Pine Bluff’s Rickey Clements takes the ball to the hoop against Bryant on Tuesday. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
So far this season, the Pine Bluff Zebras have a bad habit of letting teams climb back into games after building a substantial lead.
Tuesday night was no different as Pine Bluff held Bryant in the later going and won 64-51 at home.
Leading by as much as 16 by the end of the third quarter, Pine Bluff would watch its lead slip to just nine points with about 3:14 left in the fourth quarter.
“With young guys, you get a lead and then they think it is a picnic,” Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith said. “We have to refresh their mind and say, ‘Hey, this game is not over.’”
Pine Bluff maintained its lead thanks in part to a couple of baskets by senior Tyrone Payne and freshman John Tate late in the fourth quarter.
“That’s what I expect all these conference games to be – a battle,” Smith said. “We’ve come to battle. We ain’t taking a back seat to nobody.
“We got to show up every game and give it our best effort.”
Pine Bluff (7-5, 2-0 7A/6A South) outscored Bryant (10-5, 0-2) 15-7 in the second quarter to lead 31-19 at the half. With Sheridan’s loss and Benton’s win on Tuesday, Pine Bluff is now tied for first with Benton in the conference standings.
“I don’t think that was our best effort,” Smith said. “We got some young players who are going to make some mistakes at times when you wouldn’t want them to.
“We try to go back and learn from and try to get better for the next game.”
Pine Bluff would take a 54-45 lead with about 2:41 left in the game when Ladarius Skelton hit a pair of free throws. Tate would follow with a pair of free throws of his own to give Pine Bluff a 56-45 lead.
Tate’s offensive rebound and putback increased the Zebras’ lead to 13 points.
“Once we got them focused, we went on another run and took care of business,” Smith said. “They can look like superstars one night and turn around the next and look like they never played the game before.
“Just the nature of the beast.”
Senior Darrian Kee led Pine Bluff with 19 points and Payne scored 16.
Kee got the Zebras off to a quick start, scoring a three and a baseline jumper to give Pine Bluff an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
“He is a senior,” Smith said. “And I think if we go back through the book today, the seniors led us in scoring, rebounding and stuff.
“Them young guys can come in and they can create that spark. I want them to bring that energy.”
Smith said when he brought the younger players in the first half, they were missing that energy. But when he brought them later, they brought it and Pine Bluff went on a bit of a run.
“That’s what we need to do,” Smith said.
Pine Bluff will host Lake Hamilton on Friday night. As of deadline Tuesday, Lake Hamilton is 6-7 on the year and 0-1 in conference. The Wolves lost to Sheridan last Friday after the Yellowjackets hit a three-pointer with just a few seconds remaining.