LITTLE ROCK — After trailing by as much as 15 in the first half, the Bryant Hornets battled all the way back to take a 64-62 lead with 3:26 left in their hotly-contested game against the Little Rock Central Tigers Friday night. Senior Kevin Hunt capped off a 13-1 run with his third 3-pointer of the push.
Central’s Jacobia Platt answered with a 3 but a baseline drive by the Hornets’ Romen Martin had Bryant up 66-65 with 2:27 to go.
But that was the last of Bryant’s scoring.
Platt knocked down a 3 from 25 feet to put the Tigers back on top and starting an 8-0 run to close out a 73-66 win.
Central, now 4-1, advances to play Little Rock Parkview in the championship game of the annual Jammin’ For Jackets tournament at Hall High school. Bryant, which suffered its first loss of the season after six victories, was denied a chance to play for the title in the first entry in the tourney for the program. The Hornets will take on Little Rock J.A. Fair in the third-place game today at 4 p.m.
On Thursday, the Hornets fell behind Little Rock McClellan 6-2 in the early going. They overcame that deficit and as much as a 5-point hole in the second half to win 70-64.
On Friday, Bryant found itself trailing by as much as 15 points, initially at 19-4 with 8:36 left in the first half. Again they battled back but couldn’t get over the top until that second-half run fueled by Hunt, who followed up a 25-point performance on Thursday with a 24-point game on Friday.
But Hunt fouled out at a crucial juncture, just after Platt’s deep 3 that put his team up for good down the stretch.
“We got in such a hole,” acknowledged Abrahamson. “Once again, just like last night, we weren’t ourselves to start the game. It took us about 12 minutes to start playing.
“Central was awesome,” he asserted. “They manhandled us on the boards. They hit tough shots. When we tried to respond, they responded to us. They were tougher than us. I give them all the credit.
“We got what we deserved,” the coach stated. “If you don’t come to play your game then what are you here for? If we came and we gave it our best and we were who we were, we could live with it. But they whooped us and give them credit for that.”
Statistically, the Hornets held their own on the boards. Central finished with a 44-40 advantage, led by Raekwon Rogers’ 19, to go with 19 points. Bryant’s Lowell Washington had 14 points and 11 boards. Martin finished with 12 points. Braylon Steen had 7 and Kaleb Turner 5.
Central’s Cameron Johnson scored 18 points and Platt had 15. Tyler Moore scored 10 and Ryan Jackson 9.
The Hornets forced 17 turnovers while committing 12 but the Tigers kept swatting away Bryant shots inside. And the Hornets were cited for 21 fouls to just nine called on Central. After going 7 for 7 at the line in the first 16 minutes, the Hornets never attempted another free throw. The Tigers shot 9 of 23 at the stripe for the game.
“It’s exhausting sometimes, just to get them to be the best they can be,” Abrahamson said of his team, “do what we practice every day and just to go after being our best, just to pursue greatness.
“It caught up to us,” he continued. “We didn’t practice well Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We got away with one last night but, again, we dug ourselves a hole tonight. We try to respond but, once again, we’re responding to stuff we can control — our energy, our aggressiveness, our toughness, our mindset. And, when we’re not strong in those areas, that causes us to not shoot with confidence or not shoot at all or to not block out, not be physical, not snatch rebounds, be timid with the ball in our hands, turn it over or get scared at the free-throw line or quit attacking the basket.
“We’re driven by our mindset and, if our minds are in the right place, we can be pretty good and, if our mindset is in the wrong place, we dig ourselves a hole and it’s really hard to get out of,” the coach concluded.
Bryant didn’t actually have a field goal until after Central had built the 19-6 lead. A running jumper by Calvin Allen broke the ice at the 8:23 mark of the first half.
(Games in the tourney were played with two 16-minute halves rather than the normal four eight-minute quarters. Plus, a 30-second shot clock is in use, which is not a part of regular-season games.)
Jackson and Washington traded baskets then Rogers drove for a bucket that had the Tigers back up by 15 at the 7:41 mark. Bryant’s first rally commenced when Allen dished to Steen who scored and was fouled. After he completed the three-point play, the Hornets forced a turnover and Hunt drained a 15-footer.
Allen followed up with a steal that led to a trip to the line for Martin after he made an eye-catching drive on the baseline in which he maintained his dribble despite slipping. His free throws made it 23-15.
Johnson scored to make it a 10-point lead but Hunt drilled his first 3 and Steen scored off an inbounds pass by Allen. Hunt’s drive to the rack had the Hornets within 3 at the 5:21 mark and moved Central head coach Oliver Fitzpatrick to call a timeout.
A free throw by Rogers after one of his eight offensive rebounds made it 26-22 but Turner drilled a 3 from the left corner and the Hornets were within a point. Central, however, would not relinquish the lead. The Tigers pushed the lead back to 5 and, after Bryant cut it to 1 again on hoops from Washington and Steen, Moore hit a baseline jumper to make it 34-31 at the half.
To start the second half, Washington hit the offensive glass for a basket. After Rogers answered, Martin made a steal and drove for a two-hand slam. The lead swung from 1 to 3 for a stretch of play.
The Tigers led 42-41 before Platt’s three-point play. Moments later, it was 47-43 and the Hornets were cited for offensive goal-tending to negate a basket. But Turner came up with a steal and a layup to cut it back to 2.
After a Central timeout at the 10:50 mark, the Tigers scored 6 unanswered points to move Abrahamson to call timeout. It helped the Hornets too. When play resumed, Martin, who had been struggling from the field, connected on a 3 and, after a Central miss, nailed another one to trim the margin back to 2, 53-51 at the 8:31 mark.
Again the Tigers responded to the Bryant threat. This time, they scored 8 straight with three of those four baskets coming off offensive rebounds, including two by Rogers.
Suddenly back down by double-digits, 61-51, the Hornets called a timeout. Again, they responded, this time with the 13-1 blitz that produced their first lead. Hunt drove for a basket and followed up with back-to-back 3’s.
Defensively, the Hornets forced the Tigers to use up all of the shot clock and could only attempt a desperation 3 that missed. In turn, Hunt tried for a third consecutive triple. It wouldn’t fall but Marvin Moody rebounded and scored, tying the game at 61 with 4:15 left in the game.
Johnson snapped the tie with a free throw only to have Hunt connect on another 3, producing Bryant’s 64-62 lead.
TIGERS 73, HORNETS 66
Score by halves
BRYANT 31 35 — 66
LR Central 34 39 — 73
HORNETS (6-1) 66
C.Allen 1-8 0-0 2, Hunt 9-17 2-2 24, Steen 3-9 1-1 7, Washington 6-14 2-2 14, Martin 4-20 2-2 12, Moody 1-3 0-0 2, Turner 2-6 0-0 5, McIntosh 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-77 (34%) 7-7 (100%) 66.
TIGERS (4-1) 73
Platt 5-7 2-3 15, Johnson 7-20 3-7 18, Moore 5-8 0-2 10, Means 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 8-11 3-6 19, Jackson 4-5 1-5 9, Richardson 1-3 0-0 2, Collins-Findley 0-1 0-0 0, Dudley 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 30-57 (53%) 9-23 (39%) 73.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 7-28 (Hunt 4-9, Martin 2-15, Turner 1-2, C.Allen 0-2), Central 4-10 (Platt 3-3, Johnson 1-2, Richardson 0-2, Dudley 0-2, Jackson 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 12, Central 17. Rebounds: Bryant 23-17 40 (Washington 4-7 11, Moody 5-3 8, Steen 3-2 5, C.Allen 2-2 4, Turner 2-1 3, Martin 3-0 3, Hunt 1-0 1, McIntosh 0-1 1, team 3-1 4), Central 18-26 44 (Rogers 8-11 19, Moore 3-2 5, Platt 1-3 4, Jackson 1-3 4, Richardson 1-2 3, Johnson 3-0 3, Dudley 0-2 2, Means 0-1 1, team 1-2 3). Team fouls: Bryant 21, Central 9. Fouled out: Bryant, Hunt.