LITTLE ROCK — Since they played the Little Rock McClellan Crimson Lions and the Maumelle Hornets in their pre-season scrimmage on Nov. 11, the Bryant Hornets have only played teams that favor the half-court game, rarely pressing. They include a very talented Bentonville Tigers team in the finals of the Tigers’ Crabtree Invitational Tournament.
The teams in the annual Jammin’ For Jackets tournament at Hall High School are different. Including the Crimson Lions, the teams feature quickness combined with full-court play and scrambling half-court defense.
The Lions tried the Hornets again in the opening game of the tourney and gave the unbeaten Hornets a tough challenge, leading in the second half as late as the last six minutes or so. But the Hornets, causing the Lions to play faster than they wanted to, put together a closing 23-9 burst to earn a 65-54 victory.
Bryant will advance to play host Hall High on Friday at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to Saturday’s championship game.
Senior Sam Chumley scored 18 points to lead the Hornets on Thursday. Khalen Robinson added 15 including 8 of 9 free throws in the second half. Deron Canada had 12 points and eight rebounds with Rodney Lambert fighting through foul trouble and a poke in the eye for 8 points.
The Lions’ Ian Robinson had 15, Rodney Cummings 14 and Sean Cohns 12.
Despite first-half foul trouble for Lambert,, Chumley and Robinson, the Hornets led from start to finish. Though the lead was as much as 12, it wound up just 3 at the intermission.
And when the second half unfolded, the Lions eventually led by as much as 5.
Along the way in the second half, however, Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson put his team in a half-court trap after playing their 1-3-1 match-up most of the game.
“McClellan was playing really well,” said Abrahamson. “They were playing great. I just didn’t like our body language and the way we were carrying ourselves. I mean, things weren’t going well. But we talk all the time about going on to the next right thing and being tough, facing adversity.
“They eventually did,” the coach said of his team. “They just had to be reminded of that a few times. But that’s probably just part of growing up, part of having a young team, a new team.
“I’m really proud of the way they played the last 10 or 11 minutes and I’m proud of the way we started the game,” he asserted. “But we got into foul trouble. Once we got into foul trouble and they turned up the pressure, we just had a long stretch there at the end of the first and the beginning of the second, where we really were not ourselves.
“But we’re trying to develop a bench and they kind of held it together for us, didn’t let it collapse,” the coach mentioned. “Then (McClellan) picked up the pressure again in the second half and guys were feeling sorry for themselves for a little bit.
“We had to do something to create some easier offense for us and to throw them out of their rhythm offensively, really just trying to disrupt what they wanted to do,” he related, regarding the trap. “And it worked. Our players made that work. I wish they would’ve made our other stuff work before that but that’s part of it.”
The Hornets hit their first four shots of the game to build a 10-2 lead and force a McClellan timeout. It may have felt like it was going to be as much as lopsided game as the pre-season scrimmage.
“McClellan is big and athletic and they’re very improved from the benefit game and as much as you try to prepare the players for that, they may still have that in their head,” Abrahamson said. “But it was a good experience for us, I hope, in the long run.”
The opening salvo included a layup by Chumley off a feed from Lambert, a 3 from Canada, a layup by Lambert off a dish from freshman point guard Camren Hunter and a 3 from Robinson.
After the timeout, the Lions cut the margin to 3 before Robinson nailed a 15-footer to get the Hornets going again. Beating the pressure, Chumley scored 9 consecutive points. He drove for a layup, took a dish from Lambert for another then rained in a 3. After taking a charge, he got loose for a dunk off a nice assist from Hunter, making it 21-9.
The Lions, who had (unofficially) 22 offensive rebounds, hit the glass for a pair of baskets during a 6-0 run, which trimmed the margin to 21-15.
But a basket inside by Catrell Wallace and a pair of free throws by K.J. Merriweather kept the Hornets ahead. Ian Robinson, as part of his own 8-point run countered but Hunter fed Wallace for a layup and, after another Ian Robinson bucket, Canada drained a triple to make it 30-19 with 3:55 left in the half.
Cummings heated up with consecutive 3’s, sparking what became a 9-4 run to end the first half that became a 24-8 surge that had the Crimson Lions ahead 43-38 with 11:03 left in the game.
The Hornets rally began with two free throws by Canada at 9:46. Cohns answered inside for McClellan but then a stickback by Chumley helped get the Hornets rolling again.
Khalen Robinson made a steal that Hunter cashed in for a layup and the turnovers started accumulating for the Lions.
A layup by Canada put the Hornets back on top with 5:41 to go. He followed with another off an inbounds pass to make it 48-45. Cohn hit a pair of free throws but Chumley hit a layup, Khalen Robinson knocked down a pair of free throws. Off a steal by Lambert, Robinson fed it back to him for a layup and a 54-47 advantage.
After a McClellan timeout, Canada and Chumley combined to force a turnover. That actually started a slew of turnovers back and forth. Cummings hit his fourth 3 with 3:00 left to make it 54-50. But Lambert fed Chumley and, off a steal by Chumley and Robinson, the latter hit a layup.
With tougher defensive pressure against him, Cummings missed a 3 and Khalen Robinson was fouled. His free throws with 1:38 left, made it 60-50 and he and Chumley sewed up the victory at the line after that.
HORNETS 65, CRIMSON LIONS 54
Score by halves
BRYANT 34 31 — 65
McClellan 31 23 — 54
Hunter 1-4 1-2 3, K.Robinson 3-9 8-9 15, Chumley 8-9 1-2 18, Lambert 4-9 0-0 8, Canada 4-12 2-2 12, Merriweather 1-2 2-2 5, Wallace 2-4 0-4 4, Hilkert 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 14-21 65.
CRIMSON LIONS 54
Woods 1-8 0-0 3, Rodgers 2-6 0-0 4, Cohns 2-12 8-8 12, Cunningham 0-5 0-0 0, Dokes 2-5 0-0 4, I.Robinson 7-10 1-1 15, Cummings 5-14 0-0 14, Rideout 1-1 0-0 2, Dotson 0-1 0-0 0, Spivey 0-0 0-0 0, Lair 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-62 9-9 54.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-15 (Canada 2-5, K.Robinson 1-4, Chumley 1-2, Merriweather 1-1, Hunter 0-2), Little Rock McClellan 5-18 (Cummings 4-8, Woods 1-5, Rodgers 0-2, Cunningham 0-2, Cohns 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 24, Little Rock McClellan 22. Rebounds: Bryant 15-19 34 (Canada 3-5 8, Wallace 4-1 5, Hunter 0-4 4, Chumley 2-2 4, Hilkert 2-2 4, Lambert 1-2 3, K.Robinson 0-1 1, Merriweather 1-0 1, team 2-2 4), Little Rock McClellan 22-15 37 (Cohns 3-5 8, I.Robinson 4-4 8, Cunningham 4-2 6, Cummings 4-0 4, Dokes 2-2 4, Rodgers 3-0 3, Spivey 0-2 2, Rideout 1-0 1, team 1-0 1). Team fouls: Bryant 12, Little Rock McClellan 19. Fouled out: Little Rock McClellan, I.Robinson.