (Lairy 3-4, Rayburn 2-2, Renuard 0-4, Parish 0-1, Motto 0-1), Van Buren 6-18 (Patterson 2-7, Spoon 2-4, Goodwin 1-5, Schoolcraft 1-1, White 0-1. Turnovers: Bryant 10, Van Buren 10.