For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
The Bryant Hornets and Russellville Whirlwinds freshmen team were two of four in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference, hanging on the heels of league-leading North Little Rock coming into Monday night’s game at Bryant Middle School’s gym.
And, in a game in which neither team scored more than 9 points in the quarter, the Hornets erupted for a 21-point fourth period, to forge an important 38-26 victory.
The Hornets and the Conway White Wampus Cats remain tied for second in the league with 5-1 marks as North Little Rock rolled to its sixth win in as many conference games, 61-15, over last-place Lake Hamilton. Conway White outlasted Cabot South, 44-33.
Russellville and Conway Blue are each 4-2 against the league. The rest of the conference plays this Thursday to wrap up the pre-Christmas schedule but the Hornets’ game with Cabot South was moved back to Jan. 3. In the interim, the Hornets will play in the annual Kameran Hale Invitational Tournament at Lake Hamilton, starting Dec. 28, at 11:15 a.m., against Hot Springs.
The Hornets’ big finish against Russellville was fueled by guards Marquelle Barnes and Keith Merriweather Jr. Barnes scored 10 of his game-high 12 points in the final stanza including 6 of 7 free throws. Merriweather scored all 9 of his points in the fourth including a clutch 3.
“They’re great players and they take good care of the basketball and they finished with free throws this game,” noted Hornets coach Tyler Posey.
But it was the defense that led to that late surge that the coach pointed to.
“After halftime, our pressure really started to show,” he related. “We kept pressing them the entire game and we made them turn sides of the floor. I really felt like that kind of wore them down at the end. We’ve got great depth.”
The Hornets, playing without one of their top scorers O.J. Newburn due to concussion protocals, got 6 points each from Catrell Wallace and Kayleb West. Cade Drennan and Colby Washington scored 2 apiece and Arlon Jenkins hit a free throw.
The Whirlwinds were led by Marquis Peter with 8 and Braylin McKinley with 6.
“They’re a very good team with very good shooters and a good big guy inside and a really good point guard,” Posey said of Russellville. “I’m really proud of our guys for coming back and battling throughout that game. We had a rough start but we were able to kind of pick it up there in the second half. I’m real proud to beat a good team going into the break.”
The game was tight through the first three quarters. Neither team got much going in the opening quarter, which ended with the Whirlwinds leading 4-3. The Hornets were held to two free throws by Drennan and one from Jenkins.
The Hornets took the lead when the second quarter began with a drive by Merriweather who fed Wallace for a layup.
Though the game was tied a trio of times after that, Russellville never led again.
A free throw by Peter knotted it at 5 but then Barnes converted twice at the line and Washington got a layup off a turnover to make it 9-5.
After Sitkowski scored, Wallace took a nice feed from Ethan Hilkret for a bucket and the Hornets held an 11-9 lead at the half.
West hit two clutch 3’s to account for all of Bryant’s scoring in the third quarter. Yet, the Whirlwinds were only able to tie it as both teams played solid defense. It was 17-17 going into the final six minutes.
Merriweather scored to snap the tie and Russellville was never even after that. A basket by Barnes off a drive then a steal by Darrick Rose led to a 3 from Merriweather from the corner to make it 24-17.
Peter interrupted what proved to be a 14-3 blitz with a free throw with 3:59 left. A pull-up jumper by Barnes off a Russellville turnover made it 26-18.
Two more free throws from Peter made it a 6-point edge but Merriweather drove and dished to Wallace for a layup and Barnes came up with a steal. With 1:45 left, Merriweather drained a baseline jumper and was fouled. His free throw made it a 10-point lead.
Trey Allen hit a 3 to keep the Whirlwinds’ hopes of a rally alive but Barnes converted four free throws over the next 30 seconds to help seal the victory.
HORNETS 38, WHIRLWINDS 26
Score by quarters
Russellville 4 5 8 9 — 26
BRYANT 3 8 6 21 — 38
Terry 0-3 1-2 1, Shaffer 1-4 1-1 3, McKinley 2-4 2-4 6, Sitkowski 2-5 0-0 4, M.Peter 2-5 4-6 8, Allen 1-4 1-2 4, Carter 0-3 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, T.Peter 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 8-29 9-15 26.
Rose 0-4 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-0 1-3 1, West 2-5 0-0 6, C.Washington 1-2 0-0 2, Wallace 3-5 0-2 6, Hilkert 0-2 0-0 0, Drennan 0-0 2-2 2, Barnes 2-3 8-9 12, Merriweather 3-6 2-3 9. Totals 11-27 13-19 38.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-10 (West 2-5, Merriweather 1-3, Rose 0-1, Hilkert 0-1), Russellville 1-10 (Allen 1-4, Terry 0-3, M.Peter 0-2, Carter 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Russellville 13. Rebounds: Bryant 4-17 21 (Barnes 0-5 5, Wallace 1-3 4, C.Washington 0-3 3, Merriweather 0-3 3, Hilkert 1-1 2, Rose 0-1 1, West 0-1 1, Drennan 1-0 1, team 1-0 1), Russellville 3-16 (Sitkowski 0-4 4, McKinley 0-3 3, Carter 0-2 2, Terry 0-1 1, Shaffer 1-0 1, team 2-6 8). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Russellville 19. Fouled out: Russellville, Shaffer. Technical fouls: Bryant, Rose; Russellville, McKinley.