Photos by Kevin Nagle
It wasn’t their best start nor their best finish but, in between, the Bryant Hornets put together a convincing performance that produced as much as an 18-point lead over the Siloam Springs Panthers Friday night. Though they led 50-35 with just under two minutes left in the game, they had to hang on for a 50-45 win.
The Hornets started the game by missing their first 13 field-goal attempts. Yet they trailed just 13-7, thanks to a scrambling, disruptive defense that wound up forcing 18 turnovers in the first half.
When Kevin Hunt made a steal and layup for Bryant’s first basket at the 5:21 mark of the second quarter, things turned around. From that point on, the Hornets shot 61 percent from the field.
Romen Martin, Bryant’s 3-point gunner, missed his first seven shots, five from 3-point range. But like a good shooter, he kept on firing. He wound up with four 3’s and a game-high 13 points. Kevin Hunt added 12 despite fouling out early in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets got a big game from 6-2 sophomore post Lowell Washington who scored 11 points and hauled down 13 rebounds battling with Siloam’s 6-6, 6-5 front line. Calvin Allen scored 8 points and ran the offense effectively against the changing Panthers’ defense.
But the Hornets defense was the key for head coach Mike Abrahamson particularly when the lid was on the basket.
“That’s what I try to preach to them, that our defense can be there every night and sometimes our offense, we struggle,” he related. “That’s just the reality. We’re trying to get better at it. We’re working on it every day. But our defense can be there every night. It really kept us in it at the beginning.
“I thought we were playing good offense,” he added. “We couldn’t get anything to fall. We kept running good offense and we kept getting good looks and they started to fall. Then you’re back in it. Then we were really playing well in the second and third quarter.”
The Hornets had trailed by as much as 13-4 early in the second quarter after the Panthers had opened with an 8-0 run.
Once Hunt got the first basket to make it 13-9, Washington swept the offensive glass and scored. Martin took a charge on Noah Karp’s drive to the basket and Hunt knocked down a 15-footer that pulled the Hornets even.
Siloam Springs’ Marquan Sorrells ended a five-minute drought for his team but that’s when Martin began to find the range from beyond the arc. His second trey snapped a 17-17 tie. Jordan Norberg converted a pair of free throws with :22.6 left and, despite their shooting woes early, the Hornets went to the locker room up 20-19.
And the Hornets started the second half with a 13-4 run, sparked by Allen who drove the baseline and hit a pull-up jumper to start it. Hunt added a pair of free throws and, after the Panthers’ Keetun Pierce hit a jumper in the lane, Allen drained a 3. A stickback by Washington made it 29-21.
Luke Loveless knocked down a running one-hander but Hunt answered with another jay from 15. Allen scored again and the Hornets had their first double-digit lead at 33-23 with 1:48 left in the third quarter.
Brandon Johnson drove for a bucket but Martin’s third 3 made it 36-25 going into the final period.
He then started the fourth quarter scoring with a bomb from the top of the key, forcing a quick timeout by the Panthers. When play resumed, Wesley Peters made a steal and drove for a layup, extending the margin to 16. And when he followed up with a drive down the lane, it was 43-25.
Siloam Springs got a lift when Hunt picked up his fourth foul on defense and voiced his frustration, picking up a technical foul for his fifth, forcing him to the bench for the rest of the game.
The Panthers rallied to within 43-30 and started trapping out of their zone. Washington got behind them and the Hornets got it to him for a dunk but the Panthers kept coming, whittling it to 45-34. Kyle Cominsky had a chance to cut it further with 3:45 left but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
The Hornets burned the Siloam pressure when Allen found Washington inside, resulting in a three-point play. Norberg hit a free throw but Bryant’s Antavious Lewis popped an eight-footer to make it 50-35 with 1:58 to go.
The Panthers started committing three players to their traps and, with their size, forced some turnovers. Loveless sank a 3 and Johnson hit two free throws, making it 50-40.
With a minute left, Peters got to the line but couldn’t get the front end of the bonus opportunity to go. Roman Lambert scored for Siloam and, following a Bryant turnover, Matthew McSpadden trimmed a free throw off the lead with :49.5 left.
With their lead down to 7, the Hornets got another chance at the free-throw line. This time, however, Martin couldn’t get the first shot to fall.
Tucker Gambill drove for a layup and with :21 on the clock, the Panthers were within 5.
Martin was fouled again with :19.3 to go and once more the first shot rimmed out. The Hornets forced the Panthers to use some clock to get the ball up the court so even if Gambill’s 3-point try had gone in, there was no time left to get another shot.
“We get up by 18 and we win by 5, just barely hanging on,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “We don’t make our free throws. We turn the ball over. We let up on defense.
“Kevin, fouling out with his foul and technical, it really hurts us,” he added. “On one hand, it’s an opportunity for some other kids to step up but, on the other hand, you’ve got your best player, a ball-handler, one of you best free-throw shooters, who you can’t use.
“I really wish we could’ve kept that lead or extended it,” the coach concluded. “We’ve got to get to the point where that’s what we’re doing. We’re working on it constantly. We’re just not there yet. Perhaps we will next time.”
The Central Conference has reached the halfway point in the schedule. The Hornets will begin their second run through the league on Friday, Feb. 6, at home against Greenwood.
HORNETS 50, PANTHERS 45
Score by quarters
Siloam Spgs 10 9 6 20 — 45
BRYANT 4 16 16 14 — 50
PANTHERS (11-9, 3-4) 45
Lambert 2-4 0-0 5, Pierce 2-2 2-2 6, Gambill 1-6 0-0 2, Johnson 2-7 4-4 9, Snavely 1-3 0-0 2, Loveless 2-3 0-0 5, Karp 1-1 0-0 3, Sorrells 1-1 1-2 3, Norberg 2-3 3-4 7, Comiskey 0-1 2-3 2, McSpadden 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 14-32 (43%) 13-17 (76%) 45.
HORNETS (10-10, 4-3) 50
Allen 3-5 1-2 8, Lewis 1-3 0-0 2, Hunt 3-7 6-8 12, Martin 4-15 1-4 13, Washington 4-6 3-3 11, Peters 2-4 0-2 4, Cowart 0-0 0-0 0, Moody 0-0 0-0 0, Sahr 0-0 0-0 0, Turner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 (41%) 11-19 (58%) 50.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-19 (Martin 4-13, Allen 1-2, Lewis 0-1, Hunt 0-1, Peters 0-1, Turner 0-1), Siloam Springs 4-11 (Johnson 1-2, Lambert 1-1, Loveless 1-1, Karp 1-1, Gambill 0-5, Norberg 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Siloam Springs 25. Rebounds: Bryant 11-12 23 (Washington 5-8 13, Peters 2-1 3, Allen 0-2 2, Martin 2-0 2, Hunt 1-0 1, Moody 1-0 1, team 0-1 1), Siloam Springs 9-18 27 (Johnson 0-6 6, Snavely 1-5 6, Pierce 4-0 4, Lambert 1-2 3, Comiskey 1-1 2, Gambill 0-1 1, Loveless 0-1 1, Karp 0-1 1, Sorrells 1-0 1, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 20, Siloam Springs 18. Fouled out: Bryant, Hunt. Technical foul: Bryant, Hunt.