BENTON — Every time the Bryant Hornets made a run at the Benton Panthers Tuesday night, the Panthers seemed to come up with an answer. The Hornets were constantly on the verge of a big surge but some little thing wouldn’t go quite right and Benton would take advantage. The Panthers wound up with a 54-48 win and the Saline Shootout trophy in the final game before conference play begins for both teams.
The Hornets head to Greenwood in the 7A/6A-Central this Friday while the Panthers visit Little Rock Parkview in the 6A-South that night.
To start the season, Benton defeated Bryant, 55-45, the Panthers’ maturity was no doubt a factor. The Hornets started four sophomores and a junior Tuesday with two seniors and another junior coming in off the bench.
I thought this time was a lot better than last time we played them,” stated Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “Last time we played, there was about 50 times when I was going, ‘What are we doing out there? I’ve never seen that before.’
“I knew they were young and they were panicking a little bit,” he said of his team in that first meeting. “It was a scary experience for them, a lot of them playing their first varsity game, to be that game, in that environment.
“Tonight, I didn’t see that,” the coach continued. “I felt like they knew what they were supposed to do and they knew how to do it. We had a little trouble executing like some inbounds plays where we had some guys open and we couldn’t pass and catch.
“I thought we played hard. I thought we played with purpose most of the night.
I see improvement from the last time we played them and that’s a good (Benton) team. They’re hard to guard. So give them credit.”
Junior Clay Anderson led all scorers with 15 points. Cason Maertens, who was still playing football when the two teams met on Nov. 13, added 13 points. Braden Warhurst had 9.
Junior Kevin Hunt led the Hornets with 13. Sophomore Romen Martin added 10, all in the first half, and sophomore Lowell Washington had 9.
“We’ve got to get better at the details of the game,” Abrahamson said, “taking care of the ball, passing, catching. When we’re in a crowd, we’ve got to go snatch that ball. We can’t let it come to us when there’s other hands in there. We’ve got to build a habit of going and getting the ball. We’ve got to work on making our passes more crisp and with more velocity. And we’re going to work on that. I take responsibility for that as I do everything because, ultimately, everything falls on me.
“It’s these little things — I felt like all night we were so close to making a play but we didn’t execute, getting that steal, getting that layup, executing that pass — just right there all night,” he continued. “But we didn’t make enough plays.
“A lot of times when we’re on offense, we’ve got the mindset that ‘I can take my man,’ and that’s true. I believe that these guys can take their man in a lot of those situations. But we can’t come right down the court and go against a set defense because we might get past our man but then they’re going into four others that are in a set defense. Where, if we pass and cut and create gaps and space and we get it back and then attack that space, yeah, they can take their man. And when they get past their man, we’ve got space in which to operate. We can get to the basket.
“It’s just a maturity level that we’re trying to get into them,” Abrahamson said. “As a young kid, they’re seeing something and they’re right that they can take their man but we’ve got to set it up. I’m not talking about holding it for three minutes. I’m talking about a couple, three passes, create some gaps, get the defense moving side-to-side, then attacking. When we do that, we’re really good at getting to the basket. But when we go against a set defense, it’s not one-on-one. It’s one-on-five. That makes it difficult.”
The Hornets did a pretty good job of getting into the teeth of the Benton defense. In fact, they were in the bonus already with just over four minutes left in the first quarter. But the calls kind of dried up the rest of the half. They wound up attempting just five free throws in the half and went 6 of 11 in the game.
Benton didn’t get into the bonus until early in the second quarter but wound up shooting 10 of 13 from the line in just the first half, 14 of 19 in the game.
“We had 12 turnovers (in the game) but I think nine of them led to transition opportunities for them,” Abrahamson noted. “Free throws, we were 6 for 11 and, you know, we don’t get there very much. I thought we were attacking the basket really good. I thought we probably deserved to get there a little more but that is what it is. It just seems like every game, we’re making 50 percent. And we’ve got to do better than that. We’re so guard-heavy, we’ve got to do better than that. We put a lot of time into that and we’re going to put a lot more time into it.”
It wound up a six-point game and the contest started with a 7-0 run by the Panthers. The Hornets responded with a 13-4 run to take their only lead of the game with 2:54 left in the opening period. A three-point play by Washington off a nice drive-and-dish by Calvin Allen got the roll going. Hunt hit a driving jumper then Antavious Lewis hustled after the rebound off his own missed free throw and scored to make it 11-7. Martin converted the first one-and-one at 3:45 and, moments later, Wesley Peters added a free throw on the front end of a bonus opportunity.
Allen made a steal that led to a 3-pointer by Martin giving Bryant a 13-11 edge.
But Benton answered by scoring the next 7 points including a 3 by Westin Reddick. Allen beat the buzzer with a running jumper and Benton’s lead was 18-15 at the first break.
Reddick, by the way, hit five 3’s in the first meeting but only had that one this time.
Maertens helped the Panthers push the lead to 23-17 early in the second but a layup by Washington off another assist from Allen and a 10-foot jumper by Peters trimmed it to a 2-point game.
The Hornets got two chances to tie it or take the lead but shots wouldn’t fall. Sparked by Warhurst, the Panthers put together a 7-0 run that produced their biggest lead of the game, 30-21 going into the final minute of the half.
Martin took a charge to keep the Panthers from increasing it further and, at the other end, Hunt produced a three-point play. Martin rebounded a Benton miss and went coast-to-coast to trim it to 30-26. And, after a pair of free throws by Anderson, Martin beat the buzzer with a bank-in 3, making it 32-29 at the half.
Anderson opened the second half with a 3 but Hunt answered in kind. Jake Scoggins scored inside for Benton and Washington did the same for Bryant. Quawn Marshall misfired for the Panthers and, thanks to an offensive rebound by Marvin Moody, Allen scored on an inbounds play to get the Hornets within 37-36.
But Anderson drilled another 3 to start another 7-0 surge. Peters cut into the 44-36 margin with a drive with 1:42 left in the third quarter then neither team scored again until Allen fed Lewis for a bucket to start the fourth-quarter scoring.
Scoggins missed for Benton and Hunt drained a 3 so suddenly the Hornets were back within a point with 6:28 left. For the second time in the half, Anderson came through with a big bucket when the Panthers needed it after their lead had dwindled to 1. This time, he hit a short jumper off a drive and pull-up move.
Scoggins made a steal and layup then Anderson converted two free throws with 3:57 left to make it 50-43.
Hunt ended a three-minute drought by the Hornets with a score off a drive, cutting the margin to 5 but that’s as close as they got. After a layup by Warhurst and a free throw by Lewis, the Panthers spread the floor and made the Hornets chase. Maertens clinched it at the line.
PANTHERS 54, HORNETS 48
Score by quarters
BRYANT 15 14 9 10 — 48
Benton 18 14 12 10 — 54
Allen 3-10 0-1 6, Martin 3-8 2-2 10, Hunt 5-16 1-1 13, Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Washington 4-4 1-1 9, Peters 2-3 1-2 5, Lewis 2-5 1-2 5, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-47 6-11 48.
Anderson 4-8 4-5 15, Marshall 2-7 2-2 6, Maertens 2-5 8-10 13, Warhurst 4-5 0-0 9, Scoggins 3-4 0-0 6, Hollis 1-3 0-2 2, Reddick 1-2 0-0 3, Halk 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-35 14-19 54.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-10 (Martin 2-5, Hunt 2-3, Peters 0-2), Benton 6-11 (Anderson 3-4, Maertens 1-3, Reddick 1-2, Warhurst 1-1, Halk 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, Benton 10. Rebounds: Bryant 10-18 28 (Peters 4-3 7, Allen 1-5 6, Lewis 1-3 4, Hunt 1-2 3, Moody 1-1 2, Washington 0-2 2, Martin 0-1 1, team 2-1 3), Benton 7-20 27 (Warhurst 2-4, 6, Scoggins 0-4 4, Reddick 1-3 4, Marshall 2-1 3, Anderson 1-2 3, Maertens 0-1 1, Harris 0-1 1, team 1-4 5). Team fouls: Bryant 20, Benton 18. Fouled out: Bryant, Martin; Benton, Warhurst.