Hornets freshman join the fun, capture Hale Invitational crown

PEARCY — Just a while before the Bryant Hornets varsity took the floor in quest of the championship of[more] the Spa City Shootout in downtown Hot Springs, the Bryant Hornets freshman team joined in the championship joy with their second title of the season, forging a 43-37 win over the Hot Springs Junior Trojans in the finals of the Kameron Hale Invitational at nearby Lake Hamilton High School.

Earlier this season, the Junior Hornets had won the Bryant Invitational Tournament crown including a semifinal win over the Junior Trojans. Those are the only two losses of the season for Hot Springs.

Now 9-4, Bryant returns to Central Arkansas Junior High Conference again at Conway Blue on Saturday, Jan. 7.

K.J. Hill led the Hornets with 24 points including some clutch free throws at the end. He was 7 of 10 from the line in the fourth period to help seal the victory. He also played a key role in handling Hot Springs’ intensified pressure defense.

J.C. Newborn added 10 points including a pair of free throws down the stretch. Brett Fisher contributed 3 points and John Winn, Ryan Hall and Brandan Warner scored 2 apiece.

Bryant led 7-4 after a quarter. The Trojans scored the game’s first 4 points then Bryant went on a 7-0 run and never trailed.

“We played with the lead which is very, very important to our team,” stated Hornets coach Jim Pennington. “We need to have the lead because we want to try to control the tempo. You do that on offense more than anything else.

“In the second half, it did get more up and down but they were pressing,” he added. “K.J. was able to break it and attack and either finish or get fouled. We let him do his thing and he did a good job.

“I thought I was going to have to put him on ice,” the coach quipped. “He was batter and bruised but he’s a very strong young man, not just physically, but mentally too. He’s a competitor.”

It was 17-8 at the half. Hot Springs made a run in the second half but couldn’t get over the top. It was 25-18 going into the final period.

“When we started out playing, I thought we were playing a football game,” mentioned Pennington. “It was so physical. They were playing full-court man-to-man and it was very, very physical. But we withstood it.

“We played really good defense in the first half,” he added. “They hit some shots in the third quarter and made it a game and it went right down to the wire.”

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