By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
At the end of the first quarter and again at the end of the half, the Bryant Hornets had the[more] chance to take the last shot. As time ran down, those packed into the student section at the north end of the gym counted down the seconds. In both instances, first Marcus Wilson then Jordan Griffin, got an open look and launched a 3-pointer just as the count reached three. And, both times, the shots swished, the crowd erupted and the buzzer ending the quarter sounded.
It was that kind of night for the Hornets who rained 3’s down on the Little Rock Central Tigers 13 times including five in a 21-point first quarter blitz that sent them on their way to a 56-30 romp, a much-needed victory after a pair of narrow defeats in their previous two contests.
Senior Brantley Cozart buried 6 of 10 from long range on the way to a season-high 26 points in the victory. Wilson finished with three triples of his 9 points, Jordan Griffin hit a pair as part of his 13 and Anthony Black connected as well. And punctuate the victory, senior Travis Royal beat the final buzzer with the 13th bomb.
The win improved the Hornets to 11-8 overall. As the first half of the 7A/6A-Central Conference’s double round-robin schedule concludes, they are one of fourth teams tied for third at 3-4. Bryant opens the second half of the league slate on Friday, Feb. 3, at Little Rock Catholic.
Central’s only lead of the game was 3-0 when Devan James opened the contest with a triple. A jumper in the lane by Griffin got Bryant started and, after Kylon Nichols misfired for the Tigers, Cozart drove for a layup. After another Central miss, Griffin buried the first of Bryant’s 3-pointers.
James answered with a deuce from the corner but Cozart fired a trey. Kerry Young answered inside for the Tigers and they had a chance to cut the 10-7 lead only to have Bryant’s Quinton Motto make a steal that Cozart cashed in with another 3.
The Hornets continued to trade 3 for 2. Young converted a pair of free throws but Black connected from long range. Motto and Young traded stickbacks before Wilson beat the buzzer with his triple, making it 21-11.
Wilson then started the second quarter with a 3 to bump the margin further. Griffin’s buzzer beater had the Hornets up 27-16 at the half.
The onslaught resumed in the third quarter with another Cozart connection. He added a free throw then Motto took a charge and Griffin drove into the lane and hit a short jumper to make it 33-16.
A banked 3 by Kelton Wilbert broke a long dryspell for Central but Cozart answered in kind, Black made a steal and Griffin kissed a 10-foot jumper off the glass to make it 38-19.
And when Motto took another charge and Cozart drained another 3, the Hornets had a 22-point advantage midway through the third quarter.
“I don’t feel like we did anything more or less to prepare for this game than any other game,” said Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson. “I think it was different because Central plays different. They play their 1-2-2 zone, which we haven’t seen this year. We prepare the same but we’re going over different things."
The Tigers trapped out of the zone but the Hornets only suffered 11 turnovers in the game and five of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was all but decided.
“I don’t know,” Abrahamson said, regarding his team’s performance. “Maybe they bought into (the game plan) a little bit more or they felt like it was really going to work right away. Of course, it really stands out when they step up and make shots like that. We’ve had games where we’ve gotten great looks and just haven’t shot the ball that well. Tonight, we were on fire.”
Bryant shot a better percentage from beyond the arc (13 for 24, 54 percent) than inside it (6 of 19, 32 percent).
“I thought really they’d come after us a little bit more,” mentioned the coach. “But we were still able to run the same stuff. We didn’t really get anything going inside but we really had some good looks from outside and stepped up and made them.
“We’ve seen Central play and they play like they’ve been shot out of a cannon,” he continued. “We just tried to prepare for that. Our (varsity) guys were able to see in the JV game — that’s the way the JV game went. They got a big lead against our guys — we were able to come back and win — but they were able to see just exactly what I was talking about. It’s hard to simulate their speed in practice. But I think they’re eyes were opened and knew they’d better be ready to protect the ball and move the ball and execute our plan.”
The Hornets’ ball movement was no small thing. They worked the zone and got a lot of open looks. The Tigers may have been a little less aggressive defensively because of early foul trouble too.
Bryant led 45-26 going into the fourth quarter. Baskets by Kenerious Madden and Marcus Dortch trimmed the lead to 15 with 4:40 left to play but the Tigers were unable to score the rest of the game. Cozart scored 8 straight points after that and Central was repeatedly frustrated by offensive rebounds by the Hornets.
“We had a great atmosphere,” Abrahamson noted. “Especially in the first half then everybody just kind of enjoyed the second half. I hope they did.
“Our kids deserve it,” he concluded. “They work so hard and they’ve had some tough losses. They deserve a night like this.”
HORNETS 56, TIGERS 30
Score by quarters
LR Central 11 5 10 4 — 30
BRYANT 21 6 18 11 — 56
TIGERS (8-10, 3-4) 30
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Kie.Wilbert 0-2 0-0 0-4 4 3 0
Nichols 0-3 2-2 0-0 0 1 2
Young 3-8 2-2 2-4 6 1 9
D.James 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 2 5
Dortch 2-4 0-1 3-0 3 3 4
A.Davis 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Giffin 0-2 0-0 0-1 1 2 0
Madden 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 2 2
Kel.Wilbert 1-2 0-0 1-0 1 0 3
E.James 1-4 2-3 0-1 1 1 5
Team 1-0 1
Total 10-29 6-8 7-11 18 15 30
HORNETS (11-8, 3-4) 56
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Black 1-2 0-0 2-4 6 2 3
Griffin 5-12 1-2 2-1 3 1 13
Cozart 8-15 4-6 1-4 5 2 26
Wilson 3-5 0-0 1-0 1 2 9
Motto 1-6 0-0 5-1 6 1 2
Neale 0-1 0-0 2-3 5 0 0
Rainey 0-1 0-0 1-1 2 0 0
S.Davis 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Royal 1-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 3
Rayburn 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 1-0 1
Total 19-43 5-8 15-14 29 8 56
Three-point field goals: Bryant 13-24 (Cozart 6-10, Wilson 3-5, Griffin 2-5, Black 1-2, Royal 1-1, Rainey 0-1), LR Central 4-11 (E.James 1-3, Young 1-2, Kel.Wilbert 1-2, D.James 1-1, Giffin 0-2, Nichols 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, LR Central 15.