Conway Blue knocks Hornets freshmen out of sole possession of first

By Rob Patrick

CONWAY — For this year, the Conway Blue[more] Wampus Kittens freshman team and the Conway White Wampus Kittens freshman team are rivals but, on Monday night, the former made like the future teammates they are for the latter.

Conway White needed help to gain at least a share of the 7A/6A-Central Junior High Conference championship and a top seed for the league’s post-season tournament, which starts this Saturday at Benton. And it got that help from Conway Blue.

The Blue Kittens out-gunned the Bryant Hornets freshman team for a 63-55 win at Buzz Bolding Arena, knocking the Hornets into a first-place tie with Conway White. The Hornets will need a win at home over Lake Hamilton in a make-up game tonight to retain their share of the league title and secure a No. 2 seed at the tournament. A loss to Lake Hamilton will leave the Hornets in a multiple-team tie for second with three losses.

If the Hornets maintain the No. 2 seed, they will open play in the post-season tournament in Benton on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., against the No. 7 seed.

The Hornets team includes Phillip Barnett, Dakota Besancon, Chase Christie, Brandon Cranford, Cedarrian Crosby, Evan Davis, Trevor Ezell, Greyson Giles, T.J. Hall, Austin Hammonds, Hunter Holder, Matt Jernigan, Spencer Kilgore, Slade Lewis, Madre London, Dylan Masters, Davis Nossaman, Gray Orman, Garrett Phillips, C.J. Rainey, Brian Reed, Mitchell Scoggins and Caleb Strain.

After trailing by 15 going into the fourth quarter, the Hornets gamely rallied to within 5 and had a chance to get closer in the final 30 seconds. But C.J. Rainey’s 3-point try rimmed out. He went and retrieved the carom but couldn’t get the follow to fall either and, with :07.5 to play, Trent Walder hit a free throw to make it 61-55. His second shot missed but teammate Aumonie Armond rebounded. He missed and much to the Hornets’ frustration, Walder grabbed the carom. He was fouled with :02.5 showing and converted twice to set the final score.

The Hornets hadn’t given up more than 51 points in the game all season. Four of the five Conway Blue starters scored in double figures, led by Walder with 18 including 3 of 3 from the 3-point arc. A.J. Burton added 15 while Alex Reed and Armond finished with 12 each. For Bryant, Rainey led with 17. Madre London added 16 and Chase Christie 10 to go with a team-high eight rebounds.

Conway Blue started both halves on fire from the field. The Kittens were 8 of 11 in the first quarter and 8 of 13 in the third. That’s 67 percent, part of a 55 percent showing night (24 of 44).

“They hit some shots when we were on them,” noted Hornets coach Steve Wilson. “Like I was telling the guys, that’s when every possession counts. You can’t let them get back and get an easy layup. You’ve got to make them earn every one of them and you can’t let them get second shots. They were able to do that too.

“I felt like we shot the ball well,” he added. “I think our defense needed to be better. But we never gave up. We came back. We just let them capitalize on their momentum in the third quarter. That’s when they made their run and we got into too deep of a hole.”

Both teams started the game red hot. The Hornets hit five of their first seven shots including 3’s by Christie and Rainey. One of the misses was rebounded by Scoggins and put back in. Bryant had a 12-8 lead but Conway Blue reeled off the next 9 points before a stickback by Crosby beat the buzzer to get the Hornets within 17-14.

Christie opened the second quarter with his second triple and the game was tied. But Walder hit two of his 3’s over the next few minutes to held the Kittens produced a 25-19 lead. A 3-pointer by London closed the game to 3 and, after a free throw by Armond, Scoggins hit the offensive glass for a bucket to make it 26-24 with 3:05 left in the half.

But Conway Blue responded with the next 7 points including a 3-pointer by Burton and a basket that made it 33-25.

In turn, Christie fed Scoggins for a hoop and, in the final minute, Rainey canned a short jay and the Hornets were within 33-29 at the half.

Walder then started the third quarter with his third trey and the lead grew to 9. Bryant was within 41-34 with 2:23 left in the quarter but Conway Blue closed the period with a 12-4 surge that produced the 15-point lead that the Hornets started to whittle down at the outset of the final quarter.

Christie crashed the offensive boards for a basket and, after Alex Reed scored inside for Conway Blue, Rainey hit a driving jumper. He later made a steal and layup that had the Hornets within 55-44. And, after Reed misfired, Christie fed Giles for an open look from the left wing. Giles splashed the trey and the margin was under 10.

Reed followed with one of those “oh-no, oh-yes” 3-pointers that, nonetheless, caused his coach Tommy McMillan to call a timeout for a little lesson in protecting a lead with nothing but layups and free throws.

When play resumed, London slashed for a basket and, off a Rainey steal, hit a short jumper that had Bryant within 58-51 with 1:30 to go. Burton scored despite being fouled. He missed a free throw but Reed rebounded. Christie, however, made a steal and drove for a layup that had the lead down to 7 with 1:09 to go.

Crosby made a steal but couldn’t get his shot to go. Rainey’s 3-point try refused to fall but, after a Conway turnover, London was fouled with :30.2 showing. He converted twice to get the Hornets as close as they’d been since the first half at 60-55.

And when Burton missed the front end of a one-and-one with :27.2 to go, it gave the Hornets the chance to get closer, leading to Rainey’s lid-on-the-basket shots that proved to be the Hornets’ last best chance to pull out the win.


Score by quarters

BRYANT 14 15 9 17 — 55

Conway Blue 17 16 20 10 — 63


Rainey 8-19 0-0 17, Giles 1-4 1-4 4, Christie 4-6 0-0 10, Scoggins 3-5 0-0 6, London 6-15 3-4 16, B.Reed 0-1 0-0 0, Crosby 1-3 0-0 2, Strain 0-1 0-0 0, Ezell 0-0 0-0 0, Orman 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 4-8 55.


Burton 6-12 2-5 15, Walder 5-8 5-6 18, A.Reed 5-11 0-0 12, Thompson 3-5 0-0 6, Armond 5-6 2-4 12, Tabor 0-0 0-0 0, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-44 9-15 63.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-13 (Christie 2-3, Rainey 1-4, Giles 1-3, London 1-2, Strain 0-1), Conway Blue 6-9 (Walder 3-3, A.Reed 2-2, Burton 1-2, Thompson 0-1, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds: Bryant 27 (Christie 8, London 7), Conway Blue 29 (Armond 9). Turnovers: Bryant 6, Conway Blue 10. Team fouls: Bryant 15, Conway Blue 11.

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