LITTLE ROCK — Almost the entire game, the Bryant Hornets led the Mills University Comets in Saturday’s championship game of the annual Jammin’ For Jackets tournament at Hall High School.
It was somewhat the same story as the Hornets’ semifinal win over Little Rock Parkview on Friday. But that game was up-tempo all the way with Bryant fending off Parkview’s comeback and winning 83-70.
The title game was a bid different. Tightly contested, particularly on defense, the game was a tooth-and-nail fight. Still, Bryant maintained the advantage as Mills kept challenging until the final 3:20.
With the Hornets up 50-47, Mills put together an 11-3 run, to whip past the Hornets on the way to a 58-53 victory, capturing the tourney title for the second year in a row.
The Comets improved to 9-1 on the season. The Hornets dropped to 6-2. Bryant will play next Saturday evening at Conway’s Bank OZK Classic against Izard Country.
On Friday, the Hornets made all the plays at the end. This time, it was the Comets.
Tourney MVP Caleb Allen led the Comets with 24 points including five 3’s, three of which came down the stretch to fuel the comeback. Jakari Livingston added 15 points and 16 rebounds in the game including an impressive dunk to snap a 50-50 tie, putting Mills ahead to stay.
Camren Hunter followed up a 26-point game against Parkview with 25 against Mills, again making clutch play after clutch play. But Mills clogged up the lane, cutting off his driving avenues in the late going and held him to one basket in the final seven minutes of the game.
“They were clogging the lane so well, something that we wanted to do that we didn’t do well,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “With our foul trouble and, no excuses, but adding new guys into the mix, it was just difficult to get good looks. We got some, still, but we didn’t make enough.”
And the Comets did an impressive job defensively to minimize the impact of Hornets’ senior Treylon Payne, who had 30 on Friday. He was plagued by foul trouble on Saturday as well and finished with just 7 points.
“They obviously made an effort to slow him down as they should,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “He’s a really good play who’s had a great first two games of the tournament. That’s something we have to deal with. They’re probably not going to be the only team to do that.
“That’s why you come to tournaments like this,” he said. “It really is not enjoyable right now, but it definitely exposes some things and we’ll get back to work.
“We’re just not ready to do three games in three days,” added the coach, who welcomed a handful of players off the football team this week.
That gives Bryant better depth and Abrahamson played 11 players, even though senior starter A.J. Jenkins was unavailable due to the effects of recent oral surgery. Those guys that have been added are still working to get into basketball shape.
Perhaps a little leg heavy, too, the Hornets were unable to shoot as well as they had on Friday when they hit 7 of 14 on 3’s and 57 percent (28 of 49) from the floor overall. Saturday, they shot 33 percent from the field (17 of 52) including just 7 of 35 from 3 with Payne attempting just one shot from distance.
Comets’ coach Raymond Cooper used 10 but was able to run them in and out more frequently to keep his starters fresh.
“That’s a championship program that carried itself like that,” Abrahamson said of Mills.
“We’re just not quite there yet,” he asserted. “We got exposed in a couple of areas, about how to deal with success and how to deal with adversity, how to stick to plans and how to execute our plans.”
Aidan Adams and Khasen Robinson each had 9 points for the Hornets.
Adams and Allen traded 3’s to start the game. The game was tied at 5 before Hunter grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled. Converting the three-point play gave the Hornets a lead they didn’t relinquish until that last Mills’ push.
A three-point play by Payne off a steal by Robinson started a run in which the Hornets were able to build a lead of as much as 11.
Robinson added a free throw to the run then Payne made a flying tip-in to make it 14-7.
Later, another three-point play off a steal by Hunter pushed the lead to 10, 19-9, Livingston countered with an 18-footer only to have Hunter nail a 3. With 6:11 left in the half, Bryant led 22-11.
Mills cut it to 5 then Hunter canned a jumper in the lane and, off a Mills turnover, kicked out to Adams for a 3 and it was quickly back to a 10-point margin.
The Comets cut it to 6 but Hunter ended the half with a 3 to make it 32-23.
As the second half unfolded, Mills made a run at the Hornets again. They got the lead down to 3 but Payne converted two free throws. Diogo Tognozzi scored for Mills but Robinson countered off a dish from Payne. Dakalin Baker scored then so did QJ King to whittle the lead to 1 with 10:15 left. But Robinson took a feed from Payne again and buried a 3 to keep the Hornets ahead.
After Allen hit a free throw, Hunter drove for a basket and, moments later, popped a 3 to make it 47-39 with 7:09 left.
Allen answered with a 3 and the Hornets missed two chances to score before King threw in a triple and the Comets were within 47-45. A nice tip-in by Catrell Wallace kept it a two-possession game but after a dunk by Livingston, Wallace made just one of two free throws. So, when Allen hit a 3 with 3:16 left, the game was tied 50-50.
Livingston made a steal, which led to another dunk to put the Comets ahead. In turn, Robinson converted one free throw and Allen popped another 3. And it was Mills which had a two-possession edge.
Payne fouled out with 1:00 showing. Livingston made a free throw and, with :48 left, Hunter accounted for the Hornets lone basket in the final two minutes. It had them with 3 but Livingston scored inside before Allen finished it off with a free throw.
COMETS 58, HORNETS 53
Score by halves
Bryant 32 21 — 53
Mills 23 35 — 58
HORNETS (6-2) 53
Hunter 9-17 4-6 25, Payne 2-3 3-3 7, Adams 3-14 0-0 9, Brunson 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 1-2 1-2 3, Robinson 2-10 4-6 9, Pitts 0-1 0-0 0, O.Newburn 0-2 0-0 0, Diggins 0-1 0-0 0, Schroeder 0-1 0-0 0, L.Newburn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-52 (33%) 12-17 (71%) 53.
COMETS (9-1) 58
King 2-3 0-0 5, Livingston 7-12 1-7 15, Allen 8-13 3-5 24, Dixon 0-1 0-1 0, Tognozzi 4-6 0-0 8, Baker 1-3 0-0 2, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Watson 0-0 0-0 0, Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Bell 1-4 2-2 4. Totals 23-42 (55%) 6-15 (40%) 58.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 7-35 (Adams 3-13, Hunter 3-9, Robinson 1-8, O.Newburn 0-2, Payne 0-1, Schroeder 0-1, L.Newburn 0-1), Mills 6-13 (Allen 5-7, King 1-1, Livingston 0-4, Tognozzi 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 7, Mills 13. Rebounds: Bryant 13-14 27 (Robinson 4-4 8, Hunter 2-5 7, Adams 3-2 5, Wallace 2-1 3, Payne 1-1 2, O.Newburn 1-0 1, L.Newburn 1-0 1, Schroeder 0-1 1, team 1-0 1), Mills 11-21 32 (Livingston 7-9 16, Dixon 1-4 5, Tognozzi 2-1 3, Allen 0-2 2, King 0-1 1, Bell 0-1 1, team 1-3 4). Team fouls: Bryant 17, Mills 18. Fouled out: Bryant, Payne, Robinson.