Photos courtesy of Paul Dotson
BENTONVILLE — At any State tournament, fans and media from one part of the state anticipate a chance to see the best teams from another area. With the 6A State being held at Wolverine Arena at Bentonville West High School, lots of folks were looking forward to see what the Bryant Hornets were like. How good was this bunch that had been ranked the top team in the division?
Well, they probably couldn’t have been any more impressed.
Though the Hornets were playing a Cabot Panthers team that they had defeated, in close games, twice during the regular season, this third meeting was a bona fide blowout.
After holding a 5-4 lead in the early stages of the game, the Hornets put together a 25-0 blitz and never looked back on the way to a 73-39 romp to advance to the State semifinals on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., against the Bentonville Tigers, who knocked out North Little Rock, 59-56 later on Thursday.
The Bryant-Cabot decision was the rare State tournament game in which the mercy rule (running clock) was invoked. At the end — actually for most of the second half — it turned into a junior varsity contest.
The win was Bryant’s 16thin a row and 20thin the last 21 games as they improved to 23-4.
“Cabot didn’t shoot the ball well,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson, who will be taking a Bryant team to the semifinals for the third time hoping to reach the finals for the first time. “They got some open looks they didn’t make. It wasn’t all us. We had a good day. They had a rough day. That stuff happens. We played two pretty close games earlier in the year. I don’t think the discrepancy is as big as today.
“I think there was a comfort level between both teams,” he continued. “The guys were locked in and ready to go. We were hitting shots. That makes everything look better. It was a good performance by our guys.
“Didn’t expect it. Didn’t see it coming,” the coach related. “But we’re glad it did. The guys played well, defended well. You know, we defended well the last time we played Cabot, but we had trouble scoring the ball. I think, today, scoring the ball really helped to go with our defense, which is really what we hang our hat on.”
In all, nine different Hornets scored led by Khalen Robinson’s 14. Rodney Lambert and Camren Hunter had 11 each, Khasen Robinson 10 and Treylon Payne 9. Bryant hit 11 3-pointers in the game.
No one for Cabot made it to double figures. The Panthers, who won on Wednesday, 56-48 over Springdale Har-Ber, only had 10 points at the half, 19 through three quarters.
The Hornets were energized from the git-go. Abrahamson said it wasn’t about anything he said before the game.
“We just always talk about playing to our standard, not the score, the situation or the opponent,” he explained. “This was really no different.
“Give credit to our guys. We played good defense, made some shots, moved the ball well. We’re just trying to play basketball.”
Even though the Hornets have a day to prepare for Saturday, Abrahamson was pleased to get his reserves in the game in the third quarter, resting his starters.
“We’ll take it,” he said. “I really appreciate being able to get everybody in. Obviously, our main guys played really well to get us in that position.”
The game was tied 2-2 when Hunter took a kick-out pass from Lambert and hit a 3 from the corner to put the Hornets ahead to stay. Jacob Hudson scored to make it a one-point game before Bryant kicked up a spree.
Khalen Robinson drove for a basket and, after Catrell Wallace took a charge, Robinson popped a triple. Hunter dished to A.J. Jenkins for a basket inside to make it 12-4 and force Cabot to call a timeout.
When play resumed, Lambert and Hunter combined on a steal that led to a trip to the free-throw line for Lambert. He converted twice to make it a 10-point lead.
After Cabot’s Jordan Rainey misfired from 3-point range, Lambert drove the baseline and whipped in a reverse layup to make it 16-4 at the end of the first period.
Payne made a steal and fed Khalen Robinson for a layup as the Hornets started the second quarter the same way they ended the first. Lambert picked up another assist when he found Hunter again in the corner for a 3 to make it 21-4.
The onslaught continued with Payne drilling a 3. With 4:43 left, Jenkins was fouled and sent to the line. Perhaps, in part, hoping to fire up his team, Cabot coach Chris Meseke picked up a technical foul.
Jenkins hit two from the line then Robinson hit two more. On the subsequent possession, Robinson drove and hit a pull-up jay to stretch the margin to 30-4.
Weston Vaught got free inside for a basket with 2:54 left in the half, snapping a cold spell for the Panthers that carried on for nearly eight minutes.
Cabot managed to cut into the margin a bit. It was 30-10 before Lambert scored down low then took a charge at the other end. A free throw by Hunter made it 33-10 at the half.
A 24-4 surge opened the second half. Lambert hit a free throw and a basket to start. Then Payne canned a pair of 3’s around a basket by Cabot’s Tadariyan Rogers.
Khalen Robinson made a steal and drove to the other end. Despite getting pushed in the back as he went up for the shot near the rim, he scored. With the subsequent free throw, it was 45-12.
Hunter kicked to Khasen Robinson for a 3 to extend the lead before Rainey interrupted.
Jenkins and Lambert hit free throws over the next minute or so. Hunter drove for a layup and Khasen Robinson splashed another tripe to make it 57-14.
Khasen Robinson would hit another triple and Aiden Adams added a pair to send it to the fourth quarter with the Hornets enjoying a 67-19 lead.
With the reserves in the game for both teams, Cabot more than doubled its score while Bryant’s Kayleb West added a 3 and Bryant senior Ren Hefley scored off a baseline drive then added the finishing touches with a free throw.
HORNETS 73, PANTHERS 39
Score by quarters
Cabot 4 6 9 20 — 39
BRYANT 16 17 32 8 — 73
PANTHERS (20-8) 39
Rudolph 2-5 1-2 5, Muse 1-2 1-2 3, Vance 1-5 0-0 2, Hudson 1-4 0-0 2, Vaught 1-3 0-0 2, Rainey 1-4 1-5 3, Roberts 1-2 0-0 2, Bates 3-9 0-0 6, Rogers 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Hill 1-3 2-2 5, Rosebaum 1-2 4-4 7. Totals:14-42 (33%) 9-15 (60%) 39.
HORNETS (23-4) 73
Payne 3-5 0-0 9, Kl.Robinson 5-7 3-3 14, Lambert 3-7 5-7 11, Hunter 4-6 1-2 11, Wallace 0-0 0-0 0, Jenkins 1-1 4-4 6, Ks.Robinson 3-4 2-2 10, Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Adams 2-4 0-0 6, Schroeder 0-2 0-0 0, Montgomery 0-1 0-0 0, West 1-1 0-0 3, Newburn 0-1 0-0 0, Hefley 1-1 1-2 3. Totals:23-40 (58%) 16-20 (80%) 73.
Three-point field goal:Bryant 11-20 (Payne 3-4, Adams 2-4, Hunter 2-2, Ks.Robinson 2-2, Kl.Robinson 1-2, West 1-1, Lambert 0-2, Newburn 0-1, Schroeder 0-1, Montgomery 0-1), Cabot 2-22 (Hill 1-2, Rosebaum 1-2, Vance 0-4, Bates 0-3, Rudolph 0-2, Hudson 0-2, Vaught 0-2, Rainey 0-2, Rogers 0-2, Roberts 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 13, Cabot 14. Rebounds:Bryant 5-22 27 (Hunter 2-5 7, Kl.Robinson 1-3 4, Wallace 1-3 4, Montgomery 0-3 3, Schroeder 0-2 2, Payne 0-1 1, Jenkins 0-1 1, Ks.Robinson 0-1 1, Hall 1-0 1, Adams 0-1 1, Newburn 0-1 1, team 0-1 1), Cabot 8-15 23 (Hudson 1-4 5, Hill 0-5 5, Vance 2-0 2, Vaught 1-1 2, Rudolph 0-1 1, Muse 1-0 1, Rainey 0-1 1, Roberts 1-0 1, team 2-1 3). Team fouls:Bryant 15, Cabot 15. Technical foul:Cabot bench.