Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Rebounding dooms Bears in double OT

Leader sports editor

Sylvan Hills had several chances to put Little Rock Christian Academy away on Friday, and after two overtimes, wished they had capitalized on one of them. Instead, the Warriors hit shots at the buzzer to force one, and the a second overtime, and went on to a 60-58 victory over the Bears in Sherwood.

“This game comes down to rebounding,” said Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis. “It’s something I preached all week. That’s why you saw a smaller lineup tonight. The guys that crash the boards in practice got to play. But we didn’t bring it to the game at crucial times.”

Indeed, both of LRCA’s game-tying buzzer beaters came after offensive rebounds, and the Warriors won the rebounding battle 31-23 despite Sylvan Hills getting the last five redounds of the game, including four on the offensive end.

“If we just turn and get a body on someone and block out either time, this game is over,” Davis said. “But we just sort of became spectators and they kept playing to the buzzer. And we were in, man, so it’s not like there’s any reason we couldn’t find a body. We were in between them and the goal when those shots went up. We just didn’t do our job. There were some other things we could have and should have done a lot better on the offensive end, but ultimately this game comes down to rebounding.”

Little Rock Christian Academy overcame a five-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter after watching the Bears end the third period on a 7-0 run.

It’s something Sylvan Hills did repeatedly, but could never put the game away. Sylvan Hills’ pressure forced the Warriors to cough the ball up 26 times in the game, including 11 steals by the Bears.

But each run was followed by a scoring drought.

Sylvan Hills fell behind early when LRCA’s Alex Croom scored the first nine points of the game for the Warriors, who jumped out to a 9-3 lead. The Bears pulled to within 13-10 by the end of the period, then held LRCA to without a field goal until the 1:50 mark of the second period, taking a 24-19 lead into halftime.

But in the third quarter, the Bears didn’t score until 2:36 remained and Ronnie Hinton’s basket tied it at 27. Christian scored right after and that’s when the Bears’ 7-0 run began. They started the fourth quarter up 34-29. It grew to 38-31 with 5:20 left, but the Warriors went on a 10-2 run and took the lead at 41-40 on a layup by Croom with 2:21 left in regulation.

Neither team scored again until Sylvan Hills point guard Cordy Winston got a steal and hit a floater with 41 seconds remaining to put the Bears up 42-41. The Bears got another steal, but just as Winston was streaking into the passing lane for what would have been an open layup, Warrior coach Austin Trembley called timeout.

It didn’t help much, Hinton stole the ball after the inbound pass and was fouled with 25 seconds remaining. He made both free throws to give the Bears a 44-41 lead.

Warrior point guard Cole Hendrixon missed a three pointer with five seconds left, but forward Graham Tate got the rebound, kicked out to Croom, who let go of his shot just before the buzzer and drained it to tie the game at 44 and send it to overtime.

LRCA got the first lead of more than two points in overtime on a Hendrixon three pointer that made it 49-46 with 1:56 left.

Amani Armond answered for the Bears with 1:11 left. Croom then missed an uncontested layup with 38 seconds remaining and Hinton gave the Bears a 50-49 lead with 26 seconds remaining.

Hinton then got another big steal and was fouled. He made 1 of 2 foul shots with 19 seconds left for a two-point Bears’ lead.

After a timeout, Croom let fly a three-pointer with eight seconds left, but Cates again got the rebound and put it back in to force the second overtime.

The Bears led 56-53 with three minutes left in the second overtime on an Armond putback, but the Warriors scored the next seven points, five by Croom. His two free throws with 1:19 were the last points the Warriors would score, and all they needed.

Winston set the final margin with 1:00 to play after a Hinton miss and a Tre West rebound.

The Bears got what they needed after Winston’s bucket. Sylvan Hills fouled Peyton White, who missed the front end of a one-and-one and Sylvan Hills’ David Johnson got the rebound with 30 seconds left.

Winston missed with 18 seconds to go. West got the rebound but his putback was off the mark. Croom got that rebound, but he put the ball on the floor and got tied up, resulting in a jump ball that gave the Bears possession again with 12 seconds remaining.

Davis called timeout to set up a play for Hinton, but his squad didn’t run the play. Instead, Winston passed to Armond, who shot a three pointer from the top of the key and missed. West got another offensive board, but his putback also missed as time expired.

“We were inbounding it under the basket, and we were supposed to get the ball to Ronnie on the baseline,” Davis said. “He was just supposed to get it up there, just get the shot up. That’s a shot I’ve seen him make 1,000 times, and even if he missed, we had Amani on the low block for that backside rebound. We just didn’t run it. I can’t tell you why.”

Another factor contributing to the loss was that the Bears had their worst outside shooting night of the season. They made just 2 of 19 three-point attempts and shot 42 percent from the floor overall. The Warrriors hit 49 percent of their shots, including 17 of 31 two-pointers. They also made 8 of 9 free throws while Sylvan Hills hit 16 of 26.

Croom led all scorers with 29 points while Hendrixon added 11 for the Warrriors. Armond led the Bears with 21 while Hinton scored 11.

The Bears traveled to Pulaski Academy on Tuesday after Leader deadlines. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.

On Friday, they will make the short trip up Jacksonville Cutoff to take on archrival North Pulaski in what has become a crucial 5A-Central Conference game for both teams.