In a dramatic comeback, the Bryant White Hornets earned their 11th win in a row on Thursday night. Trailing 45-40 with :35.8 left in the game, the Hornets pulled out a 47-45 victory over North Little Rock at the Bryant Junior High gym.
“I’m proud of the way these guys have fought,” said Hornets coach Richard Wrightner, whose team improved to 15-1 win the win. “They’ve faced adversity and tough games several times this year. Nobody panicked, they closed the game out well.”
The Hornets were inbounding the ball under their own goal with :35.8 left. Cedric Jones, who led the team with 19 points, misfired but Dylan Holman rebounded and was fouled on the follow shot.
“He was fouled by one of the North Little Rock’s best defenders, which fouled him out,” Wrightner recalled.
Holman hit his first free throw but missed the second. There was a held ball on the rebound and North Little Rock was awarded possession with :29.2 on the clock.
Trying to force a turnover with full-court pressure, but Holman fouled. He fouled out with 3 points. The result was a one-and-one free-throw opportunity for the Charging Wildcats. But they missed the front end. Jones gathered the rebound and was fouled as North Little Rock lost another player.
“He was North Little Rock’s leading scorer and best player,” Wrightner said.
With :21.4 left, Jones connected on both free throws to cut the lead to 45-43.
North Little Rock had trouble inbounding the ball against the Hornets’ press and had to use its final timeout to avoid a five-second violation and turnover.
When play resumed, the Wildcats got the ball in.
“Chris Johnson jumped the pass and fought for the ball,” Wrightner said.
The result was another tie-up. This time, possession went to Bryant with :19.8 to go. The Hornets inbounded the ball and Jones got a shot but missed only to have teammate Tristan Knox grab the carom. He kicked it outside to Elem Shelby who nailed what would prove to be the game-winning 3 as the Hornets took a 46-45 lead.
North Little Rock, with no timeouts left, inbounded the ball but Jones made a steal and was fouled with :05.8 on the clock. He made the first free throw but missed the second.
“It was a great heads-up play by Cedric,” said Wrightner.
North Little Rock managed a desperation shot at the buzzer. The ball banged off the backboard and the Hornets had the victory.
“Cedric Jones played well for us offensively,” Wrightner said. “And we can’t forget about plays that may seem small but are huge like Chris Johnson knowing that we would get the next jump ball, and going all out to get tied up and winning the jump ball late, the big rebound and kickout from Tristen Knox was huge, and Elem’s big-time shot. Cedric’s steal at the end and made free throw was the dagger.”
Shelby finished with 9 points. Knox had 7 and Johnson 6.
Bryant White led the game 14-13 after a quarter. It was 21-17 at the half and 29-27 going into the fourth quarter before North Little Rock surged into the lead.
“We knew North Little Rock was going to come and play hard,” said Wrightner. “They wanted revenge from last week.”
Bryant White had won at North Little Rock on Thursday, Jan. 28, 49-44.
“I think they played harder than we did in the first half,” continued the coach. “They fought for the loose balls. We didn’t. They played aggressive. We didn’t. We didn’t take advantage of the little things.
“We had to find some energy somewhere,” he added. “Darrell Moore and Nick Baker stepped in big for us with their energy off the bench. They played very aggressive and very tough, and matched North Little Rock’s aggressive play. We made some adjustments late that helped us as well.”
Bryant White will return to action on Monday, Feb. 8, against the Benton Panthers. The game will be in the main gym starting at 5 p.m. It will be followed by the freshman contest.