Hornets avenge loss to Griz in physical, defensive battle

File photo by Rick Nation

FORT SMITH — With the Fort Smith Northside Grizzlies determined not to let Khalen Robinson or Treylon Payne beat them, Bryant Hornets’ sophomore Camren Hunter stepped up big time with 15 points to lead his team to a 46-30 victory at a packed Gayle Kaundart/Grizzly Fieldhouse on Friday night.

It was the first time a Hornets basketball team has won at Northside.

The Hornets avenged their only 6A-Central Conference loss and have now won seven in a row and 13 of their last 14 games, improving to 16-4 overall. They are alone atop the league standings and came in ranked number one among 6A teams and number 2 overall by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

They did it with defense, forcing 16 Griz turnovers and holding Northside to just 25 percent shooting from the field (14 of 55). 

Northside was led by 6-8 junior Jaylin Williams, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. He took 18 shots to get those points as the Hornets were effective doubling Williams in the post at times then sprinting out to perimeter shooters well enough that the Bears went just 4 of 21 from 3-point range.

Catrell Wallace, Bryant’s 6’7” junior, frustrated Williams. He blocked four shots in the game, a couple of them by Williams.

Bryant had beaten Northside 50-48 in the semifinals of the Coke Classic in Fort Smith on Dec. 28, 2018 but lost 47-42 to the Grizzlies.

“That was a season low for us,” noted Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson, regarding the point total in the loss. “We really wanted to come in here and score the ball and we really didn’t do a whole lot better. But that’s really a credit to Northside. They’re a very good defensive team and they’re so big and they pose so many problems for our offense.

“But, to grind one out like that — what did they score the second half? 14?” he continued. “And one of those was a banked-in 3. It was a great defensive effort by our guys, just an outstanding effort. There were a couple of plays in the first half — I thought we were playing really hard the whole game — we weren’t really playing smart. We got a lot smarter the second half defensively. And, offensively, we scored enough.”

Hunter, at 6’2”, did a great job of scoring inside, jump hooks in the lane and layups around Williams.

Senior Rodney Lambert had 8 points despite foul trouble much of the game. Wallace added 7 points while Payne (7) and Robinson (5) were held to a combined 12.

“They know who he is and they’re going to focus on him,” Abrahamson said of Robinson, who scored 26 last Friday including the game-winner against Conway. “And that’s the thing, we don’t want to be a one-man show, or a two-man show. People are going to key on Khalen and they’re going to key on Treylon, but we’ve got other guys. If they beat us doing that, it’s because we didn’t play well.”

The game was tight throughout and, though Bryant led the entire second half, the advantage was just 35-32 with 2:48 left. After a Hornets’ timeout, Abrahamson had his team spread the floor and work the clock. When Northside tried to trap, the Hornets found room to drive.

With 1:58 left, Hunter hit a jumper in the lane. The Hornets then forced a turnover and 30 seconds later, Robinson fed Lambert for a layup and a 39-32 advantage.

Yet another Northside turnover followed. Williams blocked a layup by Payne, but the ball went out of bounds to the Hornets and, with 1:01 to go, Wallace scored inside to make it a 9-point advantage.

Robinson then skied to rebound a missed 3-pointer by the Grizzlies. He was fouled and, at the other end, converted once to make it a 10-point lead.

With :38.5 showing, Anthony Travis Jr., was fouled by Lambert, who nearly made a clean steal. Lambert fouled out and Travis came up with a sore wrist. Jacob Joe came in to shoot his free throws and converted twice only to have Hunter out-wrestle his defender to control a long inbounds pass against the press. He drove for a layup to make it 44-34. He would add a pair of free throws with :09.6 left to nail down the win and complete the 11-2 closing run.

The game was tight in the first half. Northside’s largest lead was 9-5. Payne found Hunter for a basket then Wallace scored off an inbounds play to make it 9-9 going into the second quarter.

It was tied at 11 and 13 before Robinson drilled a 3. Wallace made a steal and Lambert cashed in with a layup to make it 18-13.

But the Griz rallied to tie it 20-20 before Lambert’s driving layup in the final 30 seconds gave the Hornets a 2-point halftime edge.

Payne scored inside to start the scoring in the second half. Later, Arlon Jenkins took an inbounds pass from Hunter under the Bryant basket and laid it in to make it 26-20.

Semonte Henderson’s 3 supplied Northside’s first points of the second half nearly five minutes in. Before the Grizzlies scored again, Wallace and Payne added free throws and Lambert scored after a Robinson steal to make it 31-23.

With :45 left in the quarter, Northside’s Javion Releford hit a 3 to make it a 5-point game going into the fourth.

The Griz closed it to 32-30 going into the final four minutes. Hunter dished to Wallace for a basket then Robinson was fouled hauling down a defensive board. He converted once at the line to make it 35-30.

Travis answered with 2:48 left but that was the last Northside field goal.

The Hornets return home on Tuesday to host Little Rock Catholic.


Score by quarters

BRYANT           9          13        9          15 — 46

FS Northside   9          11        6          8 — 34

HORNETS (16-4, 7-1) 46

Payne 2-8 2-2 7, Robinson 1-6 2-6 5, Lambert 4-7 0-0 8, Hunter 6-8 3-4 15, Wallace 3-6 1-2 7, Jenkins 1-1 0-0 2, Martin 1-1 0-0 2, Hall 0-0 0-0 0. Totals:18-37 (49%) 8-14 (57%) 46.

GRIZZLIES (13-9, 4-4) 34

Norwood 0-4 0-0 0, Travis Jr., 3-8 0-2 6, Thorne 1-4 0-0 3, Williams 6-18 0-0 12, McKinley 0-2 0-0 0, Releford 2-7 0-0 6, Henderson 1-5 0-0 3, Gordon 1-4 0-0 0, Joe 0-3 2-2 2. Totals:14-55 (25%) 2-4 (50%) 34.

Three-point field goals:Bryant 2-6 (Payne 1-3, Robinson 1-2, Hunter 0-1), FS Northside 4-21 (Releford 2-5, Henderson 1-4, Thorne 1-3, Joe 0-3, Norwood 0-2, Williams 0-2, Gordon 0-2). Turnovers:Bryant 14, FS Northside 16. Rebounds:Bryant 7-21 28 (Robinson 0-7 7, Payne 1-3 4, Lambert 1-3 4, Wallace 1-3 4, Hunter 0-3 3, Martin 0-1 1, Jenkins 1-0 1, team 3-1 4), FS Northside 21-15 36 (Williams 3-6 9, Travis Jr. 6-1 7, McKinley 2-3 5, Thorne 3-1 4, Releford 1-1 2, Gordon 0-2 2, Norwood 1-0 1, Henderson 1-0 1, team 4-1 5). Team fouls:Bryant 12, FS Northside 16. Fouled out:Bryant, Lambert.

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