FORT SMITH — The Bryant Hornets took a timeout with :42.2 showing on the clock. With a 3, sophomore Khalen Robinson had just tied the game with the Fort Smith Southside Mavericks 64-64. He followed up by going to the floor to secure a loose ball. The timeout, taken by head coach Mike Abrahamson was to make sure the Hornets kept possession.
When play resumed, the Hornets worked their offense until Robinson found a crease, drove into the lane and hit a flying jumper to put the Hornets ahead with :27 to go.
Southside called timeout with :15.9 showing.
The Mavericks worked to get the ball inside, but Ollis Brewer was just a little too deep, under the basket. As he reached back to try to get a show away, Bryant’s Deron Canada was there to make his third blocked shot of the game. The ball went out of bounds off Brewer and the Hornets had possession and the lead with :05.8 left.
With :05.1 showing, Robinson was fouled and, after missing two shots from the line earlier in the quarter, coolly knocked down both shots despite a Southside timeout between them. It a two-possession lead, the Hornets had clinched the victory and officially sewed up a bid to the Class 7A State Tournament in North Little Rock.
Robinson scored the Hornets’ last 9 points of the game after Canada poured in 28 to eclipse his season-high 26 on Friday against Central. And he almost had another double-double, falling one rebound short. He drilled eight 3-pointers in the game including five in the second half when he converted all six of his field goal attempts.
Robinson finished with 19 and Sam Chumley 10 for the Hornets as they overcame a 29-point performance by Southside’s Ike Moore, which included seven treys. Taye Gatewood had 13 points.
The Hornets took over sole possession of third place in the 7A-Central Conference with a 7-4 record against the league. They’re 16-8 overall going into a showdown at home this Friday against Cabot.
Southside fell to 12-13 and 4-7, tied with Cabot for fifth place in the league, just a game ahead of Little Rock Central. The Mavs host Little Rock Catholic Friday.
“He’s a winner,” said Abrahamson of Robinson. “He’s more than a winner. He’s a champion. He’s such a competitor. And Canada — wow, just awesome. He carried us a lot the first three quarters then Robinson took us home offensively, but everybody was playing defense, and everybody was rebounding. Everybody accepted what we needed to do to come back and win the game. It’s a team victory and I’m proud of the whole team.”
And it was a comeback win after the Mavericks blasted them with a 25-point first quarter. They led 21-9 going into the final minute of the period. Robinson hit a 3 and, after Southside’s Dillon Hamilton scored off the offensive glass, Canada canned his second triple. At the buzzer, however, Gatewood hit the offensive glass to make it 25-15 at the break. Moore had 13 of those 25 including a trio of 3’s.
“The only thing that went well for us early is that Moore got some fouls,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “He comes out of the game — he’s a phenomenal player — and that helps us gain a little ground.
“You try to prepare your team for exactly what happened,” he related, “and you tell them, ‘They’re coming at you. They’re coming guns blazing. It’s their gym. It’s their homecoming. They think they could’ve got us last time — and they could’ve. They’re a good team and they’re trying to get to the State tournament for the first time since 2012 or whatever it is.’ You go over those things and you say those things as you try to prepare them the best you can, and they still blitz us in that first quarter.”
Abrahamson was fully aware of how tough Southside has been at home. They’ve knocked off Cabot and Conway there. At Bryant, the Hornets prevailed 54-42 over the Mavs.
“Moore getting in foul trouble helped us weather the storm and get some more stops,” the coach noted. “Then we were able to start scoring. The second quarter was much better.”
Canada opened the second period with another 3. Gatewood scored but Chumley came through with a three-point play off the offensive glass. After Southside missed twice, Bryant’s Catrell Wallace scored inside to make it a 27-23 deficit.
Gatewood scored off a drive, but Robinson nailed a 3. Another drive by Gatewood made it 31-26 before Camren Hunter’s offensive-rebound bucket trimmed the lead to 3.
But that’s as close as Bryant could get in the second quarter. Tyrese Solomon helped get Southside back on track with a 3. The Mavericks held a 36-31 lead at the half.
Layups by Canada and Hunter started the third quarter, cutting the margin to 1. But Moore cranked up a trio of 3-pointers that had Southside up 45-40 after the Hornets had briefly taken a lead on another trey by Canada.
But Moore’s 3 with about three minutes left in the period proved to be the last field goal of the quarter for Southside. Chumley canned a 3 then Canada buried another with give Bryant the lead, 46-45.
Canada blocked a shot inside then set up at the other end, took a feed from Robinson and splashed yet another 3 to give the Hornets a 4-point advantage.
Southside took a timeout with :50.5 left in the quarter, hoping to get the last shot. But, with the Hornets playing stifling defense, they were unable to find an open look and the quarter ended without the Mavericks taking that last shot.
Robinson opened the fourth quarter with a drive, giving Bryant a 6-point edge.
But the Mavs rallied. Brewer hit two free throws then Gatewood scored as he was fouled. Though he missed the free throw, they were within 2, 51-49.
And, when Robinson came up empty on a trip to the line, Moore canned his seventh 3 to put Southside ahead again, 52-51, with 6:21 to play.
A Bryant turnover resulted in a three-point play for Brewer and it looked like the tide was turning as Southside led 55-51. But Robinson drove and kicked to Canada for his seventh 3, trimming the margin to 1. Brewer drove for a bucket, but, again, Canada took a feed from Robinson and popped his eight triple, tying the game at 57.
A Southside turnover resulted in Hamilton fouling out. Chumley converted two free throws and the Hornets were back in front.
With Bryant chasing him off the 3-point line, Moore drove for a tying hoop. Robinson picked up his fourth foul on a charging call and Moore penetrated to score again with 2:55 left, putting the Mavs up 61-59.
At the point the Hornets had started changing up their defenses, trying the half-court trap then going to man-to-man out of their 1-3-1 match-up zone.
“They were scoring a lot and Moore hit some 3’s,” Abrahamson explained. “It’s like, ‘We’ve got to throw something else at them because what we do and what we believe in, they’re torching us.’ It’s a thing, as a coach, you don’t really know if it’s going to work but what you’re doing’s not working so you throw something else at them.”
With 2:31 left, Robinson’s drive tied it but, at the 1:47 mark, Solomon drove to the rack and came out with a three-point play and the 64-61 lead that the Hornets went on to overcome, holding Southside scoreless the rest of the way.
“I’m so proud of my guys for hanging in there and responding against a tough opponent in a tough environment,” Abrahamson emphasized.
HORNETS 68, MAVERICKS 64
Score by quarters
BRYANT 15 16 18 19 — 68
FS Southside 25 11 9 19 — 64
HORNETS (16-8, 7-4) 68
Hunter 3-6 0-2 6, Robinson 7-10 2-3 19, Chumley 3-9 3-3 10, Lambert 1-3 0-0 2, Canada 10-14 0-1 28, Merriweather 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 25-43 (58%) 6-11 (55%) 68.
MAVERICKS (12-13, 4-7) 64
Moore 11-18 0-0 29, Gatewood 6-11 1-2 13, Solomon 3-8 1-2 9, Hamilton 1-5 0-0 2, Brewer 3-10 3-3 9, York 0-3 0-0 0, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Coleman 1-1 0-0 2. Team 25-57 (44%) 5-6 (83%) 64.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 12-21 (Canada 8-11, Robinson 3-3, Chumley 1-5, Hunter 0-1, Lambert 0-1), FS Southside 9-25 (Moore 7-12, Solomon 2-6, York 0-3, Brewer 0-2, Gatewood 0-1, Jackson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 10, FS Southside 7. Rebounds: Bryant 5-22 27 (Canada 0-9 9, Robinson 2-3 5, Chumley 2-3 5, Lambert 0-2 2, Hunter 1-1 2, Merriweather 0-1 1, Wallace 0-1 1, team 0-2 2), FS Southside 10-16 26 (Hamilton 3-3 6, Gatewood 2-3 5, Moore 1-3 4, Brewer 2-2 4, Solomon 0-2 2, Coleman 1-1 2, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 12, FS Southside 16. Fouled out: FS Southside, Hamilton.