For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
Back when the Bryant Hornets were playing home conference games on Friday nights, the venerable old arena had truly become a Hornets’ Nest. Big, boisterous crowds not only contributed to the Hornets’ enthusiasm, it was downright intimidating for the opposition. The Bryant gym actually became a home-court advantage.
But, since the Hornets have started playing their home conference games on Tuesday, the crowds have dwindled, and the gym has had the hollow sound — if any sound at all — of past seasons.
Admittedly, the Hornets have played the two teams on the bottom of the conference the last two weeks but, next Tuesday, it’ll not only be Senior Night, the opponent will be the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats, who were ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the season until the Hornets beat them at their place, 73-56, on Jan. 22.
No doubt, the Charging Wildcats will be seeking some revenge. A big crowd will help.
And, no doubt, the Hornets will face a large, loud crowd when they travel to Cabot this Friday, which has always been a tough place to play, partly for that reason.
The Hornets will go to Cabot as the top team in the 6A-Central Conference after dismissing the Fort Smith Southside Mavericks on Tuesday night, 67-38, to improve to 10-1 in league play. It was their 10thconsecutive victory and 16thin the last 17 games.
At halftime, Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson urged his team to have some fun. He said the Hornets had played hard in building a 35-20 lead, but the enthusiasm just didn’t seem to be where it usually is. He reminded them that there may not always be a big crowd and the team you are playing may not always be up to par but that’s no reason not to enjoy what they’re doing. After all, there aren’t that many games in a season and only a few remaining.
The coach was glad to see a little more enthusiasm the second half. They proceeded to blow the game up even further and, along the way, the mercy rule went into effect with a running clock.
“We did what we wanted to do,” said Abrahamson. “Ultimately, we got where we needed to get.”
A successful team, however, is always playing to push their own perceived limitations, just see how good they can be.
“Of course, a coach is never satisfied,” the coach commented. “We didn’t shoot free throws well and a couple of careless turnovers turned into some layups for them. We didn’t always finish around the rim. We may have pulled away a little earlier.
“But our guys gave great effort and we did a lot of nice things,” he added. “It’s like any other game, there’s things you can look at as a coach that you’ve got to work on.”
Khalen Robinson took a tough spill early in the game and came up favoring his left wrist. But he toughed it out and wound up with a game-high 21 points through three quarters. Aiden Adams came off the bench to score 9 on three 3-pointers. Senior Rodney Lambert had 9 as well.
“We got a lot of guys in,” Abrahamson noted. “We welcome that opportunity.”
Bryant opened the game with a 12-2 push that started with a 3 by Lambert, who had 33 in the game at Southside on Jan. 15. After Southside’s Mykale Franks scored, Robinson hit a pair of free throws, Catrell Wallace scored off a nice inbounds pass form Camren Hunter then A.J. Jenkins hit a free throw, and Hunter made a steal and layup to make it 10-2.
After a Mavericks timeout, Robinson, who, along with Hunter, had seven rebounds in the game, got a tip-in to complete the opening charge.
The Mavs rallied to cut the lead to 14-9. Franks hit a 3, Taye Gatewood scored inside and Tyrese Solomon scored in the final seconds.
Abrahamson made a point with his team during the break between quarters.
“Ball pressure,” he explained. “We were kind of backing off the ball, I thought, and we needed to get up there and pressure those guys.”
Before the Mavericks could score again, the Hornets went on a 15-0 blitz. Robinson scored as he was fouled and, though he missed the three-point play opportunity, he came back to hit a triple moments later. Threes by Adams and Lambert fueled the outburst before Robinson hit a pair of layups and the lead grew to 29-9.
During the run, Southside used three timeouts. Finally, after the third one, Franks drove for a layup to break the drought with 4:36 left in the half.
It was 36-18 when Jonathan Hall took a nice dish from Jenkins for a layup and Gatewood drove for a basket to make it 38-20 at the half.
When Hunter and Payne scored the first two baskets of the third quarter, Southside was never able to get the margin down to 18 again.
Jackson Infield hit a 3 for the Mavs but Robinson added a pair of free throws, Hunter made a steal and Lambert fed Wallace for a basket to make it 46-23.
Adams hit another pair of 3’s in the quarter including one in the final seconds to make it 60-33 going into the fourth.
Wallace scored inside then Payne made a layup off a steal with 7:13 left. With the Hornets up 64-33 at that point, the mercy rule applied.
HORNETS 67, MAVERICKS 38
Score by quarters
FS Southside 9 11 13 5 — 38
BRYANT 14 24 22 7 — 67
MAVERICKS (5-19, 0-11) 38
Gatewood 2-5 2-2 6, Solomon 1-5 2-3 4, York 0-8 0-0 0, Franks 4-11 0-0 9, McBride 3-3 0-2 6, Thomas 1-3 0-0 2, Infield 3-3 0-0 9, Mitchell 1-4 0-1 2, Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals:15-42 (36%) 4-8 (50%) 38.
HORNETS (19-4, 10-1) 67
Payne 3-8 0-1 6, Kl.Robinson 7-8 6-7 21, Lambert 2-5 3-5 9, Hunter 2-2 2-2 6, Wallace 3-3 0-1 6, Jenkins 1-3 3-8 5, Ks.Robinson 1-6 0-0 3, Adams 3-4 0-0 9, Hall 1-1 0-0 2, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Montgomery 0-0 0-2 0, Hefley 0-0 0-0 0, Newburn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals:23-40 (58%) 14-26 (54%) 67.
Three-point field goals:Bryant 7-15 (Adams 3-4, Lambert 2-4, Ks.Robinson 1-3, Kl.Robinson 1-2, Payne 0-2), FS Southside 4-13 (Infield 3-3, Franks 1-6, York 0-4). Turnovers:Bryant 17, FS Southside 17. Rebounds: Bryant 8-24 32 (Kl.Robinson 4-3 7, Hunter 1-6 7, Lambert 0-4 4, Wallace 0-4 4, Ks.Robinson 0-3 3, Payne 1-1 2, Adams 0-2 2, Jenkins 0-1 1, Hall 1-0 1, team 1-0 1), FS Southside 5-17 22 (McBride 3-2 5, Franks 2-2 4, Thomas 0-4 4, Gatewood 0-3 3, York 0-2 2, Mitchell 0-2 2, Solomon 0-1 1, Smith 0-1 1). Team fouls:Bryant 11, FS Southside 20.