Yellowjackets get final sting

BRYANT - If the 7A/6A conference season wasn’t already a nightmare for the 0-3 Bryant Hornets, Wednesday was. After having to postpone its Tuesday game with Sheridan due to inclement weather, Bryant rescheduled and took the floor Wednesday in hopes of ending its already disappointing conference showing.
The Sheridan Yellowjackets brought their size, speed and athleticism to the Hornets Nest and flew away victorious. Despite losing a large first half lead, the Jackets regained momentum to begin the second half and put the game away for good, winning 61-56.
“Sheridan was getting shots early,” Head Coach Mike Abrahamson. “They came out early and built a lead, and of course with their size, that is going to be a problem. We have trouble starting games and starting halfs and I have tried to tinker with things this year.”
Sheridan wasted little time getting on the board in the opening seconds of the game, going on top 2-0 after a short jumper from Dylan Morris found the bottom of the net. The Jackets opened with a 5-0 run before Bryant’s KJ Hill hit a floater to cut the lead to 5-2 still early in the first quarter.
Shooting the ball well and taking care of business on the defensive end, Sheridan jumped out to a 17-9 lead over Bryant to end the first quarter of play. But the Hornets were just getting warmed up. Already staring at a big deficit, Bryant stormed back with vengeance, tying the game up at 21-21 with 3:06 left in the first half.
Hill gave Bryant its first lead of the game with back-to-back free throws to move the score to 23-21. A long 3-pointer from Tyler Simmons had Bryant out in front by five at 26-21 with just over two minutes left in the half.
Sheridan finally got on the board once again in the second quarter, this time on a bucket from Damon Pagett to cut Bryant’s lead to 26-23.
But Bryant was hot and getting even hotter as time ticked on. With time winding down, the Hornets used multiple unanswered buckets to take a 31-25 lead into halftime. Bryant outscored the Jackets 22-8 in the second quarter alone.
While the momentum was clearly in Bryant’s favor after the first half, the second was all Sheridan. Beginning the third quarter trailing by six, Sheridan used a quick 8-0 run to start the second half and to take a 33-31 lead.
Hill tied the game up at 33-33 for Bryant moments later, but Sheridan was too hot to handle. Outscoring Bryant 16-6 in the third, the Jackets were in control with eight minutes left to battle, up 41-37.
With 4:45 left on the clock, Sheridan was still up six, 49-43, and continuing to control the ballgame on both ends of the floor. Bryant pulled within two at 49-47 at the 3:39 mark, but could not get over the deficit hump. In less than a minute, Sheridan was back up big, 57-49, after a huge two-handed dunk by John Winn to make it 57-49 late.
With time ticking away, Sheridan continued to outshoot Bryant, leading to the 61-56 beating of the Hornets.
“Sheridan is a good team and you have to give them that credit,” Abrahamson said. “When we took our lead and made our run in the first half, it was because of our pressure. Sheridan handled that in the second half to start the third quarter.
A big reason for the dominance from Sheridan was thanks in part to 10 turnovers by the Hornets. Sheridan, however, coughed the ball up 11 times but was able to convert more times than not after taking the ball from Bryant.
“We use a lot of guard play because that is what we are,” Abrahamson said. “We just don’t have the size that Sheridan has. They have a good group that has been through a lot and they are big with long arms and strong. We just don’t have big players. I thought we battled hard and if we make a couple more plays in each quarter things could have been different.”
Hill led Bryant in scoring with 19, while CJ Rainey followed with 14 in the loss. The Hornets shot just 34 percent from the field but did hit five 3-pointers on the night.
“Our plan was to let our playmakers make plays,” Abrahamson said. “Whether that be scoring or drawing defenses out and then dumping it off down low. I thought, for the most part, that we did that.”
Sheridan finished with three in double figures, led by Morris with 15. Chris Whitman added 13, followed by Austin Theiss with 10.
The loss moves the Hornets to 11-7 overall and 0-4 in conference play. Bryant hits the road to Texarkana on Friday to battle the Razorbacks in another conference contest. Texarkana will be in Benton on Thursday. Friday’s tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
“The biggest thing for us at this point is we have to stick together as a team,” Abrahamson said. “We have to hang in there and continue to get better.”