Photos by Kevin Nagle
NORTH LITTLE ROCK — With a couple of interior starters out, including 6-10 Brian Beckwith, and another one lost to injury during the game, the Little Rock Catholic Rockets were not the team on Thursday night that the Bryant Hornets will see when the Central Conference season rolls around after the first of the year.
Still, the Hornets didn’t mess around. With a swarming defense forcing 17 turnovers in the first half and 24 in the game, the Hornets stymied the Rockets. And, with 11 of the 15 players that got into the game contributing to the scoring, Bryant rolled to a 63-31 romp in the first round of the OrthoArkansas/CAC Invitational Tournament at Central Arkansas Christian High School.
The Hornets improved to 3-0 on the season and will be back in action Friday evening at 5:30 against a highly-regarded Maumelle team that was Class 5A State runner-up last year.
Kevin Hunt and Romen Martin each finished with 13 points to lead the Hornets on Thursday. Rickie Allen had 8 with Calvin Allen and Braylen Steen scoring 6 apiece.
The Hornets had just nine turnovers and out-rebounded the Rockets 30-21, resulting in 60 shots (and eight free throws) for Bryant to just 25 field-goal attempts (and 17 free throws) for Catholic.
“I thought we did well,” said Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson. “I was proud of our kids’ effort. We were just trying to do what we do very well and, for the most part, we did.
“I was glad to play everybody and give some guys a little bit more experience than they’ve gotten so far,” he added. “I think that’ll pay off down the road.
“Romen shot the ball really well and made some nice passes too in transition,” the coach continued. “Marvin Moody, this was his first game out of football. I thought he played well. It was good to see that. Our reserves, I thought, really did well. There was a drop-off for a second then they kind of collected themselves and there wasn’t. They closed the gap on that drop-off from starters to bench. Guys like Garrett Cowart, Rickie Allen, Detavious Moore, Deron Canada — all the guys, when they came in, didn’t look like they didn’t know what they were doing. For the most part, I thought they came in and did well. They maintained our lead and even extended it a little bit near the end.”
Catholic’s only lead was 3-2 after senior point guard Chad Wharton answered Calvin Allen’s opening basket with a 3. Steen’s stickback, a layup off a steal by Martin and a 3 from Hunt gave Bryant a 9-3 advantage.
Drake Enderlin scored for the Rockets off an inbounds play then the onslaught resumed. Hunt hit a pair of free throws and sprinted to the other end to block a shot by Wharton. He followed that up with a driving layup. A tip-in by Kaleb Turner made it 13-5.
Jack Mathis interrupted with a bucket inside but Martin nailed the first of his trio of 3’s, then fed Steen off a turnover for a fast-break layup that made it 18-7 going into the second quarter.
“That’s been big since last season,” said Abrahamson of his team’s active defense. “I thought we played well defensively in our other two games. Against Benton, we didn’t rebound well but our first-shot defense was good. Against Heritage, our first-shot defense was good but we fouled a lot. Tonight, we just kind of had a better all-around effort.
“I challenge our guys and, to their credit, they take those challenges,” he noted. “They’re growing up. They’re gaining maturity.”
With the Hornets’ lead at 22-10, Martin got hot with 3’s on either side of two free throws from Mathis. The defense then forced consecutive five-second calls when closely guarded Rockets couldn’t find an open teammate to pass to.
Wharton went down with a knee injury with 2:37 left in the half and the Rockets were forced to alternate a pair of sophomore point guards, Luke Schildknecht and Austin Albrook.
With a 28-13 lead, Abrahamson started working in his second group. Rickie Allen hit two free throws and, after a basket by Schildknecht, Deron Canada found the range on a soft running jumper. Rickie Allen made a steal and a layup to bump the lead to 34-15 at the half.
Bryant’s starters returned to start the third quarter and put together a 14-4 burst before going to the bench for the rest of the evening. Hunt drove for a basket and, after Mathis scored inside, Calvin Allen, following his own miss, got to the line where he converted twice.
Martin then made a steal that led to a dunk. Off another Rockets’ turnover, he then fed Hunt for a layup on the break to make it 42-17.
Catholic took a timeout with 5:29 left in the quarter. When play resumed, the Rockets got it in to Mathis for a bucket but drives to the rack by Hunt, Martin and Steen made it 48-19.
The reserves returned with 3:37 left in the third. Christian McIntosh hit a jumper in the lane and Rickie Allen scored off a feed from Moody and the game went to the final quarter with Bryant up 52-24.
Turner made a theft that led to a layup for McIntosh. Moments later, Cowart fed Turner for an easy deuce and the Hornets were up by 32 with just under seven minutes left. The mercy-rule went into effect with a continuously running clock.
Noah Basham’s three-point play and a basket from Enderlin ended a drought for the Rockets. In turn, Rickie Allen scored off a feed from Jordan Walker, who grabbed an offensive rebound. Sam Chumley drained a 3 and Chris Adams hit the offensive glass to score, making it 63-29, before Schildknecht drove for a layup to cap the scoring.
HORNETS 63, ROCKETS 31
Score by quarters
Catholic 7 8 9 7 — 31
BRYANT 18 16 18 11 — 63
ROCKETS (0-3) 31
Basham 1-5 2-7 4, Ford 1-2 0-0 2, Mathis 3-3 3-4 9, Wharton 1-3 0-0 3, Storey 0-2 0-0 0, Enderlin 3-5 0-0 6, Schildknecht 2-2 0-2 4, Neuman 0-1 0-0 0, Alsbrook 0-2 3-4 3. Totals 11-25 (44%) 8-17 (47%) 31.
HORNETS (3-0) 63
Hunt 6-9 0-2 13, C.Allen 2-6 2-2 6, Steen 3-4 0-0 6, Washington 1-5 0-0 2, Martin 5-6 0-0 13, Turner 2-3 0-0 4, McIntosh 2-2 0-0 4, Cowart 0-3 0-0 0, Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Walker 0-3 0-0 0, R.Allen 3-5 2-4 8, Moore 0-4 0-0 0, Canada 1-2 0-0 2, Chumley 1-4 0-0 3, Adams 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 27-60 (45%) 4-8 (50%) 63.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-20 (Martin 3-4, Hunt 1-2, Chumley 1-2, Walker 0-3, Moore 0-2, Cowart 0-2, C.Allen 0-1, Washington 0-1, R.Allen 0-1, Adams 0-1), LR Catholic 1-6 (Wharton 1-2, Alsbrook 0-2, Basham 0-1, Ford 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 9, LR Catholic 24. Rebounds: Bryant 15-15 30 (Cowart 1-3 4, Steen 1-2 3, Moody 1-2 3, Moore 2-1 3, Canada 1-2 3, Hunt 1-1 2, C.Allen 2-0 2, Washington 0-2 2, Turner 1-0 1, Walker 1-0 1, R.Allen 0-1 1, Adams 1-0 1, team 3-1 4), Catholic 5-16 21 (Enderlin 2-2 4, Neuman 0-4 4, Basham 0-2 2, Ford 0-2 2, Mathis 0-2 2, Storey 1-1 2, Schildknecht 0-1 1, team 2-2 4). Team fouls: Bryant 17, Catholic 7.