LITTLE ROCK — After watching an 11-point lead disappear and turn into a 5-point deficit in the second half, the Bryant Hornets answered the challenge that the Little Rock McClellan Crimson Lions had presented. Over the final 6:14, the Hornets outscored the Lions 22-11 to forge a hard-earned 70-64 win in the opening round of the annual Jammin’ for Jackets basketball tournament at Hall High School’s George Cirks Arena.
With the win, Bryant improved its record to 6-0 this season. Tonight at 8:30, the Hornets will play once and future conference rival Little Rock Central in the winners’ bracket semifinals. Central defeated Little Rock Episcopal Thursday night, 73-62.
In other first-round games, Little Rock Parkview whipped Mills, 52-44, and J.A. Fair downed the host Warriors, 65-48.
Senior Kevin Hunt scored 25 points to lead all scorers. Junior Lowell Washington added 15, all in the first half, and junior Romen Martin had 15, 10 in the second half. Braylon Steen scored 8, Calvin Allen 5 and Kaleb Turner 2.
For McClellan, now 1-4, Raymond Harris had 21, Marcis Hall 15 including 13 in the second half to go with a game-high 12 rebounds. Davon Johnson finished with 12. Karson Hayes and Aaron Jones scored 8 apiece.
The tournament is being played with two 16-minute halves instead of four eight-minute quarters. In addition, a 30-second shot clock is being employed.
“I really thought, maybe half the game, we were us, and what we practice every day,” said Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “I wanted to come in here and wanted to be us. I thought half the game, we weren’t that.
Part of the reason we didn’t do what we do at times is that they take you out of it,” he mentioned. “You’ve got to give them credit for that. Their record’s not great right now. They just got some guys out of football. They’ve played a tough schedule. They’re going to have a great year.”
The Lions played in the Class 5A State football championship game last Friday, losing to Pulaski Academy.
“We did enough to win,” Abrahamson continued. “I know we didn’t shoot free throws well. I know we probably didn’t meet any of the goals we set for ourselves but we played really hard, stuck with the plan, responded every time I asked them to.
“I’m proud of their effort,” he said. “This wasn’t our best game but it was good to see us get a win while not always playing the way we want to play, doing the things that we want to do but responding to adversity enough to overcome it. I’m proud of our team for continuing to answer the bell.”
The Hornets were tough on defense, forcing 22 turnovers. Including some key ones down the stretch.
Trailing 53-48, the Hornets got back-to-back three-point plays from Steen and Martin around a basket from Hall for McClellan. With the lead down to 1, Harris hit a free throw. Martin answered with a 3-point bomb that put the Hornets back in front 57-56.
Hunt followed with a steal and a layup. Moments later, Calvin Allen combined with Martin to force another turnover that Martin cashed in. His chance to make it a three-point play rimmed out, but suddenly Bryant was up 61-56.
After the teams traded misses and turnovers, Martin fed Hunt for a bucket that made it a 7-point game.
Two free throws from Johnson were answered by a free throw from Steen. His second shot came off the iron and Hunt pulled down an offensive rebound. Though the Hornets were unable to take advantage at that point, McClellan’s Jaylin Cunningham missed a 3 and, with 1:57 left, Hunt made an eye-popping whirling move in the lane and landed a scoop shot, making it 66-58.
The Lions, however, put together their own rally, sparked by Harris who hit for 6 consecutive points, interrupted only by Martin’s feed to Steen for a basket inside.
With the lead down to 68-64, the Hornets came out of a McClellan timeout with :44.7 left and worked what they could of the clock before Hunt was fouled. He hit a free throw, making it a 5-point game. Harris misfired on a 3-point try and, with :09.9 left, Hunt went to the line after an intentional foul and closed out the scoring.
“I have so much respect for Coach (Chris) Threet and what they’re doing at McClellan,” Abrahamson related. “He is a tough match.
“I think both teams got better tonight, no matter who won or lost,” he added. “They are a hard-playing, physical, well-prepared team that was a big-time challenge for us. And it’s a good win for us.
“It’s good, until tomorrow,” the coach said. “We’ve got to come back and do it again. It is good; good for our program, good for our kids. I’d like to see us put 32 minutes together tomorrow night, which is going to be tough. It’s going to be a challenge just to respond to this game, with the effort we had to give to get out of here.”
Initially, the Hornets were a little shaky, falling behind 6-2 but a three-point play by Washington off an assist from Martin got them on track. Still, Bryant did regain the lead until, trailing 10-7, Washington scored inside and Hunt drained a triple.
Harris tied it at 12 before Martin drove into the lane and, again, fed Washington for a three-point play.
The Hornets led the rest of the half. It was 17-16 when Bryant put together 9-0 surge ignited by a drive for a basket from Martin. A turnover led to a layup for Washington then Hayes was called for a charge and Hunt made the Lions pay with a driving jumper.
McClellan suffered another turnover and, after a timeout, Martin found the range from deep to push the mark to 26-16, the first double-digit lead in the contest.
Johnson interrupted for the Lions but Calvin Allen drove for a score to make it 28-18.
McClellan answered with an 8-2 push to get within 4 with 2:44 left in the half. After Abrahamson got a timeout, Hunt scored despite being fouled. Though his free throw wouldn’t fall, the Hornets forced a turnover and Martin got another assist on a basket by Washington, yet again burning the Lions’ defense with a drive and dish play.
Yet another three-point play for Washington with :45.7 left completed the scoring, giving Bryant a 35-26 halftime lead.
The teams traded baskets early in the second half before Martin made a steal and drove for a layup to give the Hornets their largest lead at 42-31.
But, in short order, Washington picked up his third and fourth fouls. His third was an offensive foul. He expressed his frustration and was hit with a technical for his fourth.
Hall hit two free throws then, on the ensuing possession, Harris drove for a basket. Calvin Allen was hit with a charging foul and Jones scored. Hall and Jones had back-to-back buckets and, with 9:46 left, the Lions had taken a 43-42 lead.
Off a Bryant miss, Johnson scored inside to cap off a 14-0 charge.
A nice give-and-go netted a basket for Turner to snap the Hornets’ skid. Later, with the Hornets within 49-48, Hayes followed his own shot and Hall knocked down two free throws, producing the Lions’ largest lead at 53-48, setting up Bryant’s decisive run.
HORNETS 70, CRIMSON LIONS 64
Score by halves
BRYANT 35 35 — 70
McClellan 26 38 — 64
HORNETS (6-0) 70
C.Allen 1-10 3-5 5, Hunt 8-14 7-13 25, Steen 3-5 2-3 8, Washington 6-7 3-5 15, Martin 6-15 1-2 15, Moody 0-0 0-1 0, Turner 1-2 0-1 2, McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0, R.Allen 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 (46%) 16-30 (53%) 70.
CRIMSON LIONS (1-4) 64
Hayes 3-6 2-2 8, Johnson 5-6 2-7 12, Harris 8-16 5-6 21, Hall 5-11 5-6 15, Cohns 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 4-5 0-1 8, Mosley 0-0 0-0 0, Hatton 0-1 0-0 0, Cunningham 0-3 0-0 0, Hughes 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-48 (52%) 19-22 (86%) 64.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-18 (Martin 2-9, Hunt 2-5, C.Allen 0-2, Turner 0-1, R.Allen 0-1), McClellan 0-8 (Harris 0-3, Hayes 0-2, Cunningham 0-2, Hatton 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, McClellan 22. Rebounds: Bryant 9-15 24 (Washington 2-5 7, Martin 2-2 4, Moody 1-3 4, Hunt 2-1 3, Steen 1-2 3, C.Allen 1-1 2, team 0-1 1), McClellan 12-32 44 (Hall 3-9 12, Johnson 1-6 7, Hayes 1-5 6, Cohns 0-5 5, Jones 2-3 5, team 4-3 7). Team fouls: Bryant 19, McClellan 24. Fouled out: McClellan, Hayes. Technical foul: Bryant, Washington.