CONWAY — After leading by as many as 13 in the first half, the Bryant Hornets took a 10-point lead into the intermission against the Sprindale Har-Ber Wildcats at Buzz Bolding Arena Friday evening.
When the second half began, the Wildcats put together a 9-0 push to cut the margin to 1. Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson called a timeout to let his team reset and, perhaps stake some of the starch out of Har-Ber’s momentum.
“Respond,” was his basic instruction. There was no panic in the Hornets. No fear. And that’s the advantage of an experienced team.
When play resumed, Lowell Washington, following his own miss, earned a trip to the free-throw line where he managed the Hornets’ first point of the second half with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
At the other end, however, Har-Ber’s Ryan Taylor hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the Wildcats a 35-34 lead.
And they had a chance to extend it after a Bryant miss. But Washington blocked a shot by Tylor Perry. Moments later, the Hornets were inbounding the ball on their own baseline. Point guard Calvin Allen fed Romen Martin who drained a 3.
And the Hornets never trailed again on the way to a 57-47 win on the first day of the 2016 Wampus Cat/Bank of the Ozarks/John Stanton Classic challenge. Bryant returns on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., to play Fayetteville.
“They’re a good team,” said Abrahamson of Har-Ber. “We knew they’d make some adjustments to try to respond.
“We were having some trouble defending their ball screens,” he mentioned. “I thought we did a decent job on it the first half but we had some trouble the second half and they were getting into the lane on us, making some things happen.”
Following Martin’s 3, which began the turning of the tide back Bryant’s way, Allen attacked the rack and was fouled. He made one of the free throws the Martin made a steal and drove for a layup to push the lead to 40-35 with 1:27 left in the third quarter.
Har-Ber responded again. Two free throws by Tyler Garrett and a 3 from Matt Kaunitz cut Bryant’s lead to 40-39.
To start the fourth quarter, Allen fed Washington for a basket inside and, after a miss by Har-Ber, Washington drove, pulled up and popped a short jumper. Off a Wildcats’ miss, Martin got behind their defense and, though he missed his layup, Braylen Steen was there to tip it in.
When Allen got fouled again on the way to the hoop with 5:07 left, Har-Ber called a timeout. Allen would make one of his free throws and follow up with a steal and layup to complete a 9-0 run.
A basket by Braeden Williams provided the Wildcats’ first points of the fourth quarter at the 4:37 left. After a Bryant turnover, however, Martin made a steal and layup to keep it a 10-point game.
Allen finished with 20 points. Martin had 12, Washington 9 and Steen 8 to go with a game-high 11 rebounds.
“I can’t say enough about Calvin and Romen and Braylen,” Abrahamson said. “Those three guys are kind of like our rocks. Our team is so used to those guys playing at a high level, it takes pressure off of everybody else. If Romen can hit that 3 or Calvin can make something good happen. And now we’ve got Braylen kind of in that group too. Any tension that could possibly be building kind of lets up. And that’s what leaders do. That’s what good players do.”
“And we’ve got other guys that are getting up to their level,” he added. “K.T. (Kaleb Turner) is really coming along and Sam Chumley, Lowell Washington and Marvin Moody. It’s a team effort. These guys are really trying to grow up and do things they’ve never done before.”
The experience also played into the fact that the Hornets had no letdown after an emotional win over arch-rival Benton in the annual Saline County Shootout on Tuesday.
“They were focused on letting that one go and respecting our opponent today,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “No let up, and I’m proud of them for that. That (letdown) could easily be done with teenagers.”
The game was tight through the first quarter. Har-Ber managed a 5-3 lead on a 3 from Perry and a 12-footer from Garrett. But Allen took a feed from Chumley and hit a 3 to put the Hornets back on top. Two free throws from Alec Boudreaux gave the Wildcats a 7-6 edge. A Bryant turnover gave them a chance to extend the margin but Taylor missed from 3-point range and Allen drove for a basket. A short jumper from E’Kuious Sanders bounced to lead back to Har-Ber. A steal and free throw by Bryant’s Deron Canada tied it at 9 going into the second quarter.
“It was a little slower start than we’ve been accustomed to,” Abrahamson said. “I attribute that to playing a good team. They were well prepared for us. I think we got their best shot today. I think that was — I’ve seen them on film, seen a few times — they’re getting better. I knew they were good but I think that was their best game, defensively at least; maybe not offensively. But they’re really getting good.
“So, it was them and free throws,” he added, noting that his team was 4 of 11 at the line in the first half. “We go 11 for 24 from the free-throw line (for the game). It could’ve been a different game if we go 18 or 19 for 24.”
The Hornets reeled off a 13-2 run to start the second quarter and gain their first double-digit lead of the game. Washington scored inside and, moments later, Moody attacked the bucket, scored and was fouled. Though he missed the free throw that would’ve completed a three-point play, Christian McIntosh retrieved the carom and eventually cashed in the possession with a 3 to make it 16-9 and force another Har-Ber timeout.
Steen hauled down a rebound off a miss from Taylor and was fouled. He converted the one-and-one to make it a 9-point lead.
Zane King got free for a layup to provide Har-Ber with its first points of the second quarter nearly halfway in. Allen answered with a drive to the basket. He then fed Martin for a layup to make it 22-11.
Har-Ber’s third timeout of the half ensued. And when play resumed, Taylor canned a triple only to have Martin return the favor. Off a Har-Ber turnover, Allen hit another layup and Bryant had its largest lead of the game, 27-14.
Taylor got hot and hit two more 3’s in the quarter but Steen and Canada had baskets in response. A three-point play by Perry was countered by a buzzer-beating drive by Allen.
Har-Ber’s third-quarter push was spurred by Williams, who started and finished the initial run. Garrett hit a 3 and King followed his own miss for a score along the way. When Abrahamson called his timeout at the 4:32 mark, the Wildcats had hit 4 of 8 shots and the Hornets had missed all three they had managed to get away.
HORNETS 57, WILDCATS 47
Score by quarters
Har-Ber 9 14 16 8 — 47
BRYANT 9 24 7 17 — 57
WILDCATS (5-3) 47
Perry 2-10 1-1 6, Williams 3-6 0-0 6, Taylor 4-9 0-0 12, King 2-4 0-0 4, T.Garrett 4-6 3-4 12, Kaunitz 1-3 0-0 3, Boudreaux 0-0 2-2 2, Sanders 1-1 0-0 2, Ragsdale 0-0 0-0 0, A.Garrett 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 17-41 6-7 47.
HORNETS (8-1) 57
Martin 5-10 0-0 12, Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 6-13 7-12 20, Moody 1-1 0-3 2, Steen 3-7 2-3 8, Washington 4-7 1-4 9, Chumley 0-1 0-0 0, Canada 1-1 1-2 3, McIntosh 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 21-43 11-24 57.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-9 (Martin 2-4, Allen 1-3, McIntosh 1-1, Chumley 0-1), Springdale Har-Ber 7-20 (Taylor 4-7, Perry 1-7, Kaunitz 1-3, T.Garrett 1-1, King 0-1, A.Garrett 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 11, Springdale Har-Ber 15. Rebounds: Bryant 11-19 30 (Steen 4-7 11, Washington 2-2 4, Allen 0-3 3, Moody 1-1 2, Chumley 0-2 2, McIntosh 1-1 2, Martin 0-1 1, Turner 0-1 1, Canada 0-1 1, team 3-0 3), Springdale Har-Ber 6-16 22 (King 3-4 7, Perry 1-3 4, T.Garrett 2-2 4, Williams 0-3 3, Taylor 0-2 2, Boudreaux 0-1 1, Sanders 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 9, Springdale Har-Ber 19.