Board work by Diggins, Sanders lift freshman Hornets past Cabot North

For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here

Landyn Newburn fires a 3. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The Bryant Hornets freshman team struggled with their shooting Thursday night against the Cabot North Panthers at the Bryant Middle School gym. But Demetrius Sanders collected 10 rebounds including five on the offensive end and Will Diggins hauled down 9 boards with six under the offensive glass as they led the Hornets to a 49-31 victory and a massive 35-16 rebounding advantage, which included 18 caroms off the offensive glass. Meanwhile, Cabot North managed just three offensive rebounds.

With the win, the Hornets improved to 12-4 overall this season and remained atop the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference standings at 5-0 going into a first-place showdown at North Little Rock next Thursday, Jan. 24. North Little Rock improved to 4-0 in conference with a win at Benton.

“It’s a big game for us,” acknowledged Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “It sets up a pseudo-conference championship almost. There’s obviously still a lot left in the season but — it’s going to be a big game. We got to see them a couple of times already.”

Isaiah Kearney (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The four Hornet losses were two to Lake Hamilton and two to North Little Rock in non-conference games. They avenged those against Lake Hamilton with a 58-53 win in overtime over the Wolves in conference play. They’ll try to avenge the previous two to North Little Rock.

“They’re really good,” Posey said. “But I told our guys I liked the way we’ve been playing, up until tonight. But we’re going to have a good plan going in and we’re going to be ready to play.”

All those rebounds helped Diggins finished with a game-high 16 points. Sanders had 11 and Gavin Burton 8. Bryant had defeated Cabot North on the road 47-16 in November. And they started Thursday’s game like that would be the case again. Burton hit a 3 then Gabe George drove for a pair of baskets to make it 7-0 and Panthers coach Keith Watkins called a timeout.

In off the bench, Ashton Shurley sparked the Panthers, scoring all 6 of their points as they cut it to 9-6. A follow shot by Sanders, who would finish with 14 points, in the final minute made it a 5-point game at the first break.

Gabe George (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Cabot North was within 16-13 going into the final two minutes of the half. Burton nailed another trey and, after Shurley drove for a layup, Burton made a steal that led to a layup for D.J. Hale and a 21-15 Bryant lead.

Shurley, however, popped a 3 with :17 left in the half to make it a 3-point game.

“They packed it in really tightly in the first half and really all game,” noted Posey. “We didn’t get the ball moving from side to side, which allowed them to do a lot of standing. We weren’t making them rotate at all, so they were still able to pick us up, pick our shooters up, and our floater in the high post. We weren’t finding big Will low. So, it kind of made it tough on us to really get out.”

It didn’t help that George, the team’s leading scorer, got into foul trouble early.

In the third quarter, the Hornets out-rebounded the Panthers 9-3 and started to build the lead. Diggins hit the offensive glass for a bucket then George scored. Sam Graham answered for Cabot North, but Diggins scored off an inbounds play and, later, hit the offensive glass for another deuce to extend the lead to 29-20.

D.J. Hale (22) heads to the boards as teammate Jaylen Williams fires a shot. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Graham hit a 3 but, again, Diggins grabbed a carom and scored. Grant Fitch kept the Panthers astride the Hornets, but Isaiah Kearney hit a free throw and, in the final 22 seconds, Sanders scored twice on drives from the high post.

Bryant led 36-25 going into the fourth quarter

“Will and Sanders do a great job for us,” Posey said. “I think I have them at 10 or 15 (rebounds) a game combined and a lot of those are offensive rebounds and putbacks. They really do clean up a lot of our messes and it makes us look a little better in the halfcourt.”

On a free throw by Shurley and a jumper from Graham, the Panthers were within 36-28 early in the fourth quarter. But that was as close as they would get.

Burton hit a 15-footer to start an 11-3 run to close out the win. Fitch hit a free throw but then Landyn Newburn hit the offensive glass for a basket, Sanders made a steal and layup then George came through with a three-point play off an attack. Another layup by Sanders with 2:05 left, had the Hornets up 47-29.

Hayden Phillips hit two free throws for Cabot North before Diggins, fittingly, finished it out with a layup off a dish from Sanders.



Score by quarter

Cabot North    6          12        7          6 — 31

BRYANT           11        10        15        13 — 49


Graham 3-5 0-0 7, Ch.Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Fitch 2-7 2-6 6, Grimes 0-0 0-0 0, Phillips 1-4 2-2 4, Shurley 6-12 1-2 14, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Lambert 0-1 0-0 0, Bailey 0-0 0-0 0, Sugarman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals12-30 (40%) 5-10 (50%) 31.


Newburn 1-6 0-0 2, Burton 3-6 0-0 8, Booth 0-3 0-0 0, George 4-8 1-2 9, Diggins 8-9 0-0 16, Sanders 5-10 1-2 11, Kearney 0-5 1-2 1, Mendoza 0-0 0-0 0, Hale 1-2 0-0 2, Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Edmondson 0-0 0-0 0, Ca.Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Myles 0-1 0-0 0, Gilmore 0-0 0-0 0, Blackmon 0-1 0-0 0. Totals22-52 (42%) 3-6 (50%) 49.

Three-point field goals:Bryant 2-13 (Burton 2-6, Newburn 0-3, Kearney 0-2, George 0-1, Williams 0-1, Myles 0-1), Cabot North 2-7 (Shurley 1-4, Graham 1-3). Turnovers:Bryant 11, Cabot North 13. Rebounds:Bryant 18-17 35 (Sanders 5-5 10, Diggins 6-3 9, Kearney 0-3 3, Burton 2-1 3, Mendoza 1-2 3, Williams 1-1 2, Newburn 1-1 2, Booth 1-0 1, Hale 1-0 1, Gilmore 0-1 1), Cabot North 3-13 16 (Philllips 1-3 4, Shurley 1-3 4, Lambert 0-2 2, Graham 0-1 1, Ch.Carter 0-1 1, Grimes 0-1 1, Thomas 1-0 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls:Bryant 13, Cabot North 7.

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