By Rob Patrick
CONWAY — The maturation process of an inexperienced team often takes some rough roads.
As was the case in the Bryant Hornets’ pre-season game at West Memphis, the Hornets[more], playing with hustle, great energy and enthusiasm, went toe-to-toe with the Fort Smith Southside Rebels Thursday night on Garrison Court in Grove Gym at Hendrix College, only to have the game get away from them in the end, 39-29.
With 6:19 left to play when Southside’s Spencer Meares hit a free throw, the Hornets trailed 22-20.
At the other end, junior Brantley Cozart was able to get through the Rebels’ tough zone defense for a rare dribble drive. He pump-faked nicely to get Southside’s rugged post man Cameron Adams off his feet and was fouled going up for a shot.
With 6:09 showing, Cozart hit his first free throw. Teammate Houston Garner stole the rebound on the missed second attempt. A dish outside to Jordan Griffin resulted in the junior transfer burying a 3-pointer to give Bryant a 24-22 advantage.
Southside’s Drew Miller missed a pair at the line. The Hornets who, despite a size disadvantage, out-boarded the Rebels 29-15, gained control and worked the ball on the other end until Griffin was fouled with 5:01 left to play.
Griffith converted both ends of the one-and-one to make it 26-22. In turn, Adams misfired and Bryant senior Kyle Nossaman was fouled at the 4:16 mark. But Nossaman’s first attempt refused to fall.
The Rebels had given the Hornets fits in the second quarter utilizing a 1-2-2 match-up zone press. Bryant did not score in the second quarter and suffered eight of their nine first-half turnovers.
And, it was at that point — with four minutes to play — in the fourth quarter that the Rebels unleashed that press again. Unfortunately, for the Hornets, it had the same effect.
“We just kind of crumbled from there,” acknowledged Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson.
Over the next three minutes, Bryant suffered seven miscues as Southside went on a 12-0 run that turned into a 17-3 surge to end the game. Cozart ended the Hornets’ drought with a free throw and Quinton Motto scored in the last few seconds to account for the Hornets’ points.
Adams, an all-State player as a junior last year, led all scorers with 15 points. Miller added 9.
“Southside coaches will tell you that they don’t have an experienced group,” Abrahamson commented, “but they’ve got four seniors that have played a lot of (varsity) minutes (for a State Tournament team). And you can tell that number 10, Miller, is a leader. He is making sure that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do, they’re where they’re supposed to be. And that’s something that we don’t have yet. To me, that’s the difference.
“Now, they’ve got two big guys down low that we struggled with all night,” he added, “but, to me, it’s the leadership. It’s the poise. It’s the experience that they have that we’re trying to get.”
Regarding the Southside defense, Abrahamson said, “It was tough. We were having trouble scoring. We think that we have good offense, that we’re getting people where they need to be. We are having trouble making plays, though.
“We’re going to look at the film and we’re going to get back to work tomorrow,” Abrahamson said. “We’re going to try to run what we have better. If we need to add some things, we’ll add some things.”
The game started well for the Hornets. Trailing 2-0, Garner gave them the lead with a 3 from the corner. Adams hit a free throw but Griffin, who led Bryant with 10 points, drained a triple. Southside turned the ball over and Nossaman made a sweet feed to Zach Cambron for a basket to make it 8-3.
Adams traded baskets with Griffin and Motto as the Hornets maintained a 12-7 lead but D.K. Hillian hit a 3 to get the Rebels within 2 at the first break.
Hillian fed Adams for a basket to start the second quarter and the game was tied.
And despite the fact that the Hornets were unable to add to their total in the second stanza, their defense was stingy enough that Southside could only muster a 16-12 lead at the intermission.
A layup by Motto and a pair of free throws by Garner started the scoring in the third quarter and Bryant was back even. It took Southside until the 3:18 mark to get on the board in the period. The Rebels led 21-18 before Eric Moore scored to beat the buzzer off a feed from Cozart, making it a one-point game and setting up the Hornets’ surge into the lead in the final period which was trumped by the Rebels down the stretch.
“It hurts,” Abrahamson concluded. “It stings to know that we could’ve won the game. We had the game. We gave it away. But we have to get better tomorrow. It hurts tonight but tomorrow, we just have to get better.”
The Hornets host their arch-rivals from Benton in their next outing on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
FORT SMITH SOUTHSIDE 39, BRYANT 29
Score by quarters
FS Southside 10 6 5 18 — 39
BRYANT 12 0 8 9 — 29
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Miller 1-5 6-10 1-0 1 4 9
Harris 1-1 1-2 0-0 0 1 3
Adams 5-6 5-9 3-3 6 4 15
Massey 0-3 0-2 0-1 1 1 0
Meares 3-4 1-2 0-1 1 2 7
Hillian 2-5 0-0 0-0 0 0 5
Nolte 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 1 0
Henning 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Hawley 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 0-4 4
Totals 12-26 13-25 4-10 14 13 39
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Griffin 3-9 2-2 0-0 0 5 10
Nossaman 0-2 0-1 0-3 3 1 0
Motto 3-7 0-0 1-8 9 4 6
Cambron 1-1 0-1 1-3 4 2 2
Garner 1-4 2-3 3-2 5 2 5
Moore 1-1 2-2 0-2 2 3 4
Cozart 0-1 2-4 0-0 0 2 2
Trudell 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 5-1 6
Totals 9-16 8-13 10-19 29 19 29
Three-point field goals: FS Southside 2-9 (Miller 1-3, Hillian 1-3, Henning 0-2, Meares 0-1), Bryant 3-11 (Griffin 2-6, Garner 1-3, Nossaman 0-1, Cozart 0-1). Turnovers: FS Southside 6, Bryant 16.