For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
At North Little Rock on Tuesday, the Bryant Hornets fell behind 15-0 in the early going and battled all the way back and got a shot to tie it at the end only to suffer a 2-point loss. On Friday, at home, the Hornets again had a rugged start though nowhere near that bad. They fell behind 8-2 and eventually trailed by as much as 15 in the third quarter. Again, they rallied and, this time, actually drew even.
But the Hornets could never get over the top as the Conway Wampus Cats extracted a 58-52 victory to pull even with the Hornets in the 7A-Central Confernce standings at 3-3.
Going into the North Little Rock game, the Hornets were tied for first in the league. Now they’re tied for fifth. It’s the first time all season, they’ve dropped back-to-back games.
Now 14-6 overall, they’ll try to bounce back against the Fort Smith Northside Grizzlies who visit on Tuesday. In a make-up game, Bryant travels to Northside on Friday.
“It’s not a lack of effort,” said an obviously disappointed Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson. “It’s (a lack of) physical, concentrated effort, belief in ourselves, a mindset of a champion.
“I don’t know why we’re not getting it because I believe in these guys,” he asserted. “I think highly of these guys. I don’t understand what’s going on right now, the way we’re starting games, the way we’re carrying ourselves. But I’m going to relentlessly do my best to fix it, to get better, to get them to play at their highest level.”
The Hornets had an off-night shooting the ball, going 13 of 43 (30 percent) from the field. To partly compensate, they attacked the basket enough to get to the free-throw line where they were 22 of 32.
“I thought Conway was great,” Abrahamson said. “They were physical, defended really well, made every shot tough, blocked out. They really hurt us with the and-ones on touch fouls, and, at the end, they really stepped up and made their free throws — all the markings of a really tough team.”
Bryant lost senior forward Lowell Washington to a finger injury late in the first half. He was off to a strong start, scoring 6 points to help keep the Hornets in the game.
In the second half, the Hornets got a lift from sophomore guard Rodney Lambert who scored 8 points including 7 in the third quarter after the Wampus Cats had built their 15-point advantage.
Romen Martin led Bryant with 18 points including 10 of 11 free throws but was held to 3 of 14 shooting from the field. Calvin Allen added 12 points. Other than Lambert, no one else had more than Washington’s 6.
Conway had three in double figures led by Kenarious Smith with 20. Point guard Carson Petrucelli had 13 and Travis Obannon 10. The Cats wound up hitting 53 percent of their shots from the field (20 of 38).
Conway scored the first 5 points of the game. Bryant then had two empty trips to the free-throw line and hadn’t scored going into the final two minutes of the opening period.
Finally, Braylen Steen and Washington worked a high-low play that Washington cashed in. Smith, however, answered with a 3 to make it 8-2. A pair of free throws by Allen with :04.3 left made it 8-4.
With free throws by Martin and a pair of baskets by Washington, the Hornets pulled even with the Cats at 10-10 with 4:01 to play in the half.
But the Hornets just couldn’t get ahead. They were within 14-12 going into the final two minutes when Conway closed with an 8-3 surge that featured 3’s from Petrucelli and Smith around a 3 by Allen.
Trailing 22-15 at the break, the Hornets came out and got the first bucket of the second half after Allen absorbed a charge on a drive by Petrucelli. Steen got the bucket off the offensive glass.
Conway responded with a 10-2 push that started with another triple by Petrucelli and was only interrupted by a steal and layup by Martin.
Lambert came on and started attacking the Conway defense. Still, the Wampus Cats managed to extend the advantage to 36-21 on baskets by Junior Williams and Obannon.
The Hornets were in scramble mode by then, trapping full-court out of a man defense.
Two free throws by Lambert were followed up by Allen’s drive for a layup. Williams scored but Martin drained a 3 to cut the lead to 10.
After Smith answered, Lambert scored and was fouled. He completed the three-point play to trim the margin to single digits. Marvin Moody made a steal but the Hornets turned it back over. He came back to block a shot by Conway’s Kylen Milton. In the closing seconds of the quarter, Martin was fouled and knocked down both ends of the one-and-one to make it 40-33 going into the final eight minutes.
Blake Bradshaw scored for Conway to extend the lead back to 9 but Lambert hit a free throw and Kaleb Turner swished a 3 from the corner for the Hornets. Off a Conway turnover, Turner got to the line and hit once and Bryant was within 4 as the Cats took a timeout.
Smith and Allen traded free throws then Smith scored off a spin move in the lane. Allen drove for a layup in response and Lambert came up with a steal, feeding Martin who was fouled on his drive to the rack. With his free throws, lead was just 2.
Both teams had a couple of chances to change the 45-43 score before, with 2:38 remaining, Steen knocked down two free throws to bring the Hornets even.
Smith countered with a free throw and, when the Hornets misfired, Smith got free for a layup. A 3 that would’ve tied it rimmed out for Bryant so when Obannon converted twice at the line with 1:19 to go, it was a two-possession lead for Conway.
Martin’s free throws whittled it back to 3 with 1:09 left. Smith then burned the press for a dunk with :55 showing and the Hornets were never that close again as Petrucelli and Obannon converted free throws.
“The effort was better on the comeback,” acknowledged Abrahamson. “When we tied it, it seemed like we didn’t as aggressively trap them. That allowed them to score a little bit. They got the lead back and we had to foul them and they made their free throws. Give Conway credit for that. They started great and didn’t allow themselves to melt.”
WAMPUS CATS 58, HORNETS 52
Score by quarters
Conway 8 14 18 18 — 58
BRYANT 4 11 18 19 — 52
WAMPUS CATS (11-8, 3-3) 58
Petrucelli 3-8 4-4 13, Taylor 2-5 1-1 5, Smith 8-11 2-4 20, Bradshaw 2-4 0-4 4, Obannon 2-5 6-7 10, Maull 0-0 0-0 0, Milton 1-2 0-0 2, Williams 2-3 0-1 4. Totals 20-38 13-21 58.
HORNETS (14-5, 3-3) 52
Martin 3-14 10-11 18, Turner 1-4 1-2 4, Canada 0-0 0-0 0, Washington 3-5 0-0 6, Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Steen 1-7 2-4 4, Allen 4-6 3-4 12, Chumley 0-2 0-0 0, McIntosh 0-1 0-2 0, Lambert 1-3 6-9 8. Totals 13-43 22-32 52.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-17 (Martin 2-9, Allen 1-3, Turner 1-2, Steen 0-1, Chumley 0-1, McIntosh 0-1), Conway 5-11 (Petrucelli 3-7, Smith 2-3, Obannon 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, Conway 17. Rebounds: Bryant 9-19 28 (Turner 0-6 6, Steen 3-2 5, Martin 0-4 4, Canada 0-2 2, Washington 1-1 2, Moody 0-2 2, McIntosh 1-1 2, Allen 1-0 1, Chumley 1-0 1, team 2-1 3), Conway 6-26 32 (Taylor 2-7 9, Petrucelli 2-5 7, Smith 0-5 5, Milton 0-3 3, Bradshaw 0-2 2, Obannon 0-2 2, Williams 1-1 2, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 19, Conway 25.