File photo by Paul Dotson
PINE BLUFF — The Corona, Calif., Centennial Huskies, fresh from a four-game sweep of the prestigious Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., rolled into Pine Bluff for the King Cotton Classic, ranked number seven in the country (and fourth in California) by MaxPreps with a 10-2 record. Though they racked up a 61-52 victory, the Bryant Hornets made them sweat it out for a while. The Hornets got within 7 points in the final minute after trailing by as much as 19 in the second half.
Bryant fell victim to a first-quarter barrage of 3’s including four by senior point guard Paris Dawson. He only wound up hitting one more the rest of the game but led the Huskies with 22 points.
Trey Payne paced the Hornets with 23 including a couple of triples. Camren Hunter came off the bench to add 14. Khasen Robinson scored 7.
The first-quarter bombs allowed Centennial to get out to an 18-5 lead.
“Really good team,” acknowledged Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson. “Shot the lights out. Six 3’s in the first quarter. You’ve just got to give them credit for that. I thought we adjusted well to be there and slow that down after the first quarter. But, to shoot that well, is unbelievable. Six in the first quarter and 11 in the game. That’s tough.
“That first quarter — and it’s easy to stay this — was the difference in the game,” he added.
“We shot the ball really well in the first quarter,” allowed Centennial coach Joshua Giles. “We did the same thing in the third quarter. In the second and fourth quarters, it was like we were right there to where we could let them back in the game or we could bury them and turn it into a blowout. And we just never delivered that knockout blow. We let them hang around the entire game and make it interesting.”
Hunter’s first basket opened the second quarter. Still, it was 22-9 before the Hornets started whittling on the lead. Led by Payne, who had 8 in the quarter, Bryant managed to put together a 10-3 run that had the lead down to 25-19 with 1:37 left in the half.
Jared McCain traded baskets with Hunter and the game went to the half with the Huskies leading 27-21.
Centennial started the third quarter like they did the game. This time, they put together a 12-3 run to open the half.
The Hornets hung with them until late in the third when the margin ballooned to 51-32 before Payne drove for a basket. He followed up with a steal and a free throw, so it was a 16-point difference going into the final stanza.
The Hornets intensified their presses and began to turn the Huskies over and close the gap.
“The first thing I glanced at were the turnovers,” Giles said. “I think the statistician was generous on 16 turnovers. I felt like we had a lot more than that.
“We got fortunate on a couple of possessions there where, maybe it could’ve got the other way,” he continued. “We looked like we’d never been pressed in a game before, like we’d never seen pressure defense or a trap or anything like that. But that goes to Bryant. They played really really hard. I felt like they were the tougher team. We won the game, but I felt like Bryant was way tougher than we were.
“We just came from a tournament where we got pressed in every single game,” the coach mentioned. “I don’t know why we didn’t handle it as well today. But, again, maybe that goes to Bryant. Maybe they did it a little better than the other teams we’ve seen so far. It was not our best game, but they probably had something to do with that.”
The initial flurry by the Hornets extended by the last 3 points of the third developed into a 13-2 run capped off by a 3 from Aiden Adams that cut the lead to 53-46. Freddie Dybala hit a layup for the Huskies, but Robinson countered in kind to make it 55-48 going into the last 3:54.
Centennial, behind two free throws from Donovan Dent and a drive by Dawson pushed the margin back to 10. They had a chance to extend it further, but Adams took a charge and Hunter cashed it in with a 3 to make it 59-52.
“That’s one thing I told our team,” said Abrahamson. “We pressed a top 20 team in the nation and that’s great. But I don’t think we could’ve done it the whole game because, really, we’ve got like five guys that can do it. If you’re going to press, it takes more than that.
“Those guys gave us all they had, and our bench was really into the game, doing their part,” he concluded. “I was proud of our effort, hanging in there and coming back. Of course, we want to win the game but it’s something for us to build on.”
In the consolation bracket, the Hornets are scheduled to play Memphis Wooddale on Saturday. Wooddale lost in the final seconds to Jacksonville.
HUSKIES 61, HORNETS 52
Score by quarters
BRYANT 5 16 14 17 — 52
Centennial 18 9 24 10 — 61
HORNETS (6-4) 52
Payne 7-18 7-9 23, Robinson 1-5 5-6 7, Adams 1-2 0-0 2, Wallace 0-0 2-4 2, Pitts 1-2 1-2 3, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, L.Newburn 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 6-12 1-2 14, Brunson 0-0 0-0 0, Diggins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-39 (41%) 16-23 (70%) 52.
HUSKIES (11-2) 61
Dawson 7-14 3-4 22, McCain 3-9 2-2 10, Dybala 4-8 0-0 10, White 2-6 0-0 5, Machado 1-2 0-2 2, Watkins 1-2 0-0 3, Dent 1-2 6-8 8, Wadman 0-0 0-0 0, McBride 0-0 0-0 0, Perez 0-0 0-0 0, Huff 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 19-43 (44%) 12-18 (67%) 61.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-17 (Payne 2-10, Hunter 1-4, Adams 1-2, Robinson 0-1), Corona Centennial 11-27 (Dawson 5-10, McCain 2-7, Dybala 2-6, White 1-2, Watkins 1-1, Machado 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 17, Corona Centennial 16. Rebounds: Bryant 6-18 24 (Wallace 0-7 7, Adams 0-4 4, Hunter 2-2 4, Brunson 1-1 2, Payne 0-1 1, Robinson 0-1 1, Pitts 1-0 1, Schroeder 1-0 1, L.Newburn 0-1 1, team 1-1 2), Corona Centennial 8-19 27 (Dybala 0-6 6, Dawson 2-2 4, White 1-3 4, Dent 1-3 4, McCain 1-2 3, Machado 2-0 2, Wadman 0-1 1, McBride 1-0 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 14, Corona Centennial 20. Fouled out: Corona Centennial, Machado.