PORTSMOUTH — For Dariyonne Bryant, and his half-dozen fellow senior Trojan teammates, the immediate — and unfortunate — heartbreak was real.
That’s because Bryant, with his game-winning three-point attempt going in and suddenly spinning back out, bent over in dejection as the final buzzer sounded.
Yes, for the athletic senior scorer — playing on Senior Night on Tuesday night and against archrival Ironton —coming oh so close but eventually falling to the Fighting Tigers for the second time in four days didn’t feel the least bit good.
The Trojans’ comeback bid from a 10-point early fourth-quarter deficit fell a single solitary shot short, as Ironton escaped Trojan Arena in the form of a 65-64 victory in an Ohio Valley Conference makeup matchup.
That’s correct, as Bryant’s bucket —and almost heroic hitter on Senior Night —turned out to twist a cruel fate for the final seven seconds.
With the Trojans trailing 65-64, and out of a timeout with 17.7 seconds left, Bryant got an absolutely great look on the wing for the go-ahead —and likely game-winning —three-point goal.
The ball broke the cylinder above the rim and appeared initially to go down, but it dramatically didn’t — and instead, somehow, spun back out.
That meant a mad scramble for a loose-ball rebound, but the Fighting Tigers came up with it —right at the horn.
At that moment, Bryant leaned over in anguish —while the now 10-8 and 8-4 Fighting Tigers, winners of four consecutive and five of their last six to put themselves into OVC championship contention this weekend — stormed off their bench in celebration.
With the one-point loss, Portsmouth fell to 9-10 —and to 5-8 in the conference, with only Coal Grove for Friday night remaining in the regular season.
From his vantage point, veteran PHS coach Gene Collins saw Bryant’s shot look good —but unfortunately for the Trojans didn’t drop through the new nets.
“That’s how I saw it as well,” said Collins.
“Gene (Collins) drew up a fade-screen three for that last-second play, and I told them (Fighting Tigers) they have to know who (Bryant) they’re going to,” said Ironton coach Chris Barnes. “We were switching everything, our kid was face-guarding him, and the ball went right over his head. He didn’t see the ball coming. It was a good call and play ran by them, we knew it was coming. Fortunately for us, it didn’t go in.”
Bryant almost completely capped off a dramatic Portsmouth rally, as the Trojans trailed 55-45 — only a minute and 40 seconds into the fourth quarter..
The Trojans, playing their fifth game in exactly seven days including at Ironton on Saturday night, trailed from the first-quarter’s conclusion on —until a Bryant layup off a steal with exactly a minute remaining.
That made it 62-60, gave the Trojans their first lead since a 17-16 edge with only 30 seconds left in the opening salvo, and gave Bryant his fifth and final field goal of the two-point variety.
It also actually started a frantic final minute, as Ironton’s Matt Sheridan swished a three-pointer off the wing with the next possession —before Bryant bagged a pair of one-and-one bonus free throws for a 64-63 Portsmouth advantage.
However, seven seconds later, PHS sophomore Devon Lattimore made a steal attempt in the Ironton backcourt — but was whistled for a personal foul against Ironton’s Landon Wilson.
Wilson, with a one-and-one of his own, went to the line and meshed two tosses —as Ironton overcame its 11-of-19 free-throw performance.
“Those were two huge free throws right there. We had a couple of opportunities to go up double digits, but we missed some free throws. Those were a nemesis again,” said Barnes. “When you’re up 10, you can miss a couple. When you’re up three, those things come back to haunt you.”
Or, in the Trojans’ case, committing a foul with a one-point lead and inside of 18 seconds —with Ironton in the bonus.
“Sometimes, we have to live and die by Devon’s defense. He gambles sometimes, and the official indicated Devon pushed him (Wilson) coming through the screen,” said Collins. “It’s a tough call, and it puts us in a situation where we have to score again.”
And Bryant — with a team-high 16 points on five twos, a second-quarter three-pointer and 3-of-4 freebies —almost did just that.
He actually spearheaded a balanced Portsmouth offensive attack —and four Trojans tallying double figures.
Lattimore landed six two-point baskets for a dozen markers, while junior Kenny Sanderlin and sophomore DeAndre Berry both added 11 points — as Berry buried three three-pointers.
In fact, his final trifecta came with with 85 seconds remaining, and for the 60-60 tie — which was the fifth and final for the game.
Tyler Duncan dialed up two first-quarter triples, and another to jump-start the fourth-quarter comeback — while Levaughn Cobb connected on one in the second.
Sanderlin on 2-of-3 in the fourth and senior Donovan Carr with splits in the middle two cantos combined for the unit’s other made free throws, as the Trojans’ 11 attempts matched the same number of Ironton makes.
Portsmouth’s nine and Ironton’s eight resulted in a parade of treys —as both clubs collected 15 two-point goals apiece.
“Everybody on their team (Trojans) can score,” said Barnes. “Portsmouth is very tough, dangerous and scary, man. We got up 10, but I knew it wasn’t over. They were never out of it. That wasn’t even a thought in my mind.”
However, who was out of his mind —at least early on —was Sheridan.
Of Ironton’s eight made threes, Sheridan splashed six on 12 tries — including five in the opening half against the PHS zone, en route to a game-high 23 points.
Sheridan shot 8-of-15 all told, and made four first-quarter treys —including his straight-on top-of-the-key buzzer-beater for the 19-17 lead.
His fifth and final three-ball of the half made it 26-20 in Ironton’s favor, and although the Trojans tied the tilt four times in the second stanza —Sheridan sent the Fighting Tigers ahead at the half.
In fact, for the final 40-plus seconds, Ironton held the ball with Sheridan manning the controls —as he stepped in, then stepped back, and drilled a fade-away deuce with three seconds remaining.
He then opened the third frame’s first possession with his final two-pointer —then knocked down arguably his biggest shot of the night, making it 63-62 and only 44 seconds to go.
That was the eighth of 10 total lead changes —as the Trojans trailed 5-0, before reeling off the next nine for their largest lead.
The final 3:40 of the first was a back-and-forth affair with five lead changes, as the final four spanned the bout’s final minute.
Ironton amounted its 55-45 advantage on Ty Perkins’ corner-pocket three-pointer —as the six-foot four-inch junior stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocked shots.
All except the scoring paced the Fighting Tigers, as Braden Schreck actually followed Sheridan with 15 points — on four field goals and 7-of-11 foul shots.
Truth be told, the Fighting Tigers took control throughout the third frame —thanks to the Trojans losing lift on their shot attempts.
Portsmouth played post-heavy Gallia Academy in another OVC affair on Monday night, leading to some tired Tuesday night legs.
“We knew coming off last night’s game, which was taxing for us, that we would have some tired legs. We subbed some guys and played some different guys, some just to see if they could give us some life on the defensive end, especially against Sheridan, because we were really struggling with him,” said Collins. “A lot of guys made some big plays and big shots for us. We battled back and I was proud of our guys’ effort when we got down 10. It looked like it was going the other way.”
And, it indeed looked like Bryant’s biggest and final shot —sure enough for a split-second —was good.
Instead, Ironton completed the season sweep —spoiling Senior Night for the Trojans’ 12th-graders.
Bryant, Carr, Dante Hamrick, Daewin Spence and Cooper Maxie —and injured Amare Johnson and Drew Roe —were all honored before the game.
The Trojans have at least two more home tilts to play —including next Tuesday night’s Division III sectional semifinal against Nelsonville-York.
Collins, in fact, believes his charges “are playing better” —but they do have to close out those close encounters.
“We’re playing better. Several of those close games we’ve lost, we’re playing better,” he said. “I feel like this group is making good strides at the right time.”
* * *
Ironton 19 17 16 13 —65
Portsmouth 17 17 10 20 — 64
IRONTON 65 (10-8, 8-4 OVC)
Landon Wilson 2 2-4 7, Matt Sheridan 9 1-3 23, Aaron Masters 1 0-0 2, Shaun Terry 0 0-0 0, Braden Schreck 4 7-11 15, Ethan White 2 0-0 4, Ty Perkins 6 1-1 14, Lincoln Barnes 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 23 11-19 65; Three-point field goals: 8 (Matt Sheridan 6, Landon Wilson and Ty Perkins 1 apiece)
PORTSMOUTH 64 (9-10, 5-8 OVC)
Daewin Spence 0 0-0 0, Dariyonne Bryant 6 3-4 16, Tyler Duncan 3 0-0 9, Kenny Sanderlin 4 2-3 11, Donovan Carr 0 2-4 2, Cooper Maxie 0 0-0 0, Levaughn Cobb 1 0-0 3, Devon Lattimore 6 0-0 12, DeAndre Berry 4 0-0 11; TOTALS 24 7-11 64; Three-point field goals: 9 (Tyler Duncan and DeAndre Berry 3 apiece, Dariyonne Bryant, Kenny Sanderlin and Levaughn Cobb 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved