Defense, 3-ball barrage help freshman boys snap brief skid

Photos courtesy of Valerie Nagle

Coming off two disappointing losses before the Thanksgiving break, the Bryant Hornets freshman basketball team went back to work on the practice court. Head coach Tyler Posey’s emphasis was on defense and hustle.

Darren Wallace launches a 3-pointer as Jaylen Russ (34) fights for rebounding position. (Photo by Valerie Nagle)

And when the team returned to action at home against the Cabot North Panthers on Monday night, the work obviously helped. The Hornets got after it on defense and forced the Panthers into a whopping 29 turnovers, pulling away in the second half and breaking their brief skid with a 51-33 victory.

“It’s something we’ve really been focusing on in practice the last week or so,” Posey acknowledged. “I just didn’t feel like we were playing hard enough the last two games. The intensity level wasn’t at the level that I enjoyed seeing these guys. 

“I told them they were one of the faster teams I’ve ever coached and getting after it really spells out success for our team,” he related. “We really focused in on doing that.”

The Hornets were in attack-mode on defense but also on offense. Though they shot just 35 percent from the floor (18 of 52), their constant downhill offense created opportunities at the free-throw line and at the three-point line. They didn’t fare so well in the former, going 6 of 14 at the charity stripe, but did extremely well in the latter, hitting 9 of 16 from distance.

“We really don’t shoot it well for the most part but when we get really good kickouts and really pay attention to how we step into shots and follow through, I feel like we do a great job in shooting,” said Posey. “We really found those guys tonight.”

Ivory Gilmore and James Billingsley each had three triples. Braylen Montgomery, Darren Wallace and Jaxon Fluger each connected once. 

Gilmore led the team with 12 points. Billingsley had 9, Montgomery and Jordan Knox 8 each.

It was Knox, Billingsley and Chris Gannaway that really spear-headed the Bryant pressure.

Cabot North was led by brawny 6-4 post Chris Leaks who had 10 points and seven rebounds. Hunter Schettler added 7 points.

The game was tight early. A layup by Gannaway off a steal by Billingsley then a 3 by Gilmore had the Hornets up 5-0 but the Panthers surged to take an 8-6 lead. Montgomery’s driving jumper tied it then Billingsley splashed a trey to put the Hornets on top going into the final minute of the opening quarter.

Leaks drove for a layup and Austin Robertson hit a free throw to tie it at 11 only to have Wallace beat the buzzer with a 3.

But the 14-11 lead disappeared early in the second period. Leaks scored inside then, off a steal, got to the free-throw line where he tied it back up at 14.

Montgomery and Landyn Gordon traded baskets then Cabot North surged into the lead on buckets from Leaks and Robertson, forcing Posey to call a timeout.

When play resumed, the Hornets intensified their defensive pressure. Though they still trailed 22-18 going into the final 2:30 of the half, they started to utilize traps and run-and-jump to their man press and the Panthers started to turn it over and struggle to get shots. They scored just one free throw the rest of the half.

Gilmore hit a 3 to cut the margin to 22-21 and, after a free throw by Cabot North’s Gavin Moore, added a three-point play. Knox made a steal and drove for a layup then did it again, making it 28-23 at the half.

Noah Yates’ driving jumper opened the scoring in the second half for the Panthers. They had a chance to cut the lead to less than 3 but Knox made another steal that led to a 3 from Billingsley and the Hornets were surging again.

Gannaway hit a layup off a turnover then Billingsley drained another 3 and the Hornets had their first double-digit lead at 36-25.

Bryant led 37-28 going into the fourth quarter. The lead ballooned to 17 down the stretch. Initially, it was the result of a 3 from Montgomery, another by Gilmore off a kick-out from Knox then a basket inside for Jaylen Russ.

After Leaks and Knox traded three-point plays, both teams turned to their reserves. Fluger’s 3 capped off the night for the Hornets.

Now 3-2 on the season, Bryant travels to North Little Rock for a game on Thursday that should start around 5:30 p.m.

HORNETS 51, PANTHERS 33

Freshman

Score by quarters

Cabot North    11        12        5          5 — 33

BRYANT           14        14        9          14 — 51

PANTHERS 33

Schettler 3-3 0-1 7, Yates 2-6 0-1 5, Moore 0-0 1-2 1, King 0-0 0-0 0, Leaks 4-9 2-3 10, Robertson 2-4 1-2 5, Jimerson 0-3 1-5 1, Gordon 1-3 0-0 2, Gamboa 1-1 0-0 2, Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Patel 0-0 0-0 0, Fitch 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-30 5-14 33.

HORNETS 51

Knox 3-8 2-7 8, Gannaway 2-7 0-0 4, Billingsley 3-6 0-0 9, Gilmore 4-5 1-1 12, Russ 1-5 0-0 2, Montgomery 3-7 1-2 8, Wallace 1-6 1-2 4, Vinson 0-2 1-2 1, Jenkins 0-1 0-0 0, Pitts 0-0 0-0 0, Fluger 1-2 0-0 3, Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Skelley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-52 6-14 51.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 9-16 (Billingsley 3-6, Gilmore 3-4, Wallace 1-2, Montgomery 1-1, Fluger 1-1, Jenkins 0-1, Moore 0-1), Cabot North 2-8 (Yates 1-3, Schettler 1-1, Gordon 0-2, Jimerson 0-1, Fitch 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Cabot North 29. Rebounds: Bryant 15-16 31 (Knox 2-4 6, Vinson 2-2 4, Skelley 2-1 3, Gannaway 2-1 3, Russ 2-1 3, Gilmore 0-2 2, Montgomery 1-1 2, Wallace 1-1 2, Billingsley 1-0 1, Jenkins 0-1 1, Pitts 1-0 1, Moore 0-1 1, team 1-1 2), Cabot North 5-20 25 (Leaks 2-5 7, Jimerson 0-5 5, Robertson 2-2 4, Schettler 0-2 2, Yates 0-1 1, Gamboa 0-1 1, team 1-4 5). Team fouls: Bryant 18, Cabot North 12.



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