Freshman Hornets hang on, advance to tourney title game

LITTLE ROCK — Call it a character win for the Bryant Hornets freshman team. Despite 27 turnovers and several charged by the Little Rock Central Tigers freshmen, the Hornets never surrendered a lead they created in the second quarter.

With key free throws by Demetrius Sanders and Landyn Newburn plus a basket by Robert Hendrix after the lead had been cut to 1 with just over a minute left in the game, Bryant persevered, 50-45, over Central in the semifinals of “The Intro” tournament host by Joe T. Robinson on Tuesday night.

“That was a crazy game,” acknowledged Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “We definitely struggled, turning the ball over a little bit but kind of kept scratching and clawing and found a way to win the game at the end.”

Bryant forced 21 turnovers and edged the Tigers on the boards, 32-29.

“We were really active, and we met our deflection goal,” Posey noted. “That tells me we’re doing a lot of things with our hands and being active. Meeting that goal says a lot for us.”

Now 2-0 to open the season, the Hornets advance to the tournament finals on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., against either North Little Rock or Sylvan Hills.

Gabe George led the Hornets with 17 points before fouling out with just under three minutes left in the game. Sanders added 7 and Cameron Booth 6, both off the bench. Newburn, Isaiah Kearney and Will Diggins pitched in with 5 apiece. All of Diggins’ points came in the first quarter before he went out with an ankle injury.

Cody Robinson led Central with 17 points and five rebounds before he fouled out. Robert Burnett added 8 points.

Central had the best of it in the first quarter, forcing the Hornets into eight turnovers. They built an 11-6 lead before George canned a 3 and it was 12-9 going into the second period.

A 3 by Booth tied the game then George drilled a 15-footer to put the Hornets ahead to stay. They held the Tigers to just two free throws in the second. After Robinson hit one to cut the margin to 14-13, Kearney, Newburn and Sanders each scored to push the lead to 20-13.

George and Central’s Kenarius Keys traded free throws then Sanders scored with 10 seconds left in the half to give the Hornets the first double-digit lead of the game, 25-14 at the break.

Central ratcheted up the full-court pressure in the third quarter and put together an 8-0 run before Booth fed Hendrix for a basket with 3:24 left in the period.

Sanders scored off a whirling drive to the hoop at 1:54 then Kearney scored inside. Central’s Kwame Boateng had his shot blocked by Kearney, Booth rebounded, and, at the other end, George drove the baseline to score.

What had been whittled to a 27-22 Bryant lead had expanded to a 33-24 advantage.

But, behind Burnett, Central closed the quarter with a flourish, a 7-0 run that had the lead whittled to 4.

The Hornets maintained the advantage at the start of the fourth quarter, building it back up to 38-29. The Tigers cut it back to 4 but the Hornets pushed it back to 8.

After George hit two free throws to make it 44-36, Central’s Myles Khabeer converted once at the line then George fouled out as he tried to get open against the Tigers’ scrambling press.

With 2:25 to play, Robinson drove for a basket and the Hornets turned it over. Sanders made a steal, but Hendrix couldn’t get a contested shot to go.

Robinson scored again, and, off another Hornet turnover, Jailon Bullock cut the lead to 44-43.

When Newburn missed a pair of free throws with 1:22 to play, Central had a chance to take the lead but Robinson missed, and Sanders gathered the carom. He was fouled with :59 showing and converted once to make it a 2-point lead.

The Hornets forced a Central turnover and Hendrix cashed it in with an 8-footer, making it a two-trip lead with :33 left.

The Tigers could not get a shot to go and the Hornets worked the clock down to :13.6 when Newburn was fouled. He hit one shot to extend the lead to 5.

Bullock connected on a pair from the line with :07.6 left but, with :06.6 to go, Newburn was fouled again and converted both shots to seal the victory.

There were 46 fouls between the two teams in the baseline-to-baseline battle. Bryant was 16 of 31 at the stripe while Central went 12 of 26.


Freshman basketball

Score by quarters

LR Central       12        2          15        16 — 45

BRYANT           9          16        8          17 — 50

Little Rock Central 45

Burnett 4-5 0-4 8, Palmer 0-3 2-2 2, English 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 6-13 4-6 17, Page 0-0 0-0 0, Montgomery 2-7 0-1 4, Bullock 1-3 2-2 4, Boateng 0-1 1-4 1, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Kelly 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 0-0 0-1 0, McDaniel 0-4 0-0 0, Keys 1-1 1-2 3, Khabeer 1-2 1-2 3, Farnsworth 0-1 0-0 0, Murdock 0-0 1-2 1. Totals16-43, 12-26 45.

Bryant 50

Newburn 1-5 3-6 5, Kearney 2-9 1-2 5, Hale 0-1 1-4 1, George 4-9 8-12 17, Diggins 2-2 1-1 5, Hendrix 2-5 0-0 4, Booth 2-2 1-4 6, Sanders 3-5 1-2 7. Totals16-38, 16-31 50.

Three-point field goals:Bryant 2-6 (George 1-2, Booth 1-1), LR Central 1-5 (Robinson 1-4, Kelly 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 27, LR Central 21. Rebounds:Bryant 9-23 32 (Kearney 4-2, Hendrix 1-5 6, Sanders 1-5 6, Newburn 0-3 3, Diggins 0-2 2, Booth 0-2 2, Hale 0-1 1, team 3-3 6); LR Central 11-18 29 (Robinson 0-5 5, Boateng 3-1 4, Kelly 0-3 3, Smith 1-2 3, McDaniel 2-1 3, Burnett 0-2 2, Keys 0-2 2, Palmer 1-0 1, English 1-0 1, Montgomery 1-0 1, Bullock 1-0 1, Farnsworth 0-1 1, team 1-1 2). Total fouls:Bryant 21, LR Central 25. Technical foul:LR Central, Robinson (interference). Fouled out:Bryant, George; LR Central, Robinson, Montgomery.

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