LITTLE ROCK — “I hope, down the road, we can look back at this weekend and say, ‘That was the turning point for our group,’” said Bryant Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson after his team took the high-flying Little Rock Parkview Patriots to the wire in the third-place game of the annual Jammin’ For Jackets tournament at Little Rock Hall High School on Saturday.
“I hope,” he asserted. “But time will tell.”
The Hornets trailed by just two three times in the final two minutes but Parkview kept making plays and, with :12 left, forward Curtis White whipped a no-look pass from the left elbow to the opposite post where Airion Simmons caught it, scored it and converted a free throw to make it 74-69, sealing the victory for the Patriots.
Simmons, a 6-4 wide body inside, finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. University of Arkansas commit, 6-8 Ethan Henderson, had 15 points (just 4 in the second half) and four boards. Curtis White added 12 points and Allen Flanigan 10.
Khalen Robinson, with two fingers on his right (non-shooting) hand taped together, popped for 18 points to lead the Hornets. Deron Canada had 17 and freshman Camren Hunter 16 as they accounted for 10 of the Hornets’ 11 3-pointers in the game.
Junior Rodney Lambert, who played the first half with a mask on his face to protect the broken nose he suffered in Friday night’s blood-letting loss to Little Rock Hall, scored 7 points with Catrell Wallace adding 6 off the bench. Sam Chumley had 5.
It was another rugged contest that left Hunter with an iced-down ankle and everyone with bumps and bruises. The Hornets did well to get through the weekend intact.
“The whistles — that was all weekend,” Abrahamson said, when asked about the loose officiating. “It’s frustrating. But we can’t control it. It’s not enjoyable to go through but there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to play through it. You’ve got to adjust and you’ve got to believe it’s not going to be that way in conference play and State tournament play. So, we move forward.”
Rebounding was a difference-maker. The taller Patriots finished with a 32-18 advantage on the boards including 18 on the offensive end, which resulted in 11 more shots from the field that Bryant had.
“Rebounding was an issue all game,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “Of course, they’re bigger but we didn’t block out well. We’ve got to do a much better job.
“I like our team,” he mentioned. “I like what we’re doing in a lot of areas. I hate what we’re doing blocking-out-wise. We’ll get better. We will get better.
“Other than that area of the game, our kids really competed after getting down 7-0, which has kind of been a thing for us against the ‘popular teams’, ‘big teams’,” the coach related. “Like usual, our kids responded, played really hard, competed. Man, I liked so many things that they did out there tonight. We were way over-matched by size — I mean, those guys were playing above the rim. But our guys really competed.”
Down 7-0, the Hornets got on the board with a 3 from Hunter. After Henderson scored inside, Chumley buried a triple to make it 9-6.
Parkview eventually led 18-8 at the 11:01 mark of the first half — the games at the tourney were played in halves of 16 minutes instead of quarters of eight, and a 35-second shot clock was enforced to keep the action going.
Wallace took a pass from Robinson and scored to start a Bryant comeback. Hunter made a steal and Wallace hit the offensive glass for another deuce, making it 18-12 and enducing a Patriots’ timeout.
When play resumed, Simmons missed and, at the other end, Hunter knocked down another triple to cut the margin to 3.
Simmons’ hit a follow shot but Canada drilled a 3 and it was 20-18. Rod Terry answered for the Pats but a three-point play off a drive to the rack and another basket by Wallace gave Bryant a 23-22 lead with 5:59 left in the half.
Henderson converted a pair at the free-throw line but Robinson drained a trey and the Hornets forced a turnover on a 10-second back-court violation.
Unfortunately, the Hornets turned it back over and Parkview surged back into the lead. It was 32-28 with 1:27 left. Canada and Robinson each sank both ends of one-and-one opportunities to even that game at 32 before Jared Presley followed his own miss and beat the buzzer to give Parkview a 2-point lead at the break. It was Presley’s only basket of the game.
As has been the case much of the season so far, the Hornets started the second half hot. Lambert hit a free throw then Canada hit 3’s on either side of a basket by Simmons. A triple from Robinson and a drive by Lambert had the Hornets ahead 44-36.
The Hornets maintained an advantage, answering about every Parkview bucket. The Patriots were within 53-41 with 8:13 left but Canada hit two free throws, took advantage of a Parkview turnover and scored off a drive and Hunter drove for a layup to extend the Bryant lead to 59-51 with 6:14 left to play.
But Parkview went on a 12-0 surge to take a 63-59 lead with 3:54 still to play. Hunter canned a clutch 3 of a drive-and-dish by Robinson, cutting the margin to 1. With 2:53 remaining, Flanigan scored and was fouled. Though he missed the free throw, the Hornets turned it over and Rod Terry hit a layup to make it 67-62 with about 2:41 left.
But the Hornets refused to go away. Robinson splashed a 3 to cut the lead to 67-65. Simmons scored but Canada drove for an answering bucket. White hit two free throws with 1:05 to play but Robinson got those back at the :44.1 mark to make it 71-69.
The Hornets then trapped White in the corner in front of the midcourt line and boundary but Parkview got a timeout before he could throw it away with :29 left.
When play resumed, the Patriots worked against the Bryant defense to get the game-clincher by Simmons.
Abrahamson was not happy with the loss but, he said, “I would say this is the first time that I have left this tournament feeling like we have a team that didn’t really back down in this environment. We didn’t try to play a different game in this environment. That is encouraging. That’s what makes this group enjoyable and fun. We have areas to improve and that’s what we’re going to work on but I do like a lot of things too. I’m not leaving here with steam coming out of my ears.
“We call it ‘swinging the ax’,” the coach concluded. “We just keep swinging it, keep chopping and that tree will fall. And that tree is greatness. And that’s where we’re trying to get to. I’m proud of a lot of things we did but we’re just going to take it like we take every other game. We’re going to watch the film and we’re going to try to get better from it.”
The Hornets’ next game will be their only home contest of the fall semester, the annual Saline County Shootout against the Benton Panthers this Tuesday.
PATRIOTS 74, HORNETS 69
Score by halves
Parkview 34 40 — 74
BRYANT 32 37 — 69
LITTLE ROCK PARVIEWS (6-2) 74
Terry 4-9 1-1 9, Flanigan 5-9 0-1 10, White 3-7 4-4 12, Simmons 8-15 5-5 21, Henderson 5-9 3-3 15, Gordon 2-3 1-1 5, Presley 1-2 0-0 2, Young 0-1 0-0 0, Farr 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-56 (52%) 14-15 (93%) 74.
BRYANT (5-2) 74
Hunter 5-10 0-0 16, Robinson 5-11 5-5 18, Chumley 2-5 0-0 5, Lambert 1-3 5-6 7, Canada 5-12 4-4 17, Wallace 3-3 0-0 6, Merriweather 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-45 (49%) 14-15 (93%) 69.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 11-20 (Hunter 4-5, Canada 3-8, Robinson 3-4, Chumley 1-2, Merriweather 0-1), Little Rock Parkview 2-8 (White 2-3, Terry 0-2, Flanigan 0-2, Young 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Little Rock Parkview 15. Rebounds: Bryant 10-8 18 (Robinson 3-3 6, Wallace 2-3 5, Canada 2-2 4, Hunter 1-0 1, Chumley 1-0 1, Merriweather 1-0 1), Little Rock Parkview 18-14 32 (Simmons 8-6 14, Flanigan 3-2 6, Henderson 3-1 4, Terry 0-3 3, White 2-1 3, Presley 2-0 2, team 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 17, Little Rock Parkview 14.