By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
PEARCY — Dusting off his team’s full-court man-to-man defense, head coach Mike Abrahamson[more] was pleased to see his Bryant Hornets force 16 turnovers while holding the Lake Hamilton Wolves to 31 percent shooting (13 of 42) from the field.
That was the obvious effect.
But there was more to it.
The energy that the Hornets needed to play aggressively on defense carried over to their offense. Plus, the anxiety it caused the Wolves on offense carried over to their defense where, feeling they had to make things happen to compensate and out of their comfort zone, they became a little too aggressive themselves getting out of position. The fouls started piling up.
The Hornets were in the double bonus before the first quarter was over. They wound up shooting 36 free throws to the Wolves’ 3 in a game at their den.
The result was a 52-29 romp in which the Hornets converted just one field goal in the first and fourth quarters combined. However, they were 23-of-30 at the line in those periods.
“Statistically, that’s the game right there,” stated Abrahamson, whose team has won seven of its last nine games going into the regular-season finale at home on Senior Night against El Dorado Tuesday.
“We were aggressive,” he continued. “I think that, because of our defensive game plan, that put our kids in a mindset to be aggressive. We were causing them to be uncomfortable on offense, caused us to be more aggressive on offense and we were getting them out of position. They’ll take charges but we were fortunate enough to get them out of position so they couldn’t.
“The plan was to get after them with our defense, apply pressure to them," the coach explained. “The offense, we wanted to see what they were in. I thought they’d throw something strange at us and they did. They tried to deny three, instead of a triangle-and-two, I guess you’d call it a two-and-deny-three. We were able to score early in the game when they were in that. It brought them out of that and took them into things we were more prepared for.
“That was good but I really thought the defense — I’m really proud of that effort tonight. It was good to get back to full-court man-to-man and see that, when that’s an advantage for us, we can bring that out. We haven’t done it since non-conference so I’m glad to see that went well.
“The bench was into it and little things like that carry over. We were able to get people in the game that don’t get a lot of time and that was good too.”
That included freshman post man Cameron Murray who, late in the game, went toe-to-toe with Lake Hamilton freshman Jason Burks, renewing a battle they had engaged in three previous times on their respective freshman teams this season.
Bryant’s parade to the free throw line featured forward Brian Reed early and guard Tyler Simmons late. Reed got in position as his teammates, particularly guards K.J. Hill and C.J. Rainey, drove, drew and dished. He was 9 of 10 from the line in the first quarter.
Simmons, who led all scorers with 19 points, picked up 9 of that in the final five minutes of the game, running the point as Lake Hamilton chased, took risks and fouled.
Reed finished with 11 points, all in the first half when the Hornets, using a pair of scoring sprees, built a 26-12 lead.
The first-quarter spurt was 13-0 but it could’ve been more. Bryant hit 11 of 15 free throws in the period but among the misses were a pair of front ends on one-and-one trips.
The second quarter brought a 13-3 run that continued into the third. In all, it was a 27-5 blitz, which produced a 40-14 lead and allowed Abrahamson to work in his reserves. And, with Simmons still holding forth, they maintained the spread as the Wolves were unable to get any closer than 18 points.
Burks, as it turned out, led Lake Hamilton with 11 points and seven rebounds. No one else had more than Quan Gipson’s 4. Of course, it didn’t help that the team’s leading scorer, Malik Blevins got into early foul trouble and was feeling the lingering effects of the flu, which had kept him out of the team’s previous game at Benton.
For Bryant, Greyson Giles added 7, Strodney Davis 5, C.J. Rainey and Skyler McKissock 3 each with Luke Rayburn and Hill pitching in with 2 apiece. Ryan Hall and Cedarrion Crossby also got in the game for the Hornets.
Lake Hamilton scored the first 4 points of the game but when Hill went after an offensive rebound and scored, it started the Hornets’ 13-0 run with the rest of the points coming at the line.
Trailing 13-4, the Wolves cut the margin when Harrison Watkins hit a 3 at the buzzer and Gipson canned a jumper in the lane to start the second quarter.
With the lead trimmed to 4, the Hornets took off again, this time sparked by a 3-pointer from Simmons off a nice feed from Rainey who had five assists. From the same corner, Simmons pump-faked and drove the baseline for a teardrop floater that found the mark.
Rayburn took a charge and, eventually, Reed cashed in with a reverse layup. After Burks hit a 15-footer, Simmons added a pull-up pop off a drive, Giles made a steal and Rayburn drove for a bucket, scoring on a shot that hung on the rim for a while before it nestled into the net.
That made it 24-11. Burks added a free throw but McKissock canned a pair to set the halftime margin.
Giles opened the third quarter with a trey and a layup, the latter off another assist from Rainey. Giles and Rainey combined on a steal, resulting in a free throw for Giles. Moments later, Rainey found Davis open for a triple that upped the lead to 35-12 and forced a Lake Hamilton timeout.
Gipson scored on a drive at the 3:26 mark. It was the Wolves’ first field goal since the 4:09 mark of the second quarter. Before the quarter was over, however, Simmons nailed another 3 and Rainey drove for a basket to make it 40-14.
In the final period, McKissock and Davis both knocked down free throws to go with Simmons’ production.
HORNETS 52, WOLVES 29
Score by quarters
BRYANT 13 13 14 12 — 52
Lake Hamilton 7 5 4 13 — 29
HORNETS (18-9, 7-6) 52
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
K.Hill 1-6 0-0 2-1 3 3 2
Rainey 1-3 1-2 3-5 8 0 3
Giles 2-6 2-5 0-0 0 0 7
Rayburn 1-3 0-0 0-1 1 1 2
Reed 1-6 9-10 2-4 6 4 11
Simmons 4-7 9-10 0-3 3 1 19
McKissock0-2 3-5 0-2 2 0 3
Davis 1-3 2-3 3-2 5 2 5
R.Hall 0-0 0-0 1-0 1 1 0
Crosby 0-0 0-1 0-1 1 0 0
Murray 0-1 0-0 1-2 3 1 0
Team 1-0 1
Totals 11-37 26-36 13-21 44 13 52
WOLVES (7-18, 1-12) 29
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Turner 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 2
A.Hall 1-3 0-0 1-0 1 4 2
Watkins 1-4 0-0 1-3 4 1 3
Blevins 0-2 0-0 0-2 2 2 0
Childs 1-3 0-0 1-1 2 1 2
Burks 5-9 1-3 3-4 7 2 11
C.Hill 0-2 0-0 0-1 1 3 0
Broadbent 1-3 0-0 0-2 2 3 2
Worley 1-5 0-0 0-3 3 2 3
Gipson 2-6 0-0 1-2 3 4 4
Scott 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 1-2 3
Totals 13-42 1-3 8-20 28 24 29
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-12 (Simmons 2-3, Giles 1-2, Davis 1-2, K.Hill 0-1, Rainey 0-1, Rayburn 0-1, Reed 0-1, McKissock 0-1), Lake Hamilton 2-14 (Worley 1-4, Watkins 1-3, Turner 0-2, Scott 0-2, Blevins 0-1, A.Hall 0-1, Gipson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 5, Lake Hamilton 16.