Hornets ride defense, Hunter to Shootout victory over Panthers

BENTON — Before Camren Hunter broke a tooth while being called for a foul with 6:49 left to play on Tuesday night, he’d scored 20 points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out six assists. He had led the Hornets to as much as a 23-point lead over the rival Benton Panthers.

Though he did not return to the game, the Hornets were able to close out a 63-48 victory, their sixth consecutive in the annual Saline County Shootout.

Bryant improved to 4-0 on the season going into a trip to Jacksonville on Thursday and a home game against El Dorado on Friday.

Eight other players scored for the Hornets led by Will Diggins with 8 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Kade Ruffner and Gavin Brunson had 7 apiece; Aiden Adams and Cory Nichols 6 each.

Ruffner and Hunter started the game with 3’s then combined to force a turnover that Hunter cashed in with a layup to make it 8-0.

The Hornets never trailed after that and they limited the Panthers to just 16 points in the first half.

“I’m really proud of their effort on defense,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “They really seemed to make it hard on Benton to run their offense. They were really disruptive. And they rebounded well too. But, yes, the defense kind of set the tone for us.

“The base (defense) was the same,” he added. “With some wrinkles. It was man-to-man but we added some wrinkles depending on what we thought they were doing.

“We were just trying to be disruptive mainly,” the coach related.

Benton didn’t get on the board until Andrew Williamson hit a 3 with 3:34 left in the first quarter. The teams traded buckets the rest of the quarter with Brunson scoring inside off a feed from Hunter to make it 14-7 in the final minute. Benton’s Cam Harris posted up for a bucket to make it a 5-point game going into second period.

Harris would lead the Panthers with 16 points. Russ Hooks had 12, Williamson 7.

Adams connected on a 3 then Hunter drove for a bucket to start the second-quarter scoring. Bryant had its first double-digit lead at 19-9.

Jack Ginther popped a 15-footer for Benton but Diggins then Brunson each scored inside off assists from Hunter to push the margin to 23-11.

Harris hit a 3 and, after Hunter and Hooks traded baskets, Diggins made a steal and Jalen Montgomery drove for a layup. Hunter fed Diggins for a layup moments later, then off a drive and kick by Hunter, Adams drained another triple to make it 32-16 at the intermission.

It was 34-22 early in the third quarter when the Hornets went on a run to produce their largest lead. Hunter hit a 3 then had a pair of buckets inside around a jumper in the lane from Hooks. 

It was 41-24 then Gabe George connected on a jumper, Diggins drove for a layup and Ruffner drove for a reverse layup to make it 47-24 with 2:54 left in the third.

Benton rallied a bit but still trailed 52-34 going into the fourth. A three-point play by Kolby Payne started the fourth quarter and, after Hunter had to come out, baskets by Nichols and Diggins had Bryant back up by 19.

Late 3’s by Hooks and Harris got the Panthers within 14 in the late going but that’s as close as they got. Sophomore Darren Wallace put a punctuation mark on the with a dunk just before the buzzer.

“I feel good about eight guys,” Abrahamson said. “I feel like they’re playing at a high level, as a team, and they are preparing at a high level as a team. Beyond that, we have guys who have the potential to add to that and force us to play more on a regular basis.

“They’re getting their opportunity now but they’re not really taking advantage of it,” he emphasized. “I felt that there was a time when we had some bench guys in and there was a drop off, which you don’t want to see. They can do it, though. These guys can do it. We just have to get them to do it.”


Score by quarters

Bryant             14        18        20        11 — 63

Benton            9          7          18        14 — 48

HORNETS (4-0) 63

Ruffner 3-9 0-0 7, Hunter 9-18 0-0 20, Montgomery 1-2 1-2 3, Adams 2-6 0-0 6, Brunson 3-4 1-3 7, Nichols 2-5 2-2 6, Diggins 4-8 0-2 8, George 1-3 0-0 2, Schroeder 0-0 0-2 0, Newburn 0-0 0-0 0, Wallace 2-2 0-0 4, Gannaway 0-0 0-0 0, Fowler 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsey 0-0 0-0 0. Team 27-57 (47%) 4-11 (36%) 63.

PANTHERS (5-2) 48

Harris 6-16 0-0 16, Ramsey 1-8 0-0 3, Ginther 2-6 0-0 4, Hooks 5-11 0-2 12, Payne 2-4 2-2 6, Williamson 2-4 2-2 7, Tropp 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-49 (37%) 4-6 (67%) 48.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-19 (Hunter 2-6, Adams 2-6, Ruffner 1-6, George 0-1), Benton 8-23 (Harris 4-7, Hooks 2-4, Ramsey 1-7, Williamson 1-2, Ginther 0-3). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Benton 15. Rebounds:Bryant 10-31 41 (Ruffner 3-9 12, Diggins 5-4 9, Hunter 0-4 4, Montgomery 0-3 3, Adams 0-3 3, Brunson 2-1 3, George 0-2 2, Nichols 0-1 1, Wallace 0-1 1, Newburn 0-1 1, team 0-2 2), Benton 1-23 24 (Harris 0-9 9, Ginther 0-4 4, Hooks 0-4 4, Williamson 0-2 2, Ramsey 0-1 1, Payne 1-0 1, team 0-3 3). Team fouls: Bryant 10, Benton 15.

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