For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
For a while, it looked like the Bryant Hornets freshman team was going to get thumped by the Catholic Rockets again.
Earlier in the season, at Catholic, the Rockets jumped all over the Hornets early and came away with a lopsided win. That was a non-conference meeting on Nov. 21.
There’s been a lot of basketball played since then but when the Hornets were looking up at a 20-8 deficit late in the first half, it didn’t appear that much had changed.
But with :12 left, Bryant’s Darren Wallace scored and was fouled by Catholic’s best player, who picked up his third of the game. Though Wallace missed the free throw, Cornelius Reed rebounded and scored, so the lead was trimmed to 8.
Reed, by the way, finished with 4 points and three rebounds off the bench, all in the second quarter, to help the Hornets stay in the game.
That little run and a talk at halftime from Hornets coach Tyler Posey resulted in a different looking team in the second half. The intensity, particularly on defense, got a big jolt. They made the game scrapping, hustling mayhem that allowed them to rally for a 47-43 victory.
“I told them they were playing lazy,” Posey said of his halftime talk. “I told them that they weren’t playing the brand of basketball that we were accustomed to and I really just challenged them. ‘If you don’t play this way, we’re not going to win basketball games. And we are a very good team. If you play our way, what we do and cause havoc and get after them and play with high energy, then we’re going to win a lot of basketball games.’ They accepted that challenge, took it to heart and made it happen.”
The Rockets, who suffered just nine turnovers in the first half, wound up with 22. Plus, in the early moments of the third quarter, the Rockets’ best player picked up his fourth foul. He said out the rest of the quarter (5:47) and the first 30 seconds of the fourth.
In between, the score went from 20-13 Catholic to 32-28 Bryant.
“He’s a really good player,” Posey acknowledged of the Rockets’ star, named Onyekwelu. “He’s got a lot of size and he plays more like a guard. He’s really a match-up problem. It’s good that we attacked him and got him into foul trouble.
Defensively, Posey alternated those trying to defend against him.
“(Chris) Gannaway, a little bit of (Jordan) Knox, (Braylen) Montgomery and Cory Nichols — we tried to keep fresh bodies on him and keep our guys out of foul trouble,” he related.
Onyekwelu still finished with 9 points and 12 rebounds.
Wallace paced the Hornets with 12 points. James Billingsley added 10. Montgomery had 8, Gannaway and Ivory Gilmore had 5 each.
After Knox hit a free throw to start the third quarter, he got back on defense and took a charge. That led to a layup for Montgomery on an inbounds play under the Bryant basket. Montgomery followed up with a steal and another layup.
The Hornets’ trapping full-court defense had forced Catholic to take a timeout. But, when play resumed, Nichols made a steal and hit a pull-up jumper. Suddenly, the Rockets’ lead was just 20-19 and they needed another timeout.
The game went back-and-forth with no further scoring until the Rockets got to the rim to make it 22-19. Gannaway added a free throw at the other end. A reverse layup by Wallace game the Hornets their first lead since early in the first quarter.
The game was tied at 24 and 26. The Rockets snapped the latter tie with :10 left in the third quarter but Billingsley beat the buzzer with a 3 that had the Hornets up 29-28 going into the fourth quarter.
By then, both team’s head coaches were all over the officials. Neither was happy and that just added to the havoc.
To start the fourth quarter, Gilmore splashed a 3 and Bryant had a four-point edge. Onyekwelu returned but Billingsley took advantage of a turnover for a layup and a 6-point edge. Another trey by Billingsley had Bryant up 37-28.
He followed with a steal but missed on another 3-point try.
That’s when Onyekwelu scored his first basket since the first half. But Gannaway hit a running jumper, Gilmore hit the offensive glass for a bucket then Wallace cashed in with a short jay. Suddenly, the Hornets were up 43-30 with 3:11 left to play.
The Rockets did not go away, however, they put together their own rally and cut the lead to 6.
Posey took a timeout with :49 left after Catholic had closed to within 47-41.
Both teams had chances at the free-throw line to make it tighter or wider but failed. An indication of the free-throw shooting in the entire game. The Rockets were just 6 of 17 at the line while the Hornets converted just 2 of 8.
Finally, Gannaway got behind the Rockets’ press for a layup with :28 to go and, despite one more basket for Catholic, the Hornets finished with the victory.
“It’s really good to get some revenge on a team that put you away early last time,” said Posey. “It’s always nice to come away with a win, especially when you played poorly against them the first time — in the first half, as well.”
Coming into the night, four teams in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference had 2-1 marks, behind the only remaining unbeaten, North Little Rock. The Hornets and Rockets were two of those. The other two were Lake Hamilton and Conway White. Bryant and Lake Hamilton each improved to 3-1. North Little Rock edged winless (in conference) Cabot North, 43-38, to stay unbeaten in the league.
Bryant returns to action on Monday at Cabot North.
HORNETS 47, ROCKETS 43
Score by quarters
LR Catholic 8 12 8 15 — 43
BRYANT 4 8 17 18 — 47
Pace 3-7 2-7 8, Bean 5-10 2-2 15, Thornton 0-2 0-1 0, Onyekwelu 4-11 1-3 9, Dean 2-5 0-1 4, McDuffie 2-2 1-1 5, Eichler 0-0 0-2 0, Mathiowelz 1-1 0-0 2, Suffern 0-0 0-0 0, Callahan 0-0 0-0 0, Elser 0-0 0-0 0. Totals17-38 (45%) 6-17 (35%) 43.
Knox 0-1 1-2 1, Billingsley 4-9 0-0 10, Nichols 1-3 0-1 2, Montgomery 4-5 0-2 8, Wallace 6-13 0-1 12, Gannaway 2-6 1-2 5, Gilmore 2-5 0-0 5, Vinson 0-0 0-0 0, Russ 0-0 0-0 0, Reed 2-4 0-0 4, Baker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-46 (46%) 2-8 (25%) 47.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-10 (Billingsley 2-4, Gilmore 1-3, Wallace 0-3, Reed 0-1), LR Catholic 3-9 (Bean 3-5, Pace 0-3, Onyekwelu 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 19, LR Catholic 22. Rebounds: Bryant 9-16 25 (Montgomery 2-2 4, Wallace 2-2 4, Gannaway 2-2 4, Gilmore 1-3 4, Nichols 0-3 3, Reed 2-1 3, Knox 0-1 1, Vinson 0-1 1, Russ 0-1 1), LR Catholic 12-22 34 (Onyekwelu 2-10 12, Dean 5-4 9, Pace 1-3 4, Bean 2-0 2, Thornton 0-1 1, McDuffie 0-1 1, Eichler 1-0 1, Mathiowelz 1-0 1, team 0-3 3). Team fouls: Bryant 17, LR Catholic 10. Fouled out: Bryant, Knox.