FORREST CITY — The Bryant Hornets, playing in the annual Rumble on the Ridge, absorbed their first loss of the season, 84-73, to the Tri-Cities Bulldogs of East Point, Ga., on Thanksgiving Day.
“It was a good experience for us,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “I think in the long run it will be. But, in terms of winning and losing, it didn’t go well.
“They are a super-fast team,” he said of Tri-Cities. “Very athletic; they’ve got big guards that play very fast. I say fast but we haven’t played a time like this in a few years. The closest thing I can equate it to some of the Maumelle teams that we played in the past — but faster. And whereas Maumelle might have, in the past, one stud and a bunch of athletes around him, this team had about three studs and athletes around them.
“You try to prepare for that but, at the same time, you can’t simulate it,” he added.
The game was tight in the first quarter. The Bulldogs led 24-23.
“We were playing with them, but it was just up and down, up and down,” Abrahamson said. “In the second quarter, we take three just one-pass 3’s — not rhythm 3’s, not in-and-out 3’s, just quick 3’s that really caught up in the pace. We had hit a few in the first quarter but they were good rhythm shots. At the start of the second quarter, they were open, but they weren’t necessarily rhythm 3’s that we want. We kind of played right into their hands.”
As a result, the Bulldogs put together a run and built a 48-37 lead at the half.
“In the third quarter,” said Abrahamson, “we tried to control the tempo a little bit more, be aggressive but, at the same time, control, playing our pace, which is not 100 miles an hour, it’s more maybe 85 now.”
Tri-Cities built the lead to 19.
“Then we adjusted really nicely,” the coach continued. “In the fourth quarter, I think on two occasions, we cut it to 4.
“But they just kept their pace up the entire time, so they were shooting free throws to win it instead of us being able to come back,” he related.
The Bulldogs were 16 of 20 from the free throw line while the Hornets converted just 17 of 27.
“We missed some points there, including some front ends of some one-and-ones,” the coach noted. “We could get back close, but we couldn’t get over the hump and a lot of that was us not making a free throw or not making a layup or a shot right at the rim or getting a stop. (The Bulldog players) would just put their head down and go full speed and we wouldn’t get in front of them.”
Treylon Payne finished with 22 points, 15 in the second half, while Camren Hunter finished with 19, including 15 in the first half. Gavin Brunson scored 10 points and hauled down 10 rebounds.
Payne and guard A.J. Jenkins suffered from foul trouble in the first half, but the Hornets only suffered 13 turnovers in the high-flying contest.
“But I thought we got good looks all game,” said Abrahamson. “The turnovers were not where we want them but it’s the best we’ve done including against Robinson, a team like that trying to turn us over all game. That’s improvement.
“With the foul trouble, it’s not just that they can’t be on the floor, it forces us to keep guys like Camren and Gavin on the floor without getting them breaks,” he mentioned. “There’s the effect of that. That hurt us bad. I think if we have those guys on the floor more and we can get Cam an extra break, get Gavin a break — he didn’t come out of the game at all — there’s a lot of different ways it may have worked out better for us.
“I hope, in the long run, that is a good experience for us,” Abrahamson reiterated. “Because we didn’t play anybody like that last year and had a tough schedule last year. We played really good teams and we’re going to play really good teams this year but just that style is something that we haven’t seen.”
The Hornets return to action today at 3:30 p.m., against a team from Texas called iSchool Virtual Academy, based in Lewisville, Texas, near Dallas.
“We gave a lot of effort (on Thursday),” Abrahamson said. “Our guys really competed. It wasn’t effort. It wasn’t lack of competing. But now we’ve got to come back today and play another game.
“And they’re good. They’ve got a 6’11” center and a guard that’s a Division I offer or two. There’s no slouches here. We’ve got our hands full.”