Hornets dismiss Mavericks, pull into tie for third with Conway

For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here

Rodney Lambert (5) drives around Fort Smith Southside’s Dillon Hamilton. (Photo by Rick Nation)

The Bryant Hornets have a “hit-the-open-guy” policy, according to head coach Mike Abrahamson. And, in the first six minutes of Tuesday’s make-up game against the Fort Smith Southside Mavericks, senior Sam Chumley was that guy.

Chumley scored Bryant’s first 13 points including a trio of 3-pointers. He finished with 17 points and, with Khalen Robinson pumping in 22, the Hornets got past the Mavericks 54-42.

The win improved Bryant to 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the 7A-Central Conference, evening them with Conway for third place behind co-leaders North Little Rock and Fort Smith Northside. Conway lost to Northside Tuesday night. It was the final playing date of the first half of the conference season. Bryant hots Northside this Friday.

“Sam, we believe in him. It’s not a surprise,” said Abrahamson. “I’m glad he could have that kind of shooting night, for him, just because I know what a hard worker he is. But that’s just part of the plan, whoever’s open. We try to hit the open guy and he was open.”

Southside, which came in with hopes of stealing a game from the Hornets and pulling even with them in the standings, never led after Ike Moore opened the game with a 3. Chumley answered with a triple from the corner and, when he followed his own miss a little later, scoring on the carom, the Hornets were ahead to stay.

Khalen Robinson goes up for a layup, part of his 22-point night. (Photo by Rick Nation)

But the Mavericks hung around for much of the first half. Bryant led 15-12 at the first break. Southside’s Dillon Hamilton hit the first hoop of the second quarter to make it one-point game. The Hornets turned the ball over but Chumley stole it back and fed Robinson who pulled-up and canned a jumper in the lane.

Still, The Mavericks eventually trimmed it to 19-18 with just over three minutes left in the half. The Hornets suffered a turnover, giving Southside a chance to take the lead but Elijah York couldn’t get a 3 to go.

In the final 1:41 in the half, Bryant went on an 8-0 run. Camren Hunter nailed a 3 then Robinson made a steal that led to two free throws. And, with :02.3 left on the clock Deron Canada nailed a 3 to make it 27-18 at the intermission.

The Hornets extended the 8-0 run at the start of the second half. Robinson, who sat out much of the first quarter, scored the first 6 points of the stanza. Along the way, junior Rodney Lambert set up and took a charge.

Southside’s Ollis Brewer broke the ice for his team with a jumper in the lane three minutes into the quarter, after Bryant had pushed its lead to 15, 33-18. Chumley answered Brewer’s bucket with a 10-footer on the right side of the lane.

Deron Canada gets to the hoop. (Photo by Rick Nation)

The Mavs whittled the lead to 11, with the help of some missed free throws by the Hornets, going into the final two minutes of the quarter. Robinson, however, drove for a layup and, with :10.3 left, Lambert added two free throws to make it 40-25.

“Rodney was really struggling offensively but he took two charges, got rebounds, deflections, got steals, played hard throughout the whole game,” Abrahamson said. “I can’t say enough about that because there’s so many ways to impact a game and a lot of times people talk about scoring. Rodney showed signs of maturity to do all those other things when he was struggling from the field.

“Cam Hunter too,” he added. “He got called for two carries, hadn’t been called for a carry all year long. That takes him out of attack mode but he’s doing other things. He played great defense, shared the ball, hit the open guy, and he hits a 3.

“So, I’m just really proud of them to keep playing and keep doing what they can do, sticking to the process.”

Holding Southside to 25 points in three quarters pleased the coach.

“Good defense, great effort, close out, stop the drive, the first three quarters,” he related. “I’m really, really happy with their effort.

“Going into the fourth quarter, I look up and they’ve got 25 and I said, ‘Look, Friday they (Conway) had 28 going into the fourth quarter. They’re going to put their head down and go to the basket and they’re going to pick up the pressure defensively.’

“I thought we handled their pressure defensively better and we got some scores but, like Conway, we didn’t hit our free throws,” Abrahamson said, referring to his team’s 13 of 24 performance at the stripe. “We struggle with that. When our opponent is in do-or-die mode. They just put their head down and barrel through the lane. If they get a charge, so be it. They’re just in a little bit of desperation mode.

“We struggle with stopping that,” he emphasized. “That’s just part of our process of growth. We’ve gotten better in other areas so, I hope, we’ll get better in that one. I think we will. I believe in them. We’ve just got to keep working on it. But, for three quarters, wow, the defense was great. We gave great effort defensively.”

Indeed, the Mavericks drove hard to the basket and trimmed the lead to 10 three times in the final three minutes. But they couldn’t get closer.

York hit a 3 to get it to 43-33 but Chumley scored as he was fouled. Ike Moore countered with a pair of free throws but Lambert, following his own miss, added a free throw then a layup off a Southside turnover.

The Hornets spread the floor offensively and got free throws or layups. Robinson was 5 of 6 at the stripe down the line. Lambert, Canada and Robinson each had easy hoops as the Hornets broke the press.

The final time, Southside got within 10, Robinson hit a pair of free throws with :09.6 showing to seal the victory.

“He sat so much in the first quarter because he picked up that first foul,” Abrahamson said of Robinson. “We didn’t want to get two. It really hurts our team when he’s in foul trouble so we sat him a little bit more early.

“The thing about Khalen is, yeah, he’s skilled, he’s talented, he’s a good player but he’s coachable,” he added. “We can talk throughout the whole game — as with all the players, he’s really easy to coach. Our starters are all that way and our younger guys and our bench guys are getting that way, but it’s a process.”

Canada finished with 7 points, Lambert 5 and Hunter 3 in the contest. For Southside, Moore, despite foul trouble, led the way with 12 points. Taye Gatewood and Ollis Brewer added 9 each. Hamilton had 7, York 3 and Jaylin Coleman 2.

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