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After consecutive disappointing losses to a pair of teams above them in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference — two teams that they once were tied with for first place — the Bryant Hornets freshman team needed a win badly Monday night when they hosted the Catholic Rockets freshman in the final home game of the regular season.
It wasn’t easy. As late as the 1:23 mark of the third quarter, the Hornets found themselves behind 32-28. But they put together an 11-0 run over the close of the third and start of the fourth quarters to gain the upper hand. The Rockets came back with their own rally, aided by the Hornets’ struggled at the free-throw line. But the Hornets held on for a 43-39 win.
“That’s a credit to them,” said Hornets coach Tyler Posey regarding the Rockets’ challenge. “They’re a very good team, very scrappy. They knocked down some shots there in the third quarter against us and they got to the free-throw line a lot. They pushed us a little bit.
“We just kept playing with aggression,” he added. “We kept playing with a very aggressive mentality, just kept going at them. We used our depth to kind of try to wear them out and I think that’s what happened there at the end. And we made some pretty good shots. We missed a lot of free throws but we made some good shots down the stretch.”
The win improved the Hornets to 10-4 in league play, 13-8 overall, going into their last three games of the regular season, starting at Russellville on Thursday. Though the Hornets got past the Whirlwinds 38-26 in their first meeting on Dec. 12, Russellville has lost just once since then, an overtime game against Conway White. The run of victories included wins over league-leading North Little Rock. It’s an opportunity for the Hornets to pass the Whirlwinds in the fight for a higher seed in the CAJHC post-season tournament.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Catholic’s Charley Daniel produced the 32-28 advantage. Posey called timeout and, when play resumed, Keith Merriweather Jr., got inside for a short jumper to start the Hornets’ rally. Darrick Rose, off a Rockets turnover, got to the line and hit a free throw. Another turnover led to a play on the baseline under the Bryant basket. A lob in to Catrell Wallace put the Hornets on top 34-32 heading into the fourth quarter.
Both teams missed a pair of chances to change that score before Merriweather, who led the Hornets with 15 points, scored off a drive to the rack. Bryant forced a held ball and gained possession. Marqelle Barnes, who finished with 12 points, converted a free throw to extend the margin to 37-32.
After a Catholic timeout with 3:55 to play, Bryant forced a turnover that Merriweather cashed in with a basket as he was fouled. Though he was unable to get the free throw to fall, the Hornets had a 39-32 lead, there largest of the game.
Jordan Edington, who had 11 points for the Rockets, broke his team’s scoring drought. He had a chance at a three-point play but his free throw rimmed out. In turn, Barnes drove the right side and muscled in a short jumper.
With 1:45 left, Daniel, who finished with 15 points, drove for a basket, trimming the margin to 5. In turn, Merriweather converted two free throws for what turned out to be the final points for Bryant with 1:27 to go.
Daniel countered with a pair from the line at :51.3. Three times after that, the Hornets went to the line with a bonus opportunity. But all three times, they came up empty, leaving the door open for the Rockets.
But the Hornets’ defense was plenty tough and the Rockets were only able to add a free throw by Edington with 10 seconds left, setting the final score.
Catholic got off to a good start in the game, taking a 5-2 lead. Barnes hit a 3 to tie it but Edington scored and, moments later, added a free throw to make it 8-5. The Rockets had a chance to add on but Merriweather made a steal and a layup. Moments later, Barnes drove the lane and kicked out to O.J. Newburn on the wing. He busted a 3 to give the Hornets a 10-8 lead.
Sam Hannah countered with a free throw for the Rockets but Merriweather knocked down a triple to make it 13-9.
Edington’s three-point play kept Catholic close and when Merriweather and Robert Davan traded baskets, it was 15-14 going into the second quarter.
Hannah popped a 3 to start the new period, returning the upper hand to the Rockets. Daniel scored but the Hornets got a lift from Keshawn Scott’s 3.
Bryant still trailed 21-20 with 2:20 left in the half. Back-to-back offensive-rebound baskets by Wallace, who finished with 6 points and 13 rebounds off the bench for the Hornets, produced a 24-21 lead.
The Hornets held a 24-22 edge at the half.
Edington hit a free throw to start the third quarter and the Rockets had a chance to regain the lead but Rose made a steal that Daniel Washington cashed in. Eventually, however, the game was tied at 26. Barnes snapped the tie by following his own miss and scoring. But that led to Daniel’s consecutive 3’s, which produced Catholic’s last lead.
HORNETS 43, ROCKETS 39
Score by quarters
Catholic 14 8 10 7 — 39
BRYANT 15 9 10 9 — 43
Flanagan 0-1 0-0 0, Alsbrook 1-3 1-2 3, Edington 3-3 5-11 11, Lloyd 1-3 0-1 2, Daniel 5-6 3-5 15, Davan 2-7 0-0 4, Hannah 1-4 1-2 4, Hill 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-27 10-21 39.
Rose 0-5 0-1 0, Barnes 5-6 1-7 12, Newburn 1-2 0-0 3, D.Washington 1-2 0-0 2, Hall 0-1 0-0 0, Hilkert 0-2 0-2 0, Merriweather 6-10 2-4 15, Drennan 0-0 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0, Herron 0-1 2-2 2, Wallace 3-6 0-0 6, Scott 1-2 0-0 3, C.Washington 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-40 5-16 43.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-11 (Merriweather 1-4, Newburn 1-2, Scott 1-2, Barnes 1-1, Hilkert 0-1, Jenkins 0-1), Catholic 3-9 (Daniel 2-2, Hannah 1-2, Alsbrook 0-2, Flanagan 0-1, Lloyd 0-1, Davan 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 6, Catholic 10. Rebounds: Bryant 11-17 28 (Wallace 4-9 13, Rose 1-1 2, Barnes 1-1 2, D.Washington 2-0 2, Hall 1-1 2, Merriweather 0-1 1, C.Washington 1-0 1, team 1-2 3), Catholic 5-20 25 (Davan 1-7 8, Edington 3-4 7, Daniel 0-3 3, Flanagan 0-2 2, Alsbrook 0-2 2, Lloyd 1-1 2, team 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 17, Catholic 10.