Hornets’ slow start, Badgers’ strong finish prove decisive at UAFS

By Bridget Bauer

FORT SMITH — Frustration and disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe Bryant Coach Michael Abrahamson’s feelings after Saturday’s 71-66 loss to the Arkadelphia Badgers in the consolation finals of the 2013 Coke Classic at UAFS’ Stubblefield Center.

The Hornets (4-6) started off sluggish and fell behind by 9 points, at 22-13, 24-15 and 26-17, before changing strategy. What ensued was a comeback of sorts as they tied the score at 36-all with 5:48 in the third period. Six lead changes and another deadlock occurred before Bryant lost the lead for good with 3:05 remaining in the contest as Arkadelphia (8-3) took a 59-58 edge.

“We wanted to make them shoot 3’s, but they were getting everything in the paint,” Abrahamson said. “Our guys mentally don’t know what to do. We had to do something different. Once we started doing what we needed to do, we created energy and were getting steals and tip-ins. I don’t know why just playing the game of basketball is not exciting enough. We have to trap and press to get energy.”

After Bryant trailed Arkadelphia, 26-17, with 3:05 left in the second quarter, the Hornets ended the period by outscoring the Badgers, 13-8. Senior Greyson Giles started the run by connecting on two free throws while senior C.J. Rainey made three consecutive shots underneath the basket. The spurt ended on Desmond Duckworth’s trey with :23.5 left on the clock. At halftime, Bryant trailed 34-30.

In the third stanza, the Hornets took their first lead at 39-38 on a 3-point basket by Rainey. That margin increased to 41-38 on a putback by senior Cedarrian Crosby. That three points was the largest margin Bryant possessed the entire contest.

The two teams traded baskets back and forth until the Hornets’ last lead at 58-57 with 3:28 left in the contest on a layup by Giles. Bryant did not score again until 1:12 left in the game on Rainey’s 3-point bucket from the top of the key. That moved the Hornets to within 65-61 of the Badgers. But after that, they had to keep playing catch-up.

“It (the comeback) was all for nothing,” Abrahamson said. “I’m not saying we couldn’t have, but they outplayed us. We were setting up to try and make plays defensively and weren’t making the plays. We didn’t execute, and that is what is frustrating. I expect our freshmen and sophomore to play like that but don’t expect that from my seniors.”

Abrahamson did have praise for Crosby, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds. The coach noticed after Crosby sat out a rotation that he came back into the game and tried to execute what the Hornets were trying to do. Rainey led all-scorers with 25 points, and Giles finished with 15.

While Abrahamson wasn’t happy with the contest against Arkadelphia, he believes contests against Springdale and Subiaco will help his team in the long run.

The Hornets return to action at home on Monday, Jan. 6, against Cabot.

Arkadelphia     17-17-17-20—71

Bryant             13-17-19-17—66

Arkadelphia: Mark Brazil 22, Kris Oliver 14, Bryant Robinson 11, Nathan Carter 10, Jakahari Howell 8, Jeff Blake 4, Keon Lewis 2.

Bryant: CJ Rainey 25, Greyson Giles 15, Cedarrian Crosby 10, Desmond Duckworth 8, Romen Martin 5, Kevin Hunt 3.

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