The Bryant Hornets freshman team came into their game on Monday, Feb. 2, riding a four-game win streak, with five victories in their last six contests. But their opponent was the North Little Rock Junior Charging Wildcats, leaders of the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. North Little Rock had already beaten the Junior Hornets three times this season, once in the early-season Saline County Invitational at the Bryant Middle School gym, once in a holiday tournament at Little Rock J.A. Fair, and most recently, at the North Little Rock High School gym.
Now the first and third of those contests were lopsided victories. But the second was close enough that the Hornets had had a chance to win it before suffering a 44-39 setback.
And that was just enough to convince them that they might be able to knock off the Cats when they came to Bryant. Add to that the confidence that the Hornets have gained from their recent success and, sure enough, they came through with a convincing 60-52 victory.[more]
"Each time we've played them, we were close either until half or right before half," recalled Hornets coach Steve Wilson. "I thought tonight we got a little scared early but, when we came back and made a good run ourselves, it really gave us some confidence and that's what we really needed against them.
"The kids just played well," he added. "They played together, played smart and did what we needed to do to help the team win. The team has jelled a lot the last two weeks. We've got enough talent that, when we play like that, work together like that, it's pretty easy on my side. Pretty much any play I call, they make it work."
The Hornets enter the final week of the regular season with a 13-8 overall record, 7-5 in the division. They travel to Cabot South on Thursday, Feb. 5, then wrap up the regular season at home against Benton on Monday, Feb. 9. The CAJHC post-season tournament begins Saturday, Feb. 14, at Greenbrier.
As Wilson mentioned, the Hornets started the game a little shaky, falling behind 7-0. But instead of getting their heads down and thinking, here it comes again, they picked up a three-point play from Cody McPherson that sparked a counter run.
McPherson nailed a 3-pointer and, after Lawrence Hubbert hit a driving jumper, Brantley Cozart drilled back-to-back 3's to tie it then give Bryant it's first lead. Nico Hardeman hit a jumper to cut the margin to 12-11 before Bryant went on a 10-2 run to build a lead it never relinquished.
Tyler Nelson's layup started the run. Jonathan Parks added a free throw then, right before the buzzer ending the first half, McPherson drove the baseline and fed post man Quenton Motto who banked in a short jumper to make it 17-11 going into the second period. L.J. McLaughlin dished to Motto for the first bucket of the second quarter and, after Cody Ware scored inside for the Wildcats, Nelson capped the charge with a 3-pointer to make it 22-13.
North Little Rock rallied to within 22-19 but Bryant countered. McPherson canned a 12-foot jumper and Motto came through with a three-point play to make it 27-19. With 1:04 left in the half, Cozart, who led all scorers with 18 points, went to the line and converted his first shot. His second was off but Parks snatched the rebound and fed Cozart who drilled a 12-foot jumper as he was being knocked to the floor, giving the Hornets a 30-19 advantage.
It was 31-23 at the half. North Little Rock came out revved up for the third quarter but Bryant answered every challenge, building the lead back to 11 on free throws by Derek Johnson and a bucket inside by McPherson. It was 42-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Parks' short jumper bumped the margin to 13 early in the final period. Hardeman answered with a 3 but when Cozart drove for a hoop then made a steal and an eye-popping feed on the break to L.J. McLaughlin for a basket, the Hornets had their largest lead of the game, 48-34, with 4:08 to play.
After a timeout, North Little Rock whittled the lead down to 8 on baskets by Ware, Kaylon Cooper and Hubbert but that was as close as the Wildcats could get. Cozart followed his own miss to spark a Bryant answer. He then made another nice feed, this time t4o Parks for a layup and a 52-40 advantage.
The Wildcats trimmed the lead to 8 one more time with 1:10 to play but, in the final 45 seconds, Parks, Cozart and McLaughlin hit free throws to maintain the lead.
McPherson finished with 10 points, Parks 9 and Motto 7. The 60 points were the most Bryant had scored in a game all season. For North Little Rock, Ware had 14, Hubbert 10 and Tyree Hollister 11.
JUNIOR HORNETS 60, JUNIOR WILDCATS 52
Score by quarters
NLR 11 12 8 21 — 52
BRYANT 17 14 11 18 — 60
Hubbert 4-6 2-2 10, Hardeman 3-8 0-0 7, Ware 6-12 1-3 14, Cooper 3-7 0-0 6, Hollister 3-14 5-7 11, Appleberry 0-1 0-0 0, Warren 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 2-3 0-0 4, Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Laster 0-1 0-0 0, Hubbard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-52 8-12 52.
Cozart 6-10 4-7 18, McPherson 4-6 1-1 10, Nelson 2-9 1-2 6, McLaughlin 1-3 2-2 4, Johnson 2-2 2-2 6, Parks 3-5 3-4 9, Motto 3-3 1-1 7, Royal 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-38 14-19 60.
Three point field goals: North Little Rock 2-8 (Ware 1-4, Hardeman 1-2, Hollister 0-1, Laster 0-1), Bryant 4-7 (Cozart 2-3, Nelson 1-3, McPherson 1-1). Rebounds: North Little Rock 29 (Hollister 8), Bryant 24 (Parks 7). Turnovers: North Little Rock 13, Bryant 13. Total fouls: North Little Rock 15, Bryant 13. Fouled out: North Little Rock, Hubbert; Bryant, Motto.