ROGERS — Though the Bryant Hornets led the entire first quarter, they suffered a dry spell of almost five minutes when they could’ve put some distance between themselves and the Rogers Heritage War Eagles Monday night.
But when Heritage guard Chris Cooper stuck back a teammate’s miss right at the buzzer to end the quarter, Bryant’s lead was just 7-6. And Cooper’s shot spurred a 15-4 run for the War Eagles.
Then never trailed again, answering every Bryant challenge on the way to a 52-38 victory.
The Hornets’ early lead came by virtue of 3-pointers from Romen Martin and Kevin Hunt. Calven Allen added a free throw to make it 7-4.
Martin interrupted the Heritage run with another trey, tying in at the moment 10-10. But the lead grew to 19-11 before the Hornets surged back. Hunt hit two free throws and Allen drove for a layup. When Martin scored off a drive down the baseline, it was 20-17 going into the final 30 seconds of the first half.
But a three-point play by War Eagles’ forward Jacob Macy — his only points of the game — made it 23-17 at the half.
Lexus Hobbs, who led all scorers with 17 for Heritage, sparked a 6-0 start to the second half, bumping the lead to 12.
Antavious Lewis finally got the Hornets’ first second-half points with 3:15 left in the third quarter. After Lewis took a charge, Hunt drained a 3 and it was 29-22.
But Heritage countered and led 33-24 going into the fourth quarter, 35-24 when Hobbs added a bucket off a drive to open the final period.
The Hornets made one more surge. Wesley Peters scored inside and Martin drained another trey, cutting the lead to 35-29. Connor Hirsh and Martin traded free throws but then the War Eagles started to run the clock in their passing game and the Hornets wound up fouling. Heritage was 11 of 16 at the line down the stretch as the lead was maintained then pushed out to the largest margin at the end.
“It’s a really inexperienced team,” Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson said of his squad. “Even the juniors and the two seniors are inexperienced with the exception of Kevin Hunt.
Hunt, despite sitting out much of the first half after apparently taking a knee in the thigh, matched Martin’s team-high 12 points. Allen had 7, Lewis 4, Peters 2 and Lowell Washington 1 to go with a team-high seven rebounds.
“I feel like our mentality will determine our success but our mentality’s not going to get where we want it to get probably until we go through some things,” Abrahamson related. “I thought we had a great preseason but we start playing games, it’s just different and, if you’re going to be good, you have to go through some things. That’s what we’re dealing with right now.
“There were a lot of positives tonight,” he said. “We took four or five charges. We were on the floor for loose balls. We didn’t give up. We made every adjustment that we thought we could make going at these high ball screens and try to penetrate the gaps and get shooters in the corner, pick up the pressure. But I tell these guys that Bob Knight said, ‘Before you can win, you must eliminate losing.’ Twenty-one turnovers and (6 out of 15) at the free-throw line — you’re not going to beat anybody doing that. That’s not eliminating losing. That’s encouraging losing.
“I’ve got to keep coaching, they’ve got to keep trying to get better,” the coach concluded. “There’s nothing to get down about. This is just where we are right now and we’ll try to be better in December than we were in November then better in January and better in February and hopefully make it to March and be playing our best at that time of the year.”
The Hornets, now 0-2, will return to action on Thursday, Dec. 4, with three games in three days at a tournament at Central Arkansas Christian Academy.