Conway Blue brings Bryant freshman season to abrupt end

File photos  by Rick Nation

CONWAY — Just under a week after forging a convincing win over the Conway Blue Wampus Cats, the Bryant Hornets freshman team opened the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament against those same Cats on Wednesday at Conway High School gym.

Calvin Allen (Photo by Rick Nation)

Calvin Allen (Photo by Rick Nation)

And whether the Hornets took their rival for granted, or may have been looking ahead at a chance at revenge against a Lake Hamilton team on Thursday, or they just faced a better Conway Blue team this time, the story had a different ending.

Bryant led only briefly and Conway Blue put away a close game with a strong finish, ending the Hornets’ season with a 43-34 decision.

The third seed for the tournament, the Hornets finished 16-8 overall after a 6-2 campaign in the conference.

“I told them it’s not going to be an easy one for anyone to swallow,” said Bryant head coach Tyler Posey of his post-game visit with his team. “That’s a tough loss. I still think we have a good team, that we improved over the season but, for whatever reason, tonight we didn’t get it done. I’m still proud of them. I still enjoyed coaching them. We’ve still got room to grow getting ready for next year.”

Asked about the difference in this game and the previous one, the coach said, “We just didn’t come out the with the intensity and focus that it requires to win a basketball game. We just did not have it tonight.”

The Hornets had to know that Conway Blue was capable. The Wampus Cats were the only team to defeat league champion North Little Rock in the league.

It didn’t help that Bryant was without swingman Jonathan Allen who was unavailable after suffering a concussion at practice in the days leading up to the game. He had played particularly well down the stretch for the Hornets.

Marvin Moody (photo by Rick Nation)

Marvin Moody (photo by Rick Nation)

The game was tight most of the way. The Cats switched defenses on the Hornets and, using a box-and-one, did a good job of keeping the ball out of the hands of their stellar point guard Calvin Allen, particularly down the stretch. But Posey asserted that it was not something the Hornets hadn’t prepared for.

“I knew they were going to switch the defense up a lot,” he said. “I thought we prepared well for it. We worked on several different looks we thought they were going to do. It kind of came to fruition and we just never got into the game, it didn’t seem like to me. We tried to get (Calvin) some looks there. He never shook free.”

Conway Blue was led by athletic 6-4 post player Gentrell Taylor who scored a game-high 13 points and gathered eight rebounds. The Cats out-rebounded the Hornets, 28-16, with 10 of those caroms coming on the offensive end.

Point guard Darius Tate added 9 points, forward Seth Long 8 and D.J. Henson 7. Destin Macon, who did a lot of the defensive work guarding Calvin Allen, finished with 4 points. Erik Webster, who spelled him, added a basket.

Bryant was paced by Kaleb Turner and Brandon Harris with 9 each. Hampered by foul trouble, forward Marvin Moody finished with 4 as did Trey Ashmore. Garrett Cowart and Caylin Allen had 3, Landon Kays 2.

Harris scored the game’s first basket but a three-point play by Taylor put the Wampus Cats up. After Long scored, Cowart drained a 3 to tie it. Taylor hit a free throw then, with :53 left in the first quarter, Calvin Allen drove for a layup that had the Hornets up 8-7.

Brandon Harris (Photo by Rick Nation)

Brandon Harris (Photo by Rick Nation)

But when Tate answered with back-to-back baskets, the second of which turned into a three-point play with :06.8 left, the Cats had the lead for good.

The Hornets made runs at them. Ashmore’s jump hook opened the second-quarter scoring to cut it to 2 but Conway Blue pushed the lead to 16-9. Harris drove for a basket and Turner ripped a 3 to make it 16-14. Webster hit a short jumper and Kays hit a layup off a nice feed from Caylin Allen but Henson’s basket at the buzzer gave the Cats a 20-16 halftime edge.

Cowart made a steal to start the second half and Harris followed his own miss with a bucket that trimmed it to 2 again. The theft by the Hornets’ guard was the first turnover of a stretch in which they turned it over four straight trips to open the half.

Much to their frustration, the Hornets were unable to take advantage of three of those. The fourth garnered only a free throw by Harris that cut it to 20-19.

Long hit a free throw to make it a 2-point game so the Hornets had a chance to tie or take the lead again only to turn it back over. Taylor and Calvin Allen traded baskets to make it 23-21 and, after a Tate miss, Bryant had another chance to tie or take the lead only to suffer another miscue.

Over the last 2:30 of the quarter, the teams traded points with Turner producing 4 points and Caylin Allen knocking down two free throws with :03.8 showing, making it 29-27 going into the fourth.

Caylin Allen (Photo by Rick Nation)

Caylin Allen (Photo by Rick Nation)

The Hornets had another chance to tie or take the lead to start the final period but Taylor blocked Caylin Allen’s shot. Conway, however, turned the ball over and Turner earned a trip to the free-throw line. He made his second shot to make it 31-30 but then the Cats put together a 7-0 run that included offensive-rebound baskets by Taylor and Macon.

Though there was still more than three minutes left, the Hornets never quite recovered from that burst.

Turner drove for a basket with 2:06 to go, following a Blue turnover. At the 1:56 mark, the Hornets had a chance to trim it further when Macon missed the front end of a one-and-one. But Taylor beat them to the carom and, with 1:54 to go, was fouled. Where Macon had missed, Taylor made, extending the margin to 39-32.

The Wampus Cats burned Bryant’s desperation press for a pair of layups after that while holding the Hornets to just 2 points — a stickback by Harris — over the final two minutes.


Score by quarters

Conway Blue 11 9 9 14 — 43

BRYANT 7 9 11 7 — 34


Tate 3-7 3-3 9, Macon 2-5 0-1 4, Henson 3-4 1-2 7, Long 3-4 2-6 8, Taylor 5-8 3-4 13, Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Webster 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 17-31 9-17 43.


Cal.Allen 2-4 0-0 4, Harris 4-12 1-2 9, Cowart 1-3 0-0 3, Handly 0-1 0-0 0, Moody 0-3 0-0 0, Ashmore 2-2 0-0 4, Turner 4-8 0-1 9, Cay.Allen 0-4 3-4 3, Kays 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 14-38 4-7 34.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-12 (Turner 1-3, Cowart 1-2, Harris 0-4, Cay.Allen 0-2, Moody 0-1), Conway Blue 0-6 (Tate 0-2, Macon 0-2, Jones 0-2). Rebounds: Bryant 16 (Turner 4, Cay.Allen, Harris 3), Conway Blue 28 (Taylor 8, Henson 5). Turnovers: Bryant 10, Conway Blue 16. Team fouls: Bryant 17, Conway Blue 11. Fouled out: Bryant, Moody.


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