For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here
The Class 4A E-STEM Mets of Little Rock didn’t care if the Bryant Hornets were short-handed. And, even though it was a benefit game, they obviously relished the opportunity to try to knock off the defending Class 6A State runner-up Hornets. That made it as intense a benefit game as you could imagine on Thursday night at the old Hornets’ Nest.
Of course, without football at their school, the Mets had already played six games this season, winning four and taking 5A Lake Hamilton to the brink on the road before losing 55-51.
It took a while for the Hornets to shake them but back-to-back 3’s by Aiden Adams and Khasen Robinson to start the fourth quarter sparked a surge that produced a 55-44 victory after E-STEM led 38-37 at the end of the third period.
“They played really hard,” said Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson about the Mets. “They’re phenomenal in transition defense. They’re one of the best teams we’ve played in years in transition defense. Credit to them on that.
“Now, we were out of control, just kept trying to force it,” he added.
Trying to win by 20 before they won by 2?
“That’s exactly what I told them during the first timeout,” the coach related.
The Hornets never led until the final two minutes of the opening period. A.J. Jenkins drove for a layup then Khasen Robinson made a steal that led to a trip to the free-throw line for Camren Hunter. His free throw made it 7-6.
Jenkins and Gavin Brunson led the Hornets with 14 points each. Robinson added 11 while Hunter finished with 8 points and eight rebounds while dealing with some foul trouble.
Bryant actually out-rebounded the Mets 35-25 but turned the ball over a surprising 23 times.
“It was pretty ugly,” Abrahamson said. “We had to do some things we didn’t want to do in a benefit game. We certainly got exposed in a lot of areas and, hopefully, all that does is make us better.
“I hope I’ve got their attention now,” he continued. “I think I’ve had their attention, but I just think that the first time playing an opponent that plays that hard — quite honestly, it’s just different going against somebody else other than your JV team.
“Those guys scrapped,” he reiterated concerning E-STEM. “They played hard. And really exposed us in some areas. But we take the credit for being exposed because that’s our deficiencies. Absolutely, they can be corrected but it’s things that you wish that you didn’t see. We looked very immature, too caught up in things outside of what’s going to help us be successful. We looked undisciplined. We looked wild and out of control.
“So, we’ll use these lessons to try to learn and grow and get better,” the coach concluded.
The Mets regained the upper hand in the early stages of the second quarter. Kylan Larry (9 points, nine boards) scored inside then Dylan Sewell, who led the Mets with 12 points, hit a 3 and was fouled. The four-point play made it 12-7.
Later, it was 15-11 when Brunson came up with a three-point play. He and Jenkins combined on a steal that led to a 3 for Adams, which put the Hornets back on top.
It was a seesaw the rest of the half, however, and when Keith Martin Jr., knocked down an eight-footer in the final seconds, E-STEM had a 22-21 lead at the half.
The Hornets put together a bit of a run to start the third. First, Jalen Montgomery took a charge. Brunson scored off the offensive glass at the other end. Moments later, he followed his own miss to score again. Montgomery made a steal that led to a trip to the free-throw line for Jenkins as E-STEM called a timeout.
Jenkins knocked down both freebies and Bryant led 27-22 but Larry got free inside to end E-STEM’s drought. Jenkins hit another free throw, but Martin drove for bucket to trim the margin back to 28-26.
But Jenkins canned a 3 and, after Jacob Sanders drove to the rack, Hunter drained a triple to make it 34-28.
E-STEM countered, however, and, despite a 3 by Robinson, pulled ahead at the end of the quarter on the strength of a pair of baskets by Jaylon Smith including a trey.
Following the 3’s by Adams and Robinson to start the fourth, Larry hit a free throw. But Adams fed Brunson for a layup and Robinson popped another 3 to push the lead to 48-39 and the Mets never could get back that close in the final four minutes. Bryant’s largest lead was 55-41 before Sanders hit a 3 for the Mets with :13 left.
The Hornets will officially open the 2019-20 season on Saturday, Nov. 23, against the Pulaski Robinson Senators at North Little Rock High School.
HORNETS 55, METS 44
Score by quarters
E-STEM 6 16 16 6 — 44
BRYANT 7 14 16 18 — 55
Sewell 3-8 3-3 12, Womack 0-0 0-0 0, Banks 0-3 2-2 2, Smith 2-9 0-1 5, Larry 4-6 1-4 9, Dailey 3-6 0-0 7, Hawkins 0-1 0-0 0, Rucker 0-1 0-0 0, J.K.Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Ja.Sanders 2-12 0-1 5, Martin 2-4 0-0 4. Totals16-50 6-11 44.
Hunter 2-7 3-4 8, Jenkins 3-7 7-8 14, Robinson 4-14 0-1 11, Montgomery 0-0 0-0 0, Brunson 6-6 2-4 14, Adams 2-5 0-0 6, O.Newburn 1-1 0-0 2, West 0-3 0-0 0, L.Newburn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-44 12-17 55.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 7-21 (Robinson 3-10, Adams 2-4, Hunter 1-4, Jenkins 1-1, West 0-2), E-STEM 6-22 (Sewell 3-8, Ja.Sanders 1-6, Dailey 1-3, Smith 1-2, Banks 0-2, Martin 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 23, E-STEM 20. Rebounds: Bryant 13-22 35 (Hunter 1-7 8, Brunson 3-3 6, Adams 1-4 5, Robinson 1-2 3, West 1-2 3, Jenkins 1-1 2, Montgomery 1-1 2, O.Newburn 1-1 2, L.Newburn 1-0 1, team 2-1 3), E-STEM 11-14 25 (Larry 4-5 9, Sewell 1-2 3, Smith 2-1 3, Ja.Sanders 1-2 3, Martin 0-2 2, Dailey 1-0 1, team 2-2 4). Team fouls:Bryant 18, E-STEM 15.