After three quarters between the Bryant Hornets and Conway Wampus Cats on Friday, one would think all excitement had left Buzz Bolding Arena before Bryant held on for a 62-59 win.
Heading into the final quarter, Conway (13-6, 4-2 7A Central) trailed, 43-28. The game looked as though the Hornets (12-7, 3-3 7A Central) were going to come away with a blowout conference win.
But quickly, things got intenser.
Wampus Cats coach Salty Longing said the team’s philosophy changed.
“I think we played with a sense of urgency and we started attacking the paint,” he said. “We had bigs open in the paint at times, and I thought we could have attacked gaps off the dribble, but we settled for too many jump shots. In the end, you have to be patient because Bryant does a great job of forcing you into jump shots. In the fourth quarter, we attacked and we had more success. You just have to come out with a sense of urgency and attack zones like that.”
Conway, indeed, attacked the paint more, taking 27 shots at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. The Cats attempted 11 shots from the line in the previous three quarters.
For the first three quarters, Longing felt the team settled, which worked to the Hornets' advantage.
“I think the shots we took in the first half were the shots they wanted us to take,” he said. “Sometimes, an open shot is not necessarily the best shot. If we use a bit more patience to see if we can get paint touches. We talked the last couple days about paint touches and post touches and we have to do a better job of getting the ball there.”
Turnovers also were a problem throughout the game.
“Some of our turnovers come from frustration of not being able to score,” Longing said. “You struggle to get the ball in the basket and then you start forcing things. You can see how that fourth quarter goes. You’re not out of the game. You may be down eight, 10 or 12 points, but stay with what you do, pound it in the paint and see what happens.”
The Wampus Cats trimmed Bryant’s 15-point lead to three points by the end of the game. However, the hole they dug themselves into was too much, as they never took the lead in the game. The three-point deficit in the final seconds was the smallest deficit Conway faced since the end of the first.
Sophomore Caleb London scored a game-high 26 points for the Wampus Cats, while juniors Kylen Milton and Terry Clardy scored 16 and 12, respectively.
Bryant sophomore Khalen Robinson led the team with 24, while senior Deron Canada socred 13.
Conway 74, Bryant 40
The Lady Cats (19-1, 6-0 7A Central) left little doubt of who would be taking home the win Friday night against the Lady Hornets (7-11, 2-4 7A Central) early in the game.
Conway jumped to an 8-2 lead over the first 2:08 of the game, prompting a Bryant timeout. By the end of the quarter, the Lady Cats had built a 16-5 lead and never looked back.
Conway eventually built a 50-27 lead by the end of the third, allowing coach Ashley Nance to send in her reserves to play much of the fourth quarter.
Lady Cat junior Asiyha Smith led all scorers with 18 points, while senior Alyssa Netherlain scored 12.
Senior Cardina Nolen and junior Reagan Roetzel scored 10.
Bryant was led by junior Kalia Walker’s 12 points.
Both Conway teams will travel Tuesday to Fort Smith to take on Northside.