Photos by Kevin Nagle
HOT SPRINGS — Just in case, before the Bryant Hornets left the high school gym for Summit Arena and[more] the championship game of the Summit Bank Spa City Shootout on Friday, manager Will Barefoot took the time to check the trophy case in the lobby. At first, he was trying to figure out how to get into the case so another trophy could be added then he started looking for championship trophies from past seasons.
Though it figures that not all the trophies are in the case, Barefoot could only find a championship trophy from 1980.
Of course, the Hornets won a State title in 1981 (before losing in the finals of the old overall tournament to a West Memphis team featuring future pros Keith Lee and Michael Cage) and there might have been other regular-season tournament titles along the way, but it’s been since December of 1999 that a Hornets team has won a tournament. It was a Bryant Invitational in fact and included a sweep of Central Arkansas Christian, Sylvan Hills and Lake Hamilton.
On Friday, the long wait for another addition to the trophy case concluded as the Hornets captured the Shootout crown with a 50-34 win over the Maumelle Hornets.
“You’re going to win a lot of games when you hold someone to 34 points,” noted Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson. “I’m really proud of the defensive effort. That sense of urgency was there for the whole game. Most of what (Maumelle) got, it was hard to get which is something that we stress.”
Bryant never trailed, opening the game with a 17-2 blitz. Maumelle cut the advantage to 10 just after halftime but never got any closer. The largest lead was 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Asked what keyed that fast start, Abrahamson said, “The scouting report and the focus of the kids, the kids buying into the scouting report and what I told them I thought the game was going to be like. I knew (Maumelle was) going to play a 2-3 zone. I knew about their half-court trap. I knew about a couple of their inbounds plays — just typical stuff that we do every game — player tendencies. Transition in this game was particularly important. We just wanted to get back as a group and not let them make plays in transition.”
The victorious Hornets did that well, forcing 18 turnovers and limiting the opposing Hornets to 30 percent shooting.
Offensively, Bryant was balanced with Leon Neale’s 11 points pacing the effort. Brantley Cozart and Anthony Black each finished with 10. Quinton Motto had nine including a rim-rattling dunk. Zach Cambron added 6.
“We have several people that are capable of stepping up and having big games offensively for us,” Abrahamson mentioned. “Our guys work really hard. Every one of them has worked to become a better individual player to help our team. It’s paying off this year. We really struggled to score last year. Everybody was committed in the off-season to become better as individuals to, in turn, help the team.”
The win improved Bryant to 8-4 on the season heading into their 7A/6A-Central Conference opener on Friday, Jan. 6, at home against Little Rock Catholic.
Bryant’s opening salvo against Maumelle including a 10-0 start. Neale hit the offensive glass for the first bucket then Motto, coming off a career-high 22 on Thursday against Hot Springs, scored inside. Neale drove from the post for a layup then Black canned a 12-footer. When Cambron scored inside, it was 10-0.
Maumelle, which launched just five shots while turning the ball over seven times in the first quarter, got on the board with 1:55 left in the period when Marquis McClinton hit a baseline jumper.
Cozart countered for Bryant by nailing a triple, making it 13-2 going into the second period.
It was early in the quarter when Motto flashed for a steel and headed to the other end for a slam. He was fouled on the play as well and converted at the line to make it 16-2. He would add a free throw moments later to complete the opening surge.
Eric Parks drove for a hoop for Maumelle but, again, Cozart answered with a trey. Cambron, on the other end, absorbed a charge and was rewarded on offense when he was fouled on a move to the hoop.
The teams traded baskets with Maumelle intensifying its effort. The Bryant advantage was whittled to 11 with 1:49 to go in the half but Black converted a free throw to make it 27-15 at the intermission.
Maumelle’s Ron James scored the opening bucket of the third quarter to get his team within 10. But after they squandered a chance to get closer, Neale turned in a nifty three-point play off a reverse layup to stem the tide.
Motto added a free throw then Neale got a layup off a drive and dish move from Cozart. With 4:43 left in the quarter, McClinton knocked down a 3 to trim the margin to 33-20. But Bryant responded this time with a game-breaking 11-1 run to quiet any hopes Maumelle had for a comeback.
Cambron scored off a feed by Jordan Griffin to start the spurt. Black followed with a 15-footer then a 3 to make it 40-20 going into the fourth quarter.
The surge continued with a layup by Jalen Hewett off an assist from Black and, after a free throw by Maumelle’s Anthony Turner, Black went to the line and converted twice. That gave Bryant its largest lead, 44-21.
To their credit, Maumelle’s Hornets kept battling. Bryant spread the floor on offense and closed out the victory.
BRYANT 50, MAUMELLE 34