Alma fends off Bryant after burst to open second half

Photos by Kevin Nagle

Calvin Allen (3) launches a buzzer-beating 3 over Alma's Will Cluck (1) at the end of the first quarter. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Calvin Allen (3) launches a buzzer-beating 3 over Alma’s Will Cluck (1) at the end of the first quarter. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Despite having five players on the bench with two fouls, the Bryant Hornets led the Alma Airedales most of the first half of their 7A/6A-Central Conference game Friday night at the Hornets Nest. But Alma hung around and when Austin Lee followed a free throw by teammate Jake Folkerts, grabbed a rebound and scored with :26 left, the Airedales took a 26-25 lead into the locker room.

It seemed okay for the Hornets at the time. After all, they’d get those five players back including leading scorers Kevin Hunt and Romen Martin and top rebounders Lowell Washington and Marvin Moody along with the team’s lone senior Wesley Peters.

But when the second half started, the Airedales, who came in with a 19-4 record this season, took those last 3 points of the first half and added an 11-1 run to build a 37-26 lead.

The Hornets were unable to recover and Alma notched their 20th win, 70-54.

When the two teams played in Alma on Jan. 23, the Hornets out-played the Airedales and led in the final minute only to suffer a gut-wrenching 51-47 loss.

But it spurred a four-game win streak for Bryant, which included wins over Conway and Little Rock Catholic to sewed up a Class 7A State Tournament bid — quite an accomplishment for such a young team. They have a chance, by the way, to secure a 2 seed for State if they can beat Conway again this Tuesday in the Hornets’ final home game.

Alma, a seasoned team that played two seniors and four juniors for the most part, showed its experience, particularly in the second half when the Hornets were furiously trying to get back into the game. The Airedales calmly kept making plays to counter each Bryant advance. The Hornets cut it to 8 twice but couldn’t get any closer.

“Alma played really well,” acknowledged Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson. “They shot it well.”

The Airedales hit 54 percent of their shots (15 of 28) in the second half including 4 of 8 on 3’s and 10 of 14 at the free-throw line.

Romen Martin (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Romen Martin (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

“Those kids are tough kids that understand their plan and execute their plan and believe in their plan even when adversity hits,” Abrahamson observed. “You’ve got to give them a lot of credit for playing really well.

“I thought we battled the first half, tried to really play hard,” he said. “We withstood some foul trouble, hung in there with them. We tried to do some good things.

“The second half, they start on a run and we faced a little adversity,” the coach noted. “We melted down. We didn’t handle it. We started making excuses, not taking responsibility, not being accountable for our actions. We looked like a young team.

“We haven’t always looked like that,” he added. “You’ve got to give Alma credit for putting us in that situation. But I didn’t like our energy on defense. I didn’t like our movement on offense — a lot of standing around and no one’s cutting through the lane or getting into the lane. We settled for some poor shots. I didn’t like our blocking out.”

“I will promise though that we will use this to get better,” Abrahamson concluded.

Folkers finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead Alma. Heath Friddle added 14 points including 9 in the game-breaking third quarter. Lee scored 15 with seven boards.

For Bryant, Hunt scored 17, Calvin Allen 11 and Martin 10. Peters, Martin and Washington each collected six boards.

Lee hit a 3 to start the second half. Folkerts drove for a layup and Alex Beneux added a three-point play, following his own miss. Hunt hit a free throw with 5:22 left in the third quarter for the Hornets’ first point of the half. But Alma’s Noah Dotson followed with a 3 to extend the lead to 11.

Kevin Hunt goes high on his shot over Alma's Austin Lee (33). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Kevin Hunt goes high on his shot over Alma’s Austin Lee (33). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The teams traded baskets with Hunt scoring twice and Washington getting free inside. Friddle, however, answered each of those baskets. With 2:27 left in the quarter, Martin drained a 3 to cut the margin to 43-35 but Friddle’s triple offset that. Hunt and Folkerts traded buckets and it went to the fourth quarter with Alma ahead 48-37.

As he had to start the second half, Lee drilled a 3 to start the fourth quarter, extending the lead to 14. Consecutive treys by Allen and Martin got the Hornets back to within 8 with 5:42 left but Alma scored the next 6 points and Bryant was never that close again.

The Airedales connected on 9 of 13 free throws in the final four minutes to help stave off the Hornets. The final margin was the largest of the contest.

Early on, Bryant was down 7-4 but a three-point play by Hunt tied it. Martin added a pair at the line then Hunt tipped in a teammate’s miss to put the Hornets up 11-7.

Alma was within 13-11 on a basket by Folkerts with :07 showing but Allen banked in a 28-footer at the buzzer and the Hornets were up by 5.

The Airedales tied it at 16, 18 and 20 but didn’t gain the lead until Will Cluck popped a triple with 3:38 left in the half. A three-point play by Ricky Allen tied it and, after an Alma turnover, Allen banked in a floater off a drive into the lane to put Bryant back up 25-23.

Folkerts cut a free throw off the margin before Lee’s stickback put the Airedales ahead to stay.

AIREDALES 70, HORNETS 54

Score by quarters

Alma               11       15       22       22 — 70

BRYANT          16       9          12       17 — 54

AIRDALES (20-4, 9-3) 70

Parker 0-6 1-2 1, Friddle 6-9 0-0 14, Lee 5-13 3-4 15, Folkerts 7-12 5-7 19, Beneux 2-5 3-3 7, Cluck 2-5 3-5 8, Dotson 2-2 0-0 6, Corder 0-2 0-0 0, Dyler 0-0 0-0 0, Thornbrugh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-54 (44%) 15-21 (71%) 70.

HORNETS (12-12, 6-5) 54

C.Allen 3-6 3-4 11, Peters 2-9 0-2 5, Lewis 1-5 1-2 3, Hunt 7-11 2-3 17, Martin 2-12 4-4 10, Sahr 0-1 0-0 0, R.Allen 1-1 1-1 3, Washington 2-2 0-0 4, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-50 (36%) 12-18 (67%) 54.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 6-19 (Martin 2-9, C.Allen 2-2, Peters 1-4, Hunt 1-1, Lewis 0-1, Moody 0-1, Turner 0-1), Alma 7-22 (Lee 2-9, Friddle 2-5, Dotson 2-2, Cluck 1-3, Corder 0-2, Parker 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Alma 8. Rebounds: Bryant 10-24 34 (Peters 2-4 6, Martin 2-4 6, Washington 2-4 6, Lewis 1-3 4, Hunt 1-3 4, Moody 0-3 3, Turner 1-2 3, C.Allen 0-1 1, R.Allen 1-0 1), Alma 10-27 37 (Folkerts 3-7 10, Lee 1-6 7, Beneux 1-4 5, Friddle 2-2 4, Cluck 1-3 4, Parker 0-1 1, Dotson 0-1 1, Corder 0-1 1, team 2-2 4). Team fouls: Bryant 25, Alma 16.

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