As part of his post-game interview following his team’s 91-63 win over the Maumelle Hornets, Bryant Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson paused to pay tribute to Nicole Inman, who coached the Bryant girls soccer team which included her twin daughters as sophomores, to a State championship two years ago. Inman succumbed to brain cancer on Saturday after a determined battle. Her funeral had been held earlier in the day on Thursday.
“Tonight, our team was wearing gray socks,” noted Abrahamson. “And the reason we were wearing gray socks is, two things: We want to honor Nicole Inman. Such a competitor and such an example of the way you live your life. Secondly, to bring awareness to brain cancer. Gray is the color of brain cancer awareness. It’s a very small gesture but it is a gesture in those directions. We’ll miss Coach Inman and our thoughts are with her family.”
The Inman family, particularly Nicole’s husband Scott, helped promote the passage of a millage increase in the Bryant School District that helped make it possible to build the very Hornet Arena in which Bryant defeated Maumelle on Thursday.
The Hornets did it behind a 27-point performance from senior Camren Hunter. The 91 points that Bryant scored was just the second time in the last 27 years of BHS basketball that a Hornets team eclipsed the 90-point mark. The other time was on Dec. 29, 2015, when they defeated Howe, Okla., 91-46, in the Coca-Cola Holiday Classic in Fort Smith.
On Thursday, Gavin Brunson added 12 points, Gabe George 11 off the bench with Aidan Adams and Cory Nichols pitching in with 9 each. Kade Ruffner and Will Diggins scored 8 each.
Nichols and Diggins were part of the contingent of Hornets’ football players who have been added to the team after Bryant won its third consecutive State title last Saturday. Freshman football players Drake Fowler and T.J. Lindsey got into the game late and Abrahamson anticipates the addition of senior Austin Schroeder, who helped the team considerably last season, and junior Daizure Hale when they recover from medical issues.
“I didn’t really know what to expect, adding some pieces and playing a really good team,” said the coach. “So, I was pleased to see the progression on offense. It’s nice when you score 91. That helps.
“On defense, I thought we could’ve done better,” he related. “There’s little things throughout possessions. The way we jump to the ball. The way we sometimes contest a shot. The way we help off of ball screens. Things like that we need to do better to get where we want to be. But I thought there was a good effort there. We’ve got to keep working to get those details a little better defensively.”
Of course, the game was just Bryant’s second of the season and it was the season opener for Maumelle, who had a starter and some additions from its football team freshly added to the roster.
Bryant has often played Maumelle, annually a Class 5A powerhouse, early in a season and the games are usually high scoring and hotly contested. Their last four games were all decided by less than 10 points.
But, this time, Bryant erupted for 54 points in the first half with Hunter getting 19 of his 27.
Bryant torched the next at a 55 percent clip from the field in the game (33 of 58) including 10 of 26 shots from 3-point range.
“I thought it was the way we attacked on offense,” Abrahamson said. “That really set the tone. I mean, right from the tip. We hit the tip to Gavin. He goes and gets a layup. Then, we’re off to the races.
“And we were able to keep it up throughout the game,” he noted. “That was good to see after such a struggle against Pine Bluff (in a 50-46 win on Friday, Dec. 4. “We can actually put it in the basket.”
Regarding the opponent, the coach said, “Maumelle’s a good team. I didn’t necessarily expect that result. They don’t have quite the depth this year. So, they’re not pressing a whole lot.
“They were playing that 1-3-1,” he said, referring Maumelle’s zone defense. “They’ve been really good at it. They’ve given people fits with it.
“Our kids did a really good job of attacking spots and the openings in their zone,” he said. “We kind of made little adjustments as the game went on offensively as they made adjustments to try to take some things away.
“I was really proud of that,” Abrahamson concluded. “We shot it pretty well. We shot a lot of 3’s the first half. I thought we settled a few times because we made a couple. But the guys were going after the offensive rebounds too. As long as they do that, I can deal with it a little bit.”
Bryant’s Hornets out-boarded Maumelle’s Hornets 39-28. Those rebounds included 17 on the offensive end.
Brunson’s layup off the tip was followed by a 3 from Adams to make it 5-0. Maumelle got within 9-7 midway through the opening quarter but Ruffner popped a 3, Nichols absorbed a charge, and Hunter scored off a feed from Nichols to make it 14-7.
Maumelle’s Josh Denton, who led his team with 17 points, interrupted the Bryant barrage with a three-point play but George drained a triple then Hunter hit from long range to make it 20-10 and moved Maumelle coach Michael Shook (a former player at Bryant) to call a timeout.
Hunt scored off a dish from Diggins to extend the margin to 22-10. Maumelle hung around by virtue of a pair of triples by Kaleb Thurman. But a basket inside by Diggins and a three-point play from George had Bryant up 27-16 going into the second stanza.
Bryant’s lead was 38-23 with 2:30 left in the half. Nichols sparked a run with a three-point play. He followed up with a steal and layup to extend the lead to 19. Adams drained another 3 and, after Hunter took a charge, he added a free throw to make it 48-28 in the final minute of the half.
After Carl Daughtery hit a 3 for Maumelle, the frustration boiled over a Hunter scored and was fouled with :21.2 left. Shook was hit with a T then so was Thurman. Hunter finished his three-point play then Adams made a free throw and Hunter came back to connect twice as the lead ballooned to 54-28 at the half.
A pair of baskets by Brunson and a layup by Ruffner pushed the margin to 60-31.
Maumelle answered with a 9-0 run only to have Hunter drill back-to-back triples and the game was never quite that close again.
Bryant led 74-53 going into the fourth quarter. Brunson opened the period with a follow shot and after Maumelle’s Jaylon Smith and Ruffner traded 3’s, Abrahamson pulled Hunter and started rotating his reserves into the game.
Darren Wallace and George each hit 3’s down the stretch. Newburn fed Diggins for a basket then, moments later, scored inside himself. Bryant led 91-61 and the mercy rule (running clock) went into effect for the last 1:52.
Tonight, the Hornets along with the Bryant girls, will host Hot Springs, a late addition to the schedule after Little Rock Parkview had to bow out from a meeting with Bryant due to coronavirus issues.
BRYANT 91, MAUMELLE 63
Score by quarters
Maumelle 16 12 23 10 — 63
BRYANT 27 27 20 17 — 91
Konyaole 1-4 0-0 2, Daughtery 2-8 5-6 10, Wade 3-7 1-1 8, Denton 7-10 2-2 17, Thurman 3-8 0-4 8, Davillier 3-5 2-2 8, Smith 1-3 2-3 5, Chamblee 0-0 0-0 0, McGee 0-2 0-2 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Robey 0-1 0-0 0, Ford 0-1 0-0 0, Watts 1-4 3-4 5, Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-53 (40%) 15-24 (63%) 63.
Ruffner 3-6 0-0 8, Hunter 9-13 6-7 27, Montgomery 0-3 0-0 0, Adams 3-7 1-2 9, Brunson 5-6 2-4 12, Nichols 4-6 1-1 9, George 3-8 3-4 11, Newburn 1-2 1-2 3, Diggins 4-4 0-0 8, Wallace 1-2 1-2 4, Fowler 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsey 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-58 (56%) 15-22 (68%) 91.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 10-26 (Hunter 3-7, Adams 2-6, Ruffner 2-5, George 2-5, Wallace 1-1, Nichols 0-1, Newburn 0-1), Maumelle 6-20 (Thurman 2-5, Daughtery 1-4, Denton 1-4, Smith 1-2, Wade 1-1, McGee 0-2, Davillier 0-1, Watts 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Maumelle 19. Rebounds: Bryant 17-22 39 (Hunter 2-4 6, Brunson 4-2 6, Ruffner 3-2 5, Newburn 1-3 4, Diggins 2-2 4, Montgomery 0-3 3, George 2-1 3, Nichols 2-0 2, Wallace 0-2 2, Adams 0-1 1, Lindsey 1-0 1, team 0-2 2), Maumelle 12-16 28 (Thurman 3-25, Konyaole 1-3 4, Wade 2-0 3, Denton 1-2 3, Davillier 2-1 3, Daughtery 1-1 2, Smith 0-2 2, Watts 0-2 2, Robey 0-1 1, Ford 1-0 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 22, Maumelle 22. Technical fouls: Maumelle Coach Shook, Thurman, Administrative (book).