For more photos from this event by Rick Nation, go here
For more photos from this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
It had all the makings of a trap game.
Coming off one of the most excruciatingly tough losses (at Fort Smith Northside) — one of three in overtime and another by 2 points this season — and looking ahead to a rematch with one of those teams that beat them in overtime (Little Rock Central), the Hornets hosted the Catholic Rockets of Little Rock, winless on the season but, as always, scrappy and tough.
And it took a while to shake them but, by closing out the game with a 25-8 surge, the Hornets extracted a much-needed 56-42 victory, snapping a four-game skid that followed a win over defending Class 7A State champion Cabot.
Calvin Allen scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, 8 in the fourth quarter to help fuel the surge. Braylen Steen scored all 12 of his points in the second half. Lowell Washington finished with 12 too. Romen Martin and Kaleb Turner added 4 each with Marvin Moody, Christian McIntosh and Deron Canada pitching in with 2 apiece.
Phillips Allison paced the Rockets with 11 points. Roger Roe added 9 and Hayden Ford 7.
The Hornets had to overcome foul trouble, which contributed to their first-half struggles. That forced them out of their man-to-man defense and into a zone that they eventually extended into a full-court trap.
That forced the Rockets to use up their timeouts early. They took three in the first half, trying to nurse their lead. Two of them went to save possessions when the Hornets were in position to force turnovers. The last two came in the third quarter after the Hornets had rallied to tie the game at 32. Both of those were to save possessions.
As a result, the Rockets didn’t have timeouts to take as the Hornets made their game-busting burst.
“It wasn’t working so we adjusted,” said Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson of the defensive switch. “Being down at half, just seeing the way it was going. We were fouling a lot. We tried to do a little trap at the end of the first half but all we were doing was fouling them because we weren’t chopping our feet. We were leading with our hands and not taking good angles. We talked a little bit about that at halftime and they did a better job the second half.
“I didn’t really want to have to do that,” he allowed. “I wanted just to play man-to-man. I thought we could’ve done that. We just didn’t force enough turnovers. We touch-fouled them a couple of times in the first half, which led to some and-ones. And I think that was affecting our offense as well.
“We kind of didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t looking good in a slugfest first half so we decided we had to speed it up the second half. And it opened things up for us offensively and, obviously, kind of wore them down.”
Bryant jumped out to a 7-3 lead to start the game. Allen hit a 3 off a feed from Martin, who followed up with a steal that got Allen to the free-throw line where he converted twice to make it 5-0.
Catholic got on the board with a 3 from Joseph Enderlin but a driving jumper by Washington had it 7-2.
Fouls started to add up for Bryant and the Rockets rallied to tie the game at 9. Christian McIntosh hit a layup to put the Hornets up by a bucket before Roe knocked down a 3 to give the Rockets a 12-11 lead going into the second stanza.
Martin tied it with a free throw to start the new quarter. The game was tied at 13 and 16 before a three-point play by Ford that gave the Rockets the upper hand. Washington kept the Hornets in it then Canada’s stickback with :48 left made it 23-22 going into halftime.
“The thing is, it wasn’t all bad,” Abrahamson said of the first half. “It was just that we couldn’t finish possessions. We would be in position, defending them well and we’d get them to pick it up and get a dead ball and we just couldn’t finish it off with that turnover that would lead to transition buckets for us.
“We were getting one shot on offense,” he noted. “Catholic was doing a great job of blocking us out and kind of set the tone. I told our team, that’s why you block out. You set the tone early and it put our guys in the mindset of not even going for an offensive rebound.”
Allen scored off a nice give-and-go with Martin to start the second half. He was fouled and completed the three-point play as Bryant regained the lead momentarily.
But back-to-back 3’s by Roe and Ford produced a 29-25 lead for Catholic. Washington’s three-point play was offset by a 3 from Josh Dawson.
Allen converted twice at the line to trim the margin to 2. After a flurry of turnovers and missed shots, Allen fed Steen for a layup that tied the game at 32. The back-to-back timeouts came at that point as the Rockets did all they could to stay close.
Despite that, however, they suffered consecutive turnovers. Bryant took advantage of the second when Steen popped a jumper in the lane. Allison answered to tie the game at 34.
But when Steen grabbed an offensive rebound that led to a three-point play with 1:17 left in the third quarter, the Hornets were ahead to stay.
It was just 37-36, however, 1:30 into the fourth. Turner drove for a clutch basket and, moments later, added a running jumper to extend the margin to 43-36.
Ford interrupted with a free throw then the Hornets went on a 11-1 run to gain control of the game. Steen’s pull-up jay started it. Allen made a steal and a layup and, after a free throw by Sami Johnson for Catholic, Allen took a dish from Steen for a layup.
Steen added a free throw then Allen made a steal. A frustration foul by Rockets’ point guard John Chase was ruled intentional. Allen went to the line and hit two free throws. The Hornets were awarded possession and Allen fed Steen for a layup that produced their largest lead of the game, 54-38.
“Winning feels better than losing but — I always say, we treat every game the same,” Abrahamson commented. “So, we’re going to look at this and see how we can learn from it and build from it. We’re going into (a game with) probably the most talented team in the conference Friday and at their place. It’s going to be tough. We’ve got to play better than we did tonight, particularly in the first half.”
HORNETS 56, ROCKETS 42
Score by quarters
LR Catholic 12 11 11 8 — 42
BRYANT 11 11 15 19 — 56
ROCKETS (0-9, 0-17) 42
Enderlin 1-1 0-0 3, Chase 1-3 0-2 2, Ford 2-5 2-3 7, Allison 5-6 1-1 11, Mathis 1-1 1-4 3, Johnson 0-0 1-2 1, Roe 2-3 3-5 9, Dawson 1-3 3-4 6, Funk 0-3 0-0 0, Fitz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-25 11-21 42.
HORNETS (15-7, 4-5) 56
Martin 1-8 1-2 4, Allen 6-13 5-6 18, Moody 0-1 2-2 2, Steen 5-7 2-3 12, Washington 5-9 2-3 12, Turner 2-3 0-0 4, Chumley 0-3 0-1 0, McIntosh 1-1 0-0 2, Cowart 0-2 0-0 0, Canada 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 21-48 12-17 56.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 2-19 (Martin 1-7, Allen 1-5, Chumley 0-3, Cowart 0-2, Moody 0-1, Steen 0-1), Catholic 5-14 (Roe 2-3, Ford 1-4, Dawson 1-2, Enderlin 1-1, Funk 0-3, Chase 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 7, Catholic 23. Rebounds: Bryant 8-14 22 (Steen 2-4 6, Martin 1-3 4, Chumley 1-2 3, Allen 2-0 2, Moody 0-2 2, Washington 0-2 2, Turner 0-1 1, Canada 1-0 1, team 1-0 1), Catholic 3-22 25 (Allison 0-5 5, Dawson 1-3 4, Chase 0-3 3, Mathis 0-3 3, Johnson 1-1 2, Ford 1-1 2, Roe 0-1 1, Funk 0-1 1, team 0-4 4). Team fouls: Bryant 23, Catholic 17.