Freshman Hornets stifle Panthers, gradually pull away

For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle and Rick Nation, go here and here

Ethan Hilkert gets a shot away in traffic in front of teammate Cade Brennan (24). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

BENTON — Though they never trailed, the Bryant Hornets freshman team never seemed to be comfortable in their Central Arkansas Junior High Conference game against the rival Benton Panthers Monday night. Both teams played scrappy defense but the Hornets gradually pulled away for a 37-20 victory.

It was the only regular-season meeting between the two teams.

The win improved the Hornets to 10-6 overall and 7-2 in league play, tied with Russellville for second place in the conference behind unbeaten North Little Rock.

“I think we played a little bit to the crowd and the atmosphere,” said Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “We got a little bit over-hyped and sped up our process. We didn’t really adjust. We just got a little bit too fast, I think.

“I just tried to talk to them, tell them to settle in, just play our game, just play Bryant basketball,” he related. “You know, it’s tough with a crowd like this and a big rivalry.”

“I was really proud of the defense,” the coach said. “We did a very good job there. The (extra) energy really helped on defense. Only giving up 20 points, I’m really proud of the effort there.”

Over the final three periods, the Hornets held Benton to just 12 points. They forced 18 turnovers and combined to block six shots. The Panthers shot just 23 percent from the field (7 of 31).

Benton’s Jalen Reed (23) goes up for a shot between Bryant’s Darrick Rose (3) and Catrell Wallace. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Keith Merriweather Jr. and Ethan Hilkert led the Hornets in scoring with 9 points each. Catrell Wallace had 6 points and a game-high seven rebounds along with three of his team’s blocks.

Jalen Reed wound up with 12 of Benton’s 20 points. Dewayne Jones had 5.

Bryant started the game with an 8-1 run that was indicative of the game, kind of a gradual development.

The scoring started off a steal by O.J. Newburn and a feed to Wallace for a layup. After a free throw by Reed who was 4 of 6 at the line in a game where the two teams combined to shoot just 18, Merriweather canned a 12-foot jumper.

The Hornets forced a Benton turnover. Newburn missed on a 3-point try but Wallace tapped the carom to Hilkert who fed Merriweather for another jumper to make it 6-1.

The game went back and forth in a scramble for a minute before Merriweather returned the favor on a bucket by Hilkert to make it 8-1.

Jones scored all 5 of his points in the final 2:47 of the quarter as Benton rallied. The Panthers got within a point at 8-7 but Cade Drennan hit a free throw then scored off a feed from Marqelle Barnes to keep the Hornets on top.

It was 11-8 going into the second period, which started with another furious stretch of play with no scoring. Nearly three minutes into the period, the Hornets finally broke the spell with a stickback by Hilkert. Merriweather drilled a 3 then Hilkert came through with a three-point play off one of his four offensive rebounds in the contest as the lead reached double digits for the first time at 19-8.

Mason Sacomani interrupted with a free throw then Merriweather dished to Wallace for a basket.

It was 21-11 at the half, which ended with Benton’s Dalton Pugh making a steal and layup.

To start the second half, Wallace blocked a shot by Benton’s Nic Wayson. Merriweather tracked down the deflection and charged to the other end for a layup as he was fouled.

Reed trimmed the margin to 23-15 but consecutive layups by Darrick Rose and Barnes pushed the lead to double figures for good. It was 27-16 going into the final quarter.

Rose fed Hilkert for the first bucket of the fourth. Reed answered but Rose drilled a 15-footer then fed Wallace for a hoop that made it 33-18.

Benton didn’t score again until there was just 1:21 left to play. Reed scored on a drive to cut the lead to 13. Jonathan Hall added a free throw for Bryant and Daniel Walter capped things off with a 3-pointer in the final minute.

The Hornets will be back in action at home on Thursday against Cabot North as they begin their second tour through the CAJHC.

HORNETS 37, PANTHERS 20

Score by quarters

BRYANT          11       10       6          10 — 37

Benton            8          3          5          4 — 20

HORNETS 37

Rose 2-3 0-0 4, Merriweather 4-7 0-3 9, Newburn 0-3 0-0 0, Wallace 3-5 0-0 6, Hilkert 4-9 1-1 9, Barnes 1-4 0-0 2, Drennan 1-2 1-2 3, Herron 0-2 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 0-1 1-2 1, C.Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Walter 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 16-37 3-8 37.

PANTHERS 20

Wayson 0-4 0-0 0, Jones 2-7 1-2 5, Taylor 0-3 0-0 0, Sacomani 0-0 1-2 1, Reed 4-14 4-6 12, Pugh 1-3 0-0 2, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Burrow 0-0 0-0 0, Landers 0-0 0-0 0, Odom 0-0 0-0 0, Beam 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 7-31 6-10 20.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-8 (Merriweather 1-3, Walter 1-1, Newburn 0-3, Herron 0-1), Benton 0-2 (Taylor 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Benton 18. Rebounds: Bryant 8-18 26 (Wallace 1-6 7, Hilkert 4-2 6, Rose 0-4 4, Merriweather 0-3 3, Barnes 0-2 2, Herron 1-1 2, Hall 1-0 1, team 1-0 1), Benton 8-15 23 (Jones 4-2 6, Reed 1-5 6, Taylor 0-4 4, Pugh 2-0 2, Wayson 0-1 1, Sacomani 0-1 1, Landers 0-1 1, team 1-1 2). Team fouls: Bryant 13, Benton 7.



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