By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
When the Bryant Hornets played the Texarkana Razorbacks back in mid-January, they dominated[more] to the point of invoking the mercy rule before the end of a 60-32 win. The Hornets played well; the Hogs most certainly did not.
With that to go on, Bryant hosted Arkansas High on Tuesday night in a return engagement. And when the Hornets hit four 3’s in the first quarter and ran out to a 14-4 lead, it fed into the idea that it might go the same way again. The intensity waned and the Razorbacks showed they aren’t actually as bad as they showed that January night at home. It's the kind of thing that can lead to an upset. Though Bryant could never quite put them away, a final fourth-quarter surge produced a 52-35 win.
It was the Hornets’ sixth win in their last eight games as they work to secure a bid to the Class 7A State Tournament. They’re 6-6 in the South Conference but they’ll be seeded among the West teams. They came into Tuesday’s game fourth in the point ratings, sitting between third-seeded Bentonville and fifth-seeded Van Buren.
The Hornets, now 17-9 overall, travel to Lake Hamilton on Friday before hosting El Dorado on Tuesday, Feb. 19, to conclude the regular season.
Bentonville, which played at Rogers while the Hornets were getting past Texarkana, has games with Siloam Springs, Springdale and Fayetteville still to play. Van Buren, which took on Rogers Heritage, still has Rogers, Siloam and Springdale.
K.J. Hill led the Hornets to victory with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists against Texarkana. C.J. Rainey added 10 points and Brian Reed 9.
“We hit some shots early, and it’s good to hit shots, but our energy just wasn't there tonight,” said Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “We were still giving up offensive rebounds, just kind of standing there defensively, watching everybody else play. We made some plays — one here and one there — but we couldn’t ever string it together and bring energy and put them away. That’s disappointing.
“I don’t know why we don’t play well in front of our home crowd,” he said. “We have a good student section. We have good support from the parents and community. It seems like they really want to cheer us on and we’re just not giving them enough to cheer about, effort-wise. It’s disappointing because I really can feel it from the crowd, against Fair (in a 56-48 home loss a week ago) and again tonight. They want to cheer. They want to get into it.
“We did get the win but I just want the standard to be higher,” the coach asserted. “The standard is higher. We don’t want to base our happiness solely on wins and losses but how we play.”
Rainey hit two triples and Hill another in the opening salvo, which made it 9-2. On back to back possessions, the Hornets’ Luke Rayburn took charges on moves by Texarkana’s Derric Watson and Darrius Williams but then Texarkana’s Kavarion Oliver canned a running jumper. Hill hit a layup off a nice feed from Rainey and Tyler Simmons buried a trey to make it 14-4.
But Oliver scored again and LaDonta Cursh added a three-point play and it was 14-9. Hill hit a driving jumper to beat the buzzer. And when Strodney Davis scored inside off a dish from Hill, it was back to 18-9 early in the second quarter.
Texarkana would cut it then Bryant would extend the lead again repeatedly in the second and third quarters. Cursh led a surge that trimmed the margin to 18-14 but Davis sliced through for a layup, Rainey canned a pair of free throws and, after Davis took a charge, Hill slashed through the Texarkana zone for a bucket that had the Hornets up by 10 again.
It was 24-16 at the half.
The Hornets made a bid to blow it up early in the third quarter, putting together an 8-2 surge that included 6 points from Hill including a 3.
But Texarkana rallied and, going into the fourth quarter, Bryant, which converted just 3 of 9 free throws during the period, held just a 36-31 edge.
Hill drove and dropped off a feed to Reed for a layup to start the fourth quarter. He and Greyson Giles followed up with free throw and Rainey made a steal that led to a trip to the line for Reed. His free throw had the lead back at 11, 42-31.
Brandon Jetton’s post-up basket interrupted what would prove to be the game-breaking run. Hill countered with a driving layup and Giles added a free throw after grabbing an offensive rebound.
With the floor spread, the Hornets chewed on the clock. Hill drove, drew the defense and dished to Reed for a basket then after Reed and Rainey forced a turnover, Hill fed Rayburn for a basket to make it 50-33 with a minute left to play.
“Their zone was pretty good,” Abrahamson said of Texarkana. “I thought once we got it going, got things going to the basket, better things were happening but we didn’t convert at the free-throw line like I would hope. We had a stretch in the third when we missed four straight free throws and that’s a big difference.
“But Texarkana played hard and they hung in there and you have to give them some credit,” he concluded.
BRYANT 52, TEXARKANA 35
Score by quarters
Texarkana 9 7 15 4 — 35
BRYANT 16 8 12 16 — 52
RAZORBACKS (12-15, 4-8) 35
Player fg-fg ft-fta reb fls pts
Walker 0-0 0-0 1-0 1 1 0
Oliver 5-6 0-2 0-0 0 4 10
Cursh 4-7 2-3 3-8 11 2 10
Williams 2-6 0-0 1-3 4 2 4
Watson 0-0 0-0 0-2 2 3 0
Galbreth 0-5 0-0 2-5 7 2 0
Jetton 2-7 0-2 2-0 2 1 4
Byrd 2-3 0-0 1-4 5 4 5
Walton 0-0 2-6 0-0 0 1 2
H.Giles 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 0
Solomon 0-2 0-0 0-1 1 0 0
Peoples 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 1-0 1
Totals 15-38 4-13 11-23 34 21 35
HORNETS (17-9, 6-6) 52
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Hill 7-15 3-6 2-5 7 0 19
Rainey 2-7 4-6 2-2 4 0 10
McKissock0-2 0-0 2-0 2 2 0
Rayburn 1-5 1-2 1-1 2 1 3
Reed 4-4 1-3 0-7 7 4 9
G.Giles 0-3 4-6 2-2 4 1 4
Simmons 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 3
Davis 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 4
Team 1-0 1
Totals 17-42 13-23 10-17 27 9 52
Three-point field goals: Texarkana 1-6 (Byrd 1-1, Williams 0-2, Galbreth 0-2, Jetton 0-1), Bryant 5-17 (Hlll 2-6, Rainey 2-6, Simmons 1-3, Rayburn 0-1, G.Giles 0-1). Turnovers: Texarkana 19, Bryant 6.