For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here.
After stumbling in a game they expected to win against Cabot South on Tuesday, the Bryant Hornets freshman team went to work and responded with one of their best games of the season, forging a 43-27 win over the Conway White Wampus Cats on Thursday at the Bryant Middle School gym.
Before the loss to Cabot South, the Hornets were alone in second place in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference, their lone loss to league-leading (and unbeaten) North Little Rock on Dec. 1. The setback put them in a second-place tie with three other teams, one of which was Conway White. The others were Conway Blue and Russellville.
While the Hornets were knocking off Conway White, North Little Rock was edging Conway Blue as Russellville whipped Cabot North. That leaves Bryant and Russellville tied for second going into the final game of the first round of the CAJHC schedule. The Hornets visit arch-rival Benton on Monday.
“They’ve beaten some really good teams,” said Hornets coach Tyler Posey regarding Conway White. “That’s a good team. This is a good win.”
Ethan Hilkert led the Hornets with 15 points. Catrell Wallace and Keith Merriweather Jr., added 10 each. Wallace had nine rebounds and a handful of blocked shots. He and Hilkert had the smaller Wampus Cats double-clutching and altering their shots when they drove to the basket throughout the game.
“We felt like we were just a little bit off on Tuesday night, felt like we didn’t come out with much energy and intensity,” noted Posey. “The last couple of days of practice might have changed that mindset.
“I tell them every day, ‘You’ve got all the talent in the world but, if we don’t bring the same mindset every day . . .’ — I think they’re starting to understand that and it really showed in our performance tonight,” he added.
The Hornets also did a good job of feeding the open man with some sparkling feeds and a number of assists.
“That’s something we’ve been looking at on film, seeing that the first two games when we got on a win streak, we assisted on over 65 percent of our baskets,” Posey mentioned. “We finally got back to playing good team ball, passing to the open man; just keeping it simple. ‘If you get stopped, you pass it. If you don’t, you score.’”
The Hornets wound up shooting nearly 60 percent from the field despite going 0 for 4 from 3-point territory. Between them, Hilkert and Wallace, along with Colby Washington (6 points) were 15 of 17.
It took a while for either team to get going. When Posey called an early timeout with 4:23 showing in the opening period, Conway White had missed all four of its shots but Bryant hadn’t been able to attempt a single field goal.
It took until the 3:34 mark when O.J. Newburn made a steal and fed Wallace that the first points were put up.
Conway scored the next two baskets to take a 4-2 lead but that wound up being their last advantage. Colby Washington scored inside to tie it and, off a Conway miss, Darrick Rose drove and dished to Washington for a go-ahead deuce. Hilkert assisted on another bucket inside for Wallace and, off a Conway turnover, Merriweather drove for a layup to make it 10-4.
Conway got the last bucket of the quarter to trim the lead to 4.
The teams traded hoops in the second quarter, highlighted by Hilkert’s three-point play. Newburn assisted on a basket by Wallace and Merriweather fed Washington for a bucket. Conway hit a 3 with :49 left in the half but Hilkert scored in response to make it 19-13 at the intermission.
Three times in the opening half of the third period, the Cats cut the lead to 4 but they could get no closer. They had a chance after the third of those moments but Cade Drennan made a steal for the Hornets who got the ball to Wallace for a layup at the other end.
Merriweather made a steal and a layup and the Cats were never that close again. The lead reached double figures of the first time when Marqelle Barnes fed Hilkert for a short jumper with 1:43 left in the quarter.
It was 31-23 going into the fourth quarter. To start the final period, Hilkert drained a jumper in the lane and, off a turnover, Rose fed Barnes for a bucket to make it a 12-point game.
After Conway scored, back-to-back buckets by Hilkert and Merriweather stretched the lead to 14. Barnes found Wallace then Rose fed Hilkert to produce the largest margin of the game, 43-25.
HORNETS 43, WAMPUS CATS 25
Score by quarters
Conway White 6 7 10 4 — 27
BRYANT 10 9 12 12 — 43
WAMPUS CATS 25
Foster 3-10 0-2 7, Smith 3-11 0-2 6, Sandidge 0-10 0-0 0, Macon 0-3 0-0 0, Bohanon 2-8 0-0 4, White 1-2 0-0 2, Reed 2-5 0-0 4, Fowler 1-1 0-0 2, Forte 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 12-51 0-4 25.
Rose 0-2 0-0 0, Newburn 0-3 0-0 0, C.Washington 3-3 0-2 6, Wallace 5-6 0-0 10, Hilkert 7-8 1-1 15, Merriweather 4-9 2-2 10, Barnes 1-3 0-0 2, Drennan 0-0 0-0 0, Herron 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-34 3-5 43.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 0-4 (Newburn 0-3, Merriweather 0-1), Conway White 1-9 (Foster 1-5, Smith 0-2, Sandidge 0-2). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Conway White 12. Rebounds: Bryant 5-23 28 (Wallace 3-6 9, Rose 0-5 5, Hilkert 0-4 4, C.Washington 0-3 3, Merriweather 2-1 3, Barnes 0-2 2, Newburn 0-2 2), Conway White 13-10 23 (Sandidge 3-2 5, Macon 4-0 4, Foster 1-2 3, Smith 1-2 3, Bohanon 0-3 3, White 1-0 1, Reed 0-1 1, team 3-0 3). Team fouls: Bryant 6, Conway White 4.