Hot-shooting Hornets earn first league win at Central
EDITOR’S NOTE: Because the look back at each day in Bryant athletic history has been so favorably received during the time when there was no sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, BryantDaily.com will continueposting past stories of Bryant athletics either posted on BryantDaily.com (from 2009 to the present) or published in the Bryant Times (from 1998 to 2008).
Photos by Kevin Nagle
LITTLE ROCK — There is probably no gym in the state hotter than the one at Little Rock Central High School. Whether by[more] design or in spite of its age, the heating system works extremely well. If you sit on the top row of the bleachers, you better be prepared by wearing a t-shirt and shorts no matter how cold it is outside.
It’s the sauna of high school basketball gyms.
Often, when Central’s Tigers have been their best, the temperatures coupled with the defensive head applied have left many an opponent worn down and licking their proverbial — and sometimes literal — wounds as they retreat to the bus for home.
Based on past experience, the Bryant Hornets — at least the upper classmen — know all too well about that. But, on Friday night, the Hornets brought their own kind of heat supplement as they scorched the nets for 12 three-pointers, converted 10 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter and popped out of the sauna with a 60-44 win.
It was a welcome breakthrough for a Bryant team that had played toe-to-toe with most of its league rivals over the previous five games without reward, including Tuesday’s 4-point loss to North Little Rock, one of three teams tied for the 7A/6A-Central Conference lead after Friday’s action.
Often the Hornets had made rushes at the end after falling behind during a scoring drought earlier in the game only to come up short. This time, the Hornets maintained a slight lead at each break so their 22-7 blitz in the fourth quarter helped them win going away, silencing a raucous crowd that packed the gym on Homecoming night.
“We’ve been in that situation so many times,” noted Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “And a lot of those times, we haven’t come away with the win. But I think that experience helped us and I think playing the way we did for three quarters helped us too. We were making some shots and we were getting to the free-throw line.”
The Hornets were led by their guard tandem of Jordan Griffin and Brantley Cozart. Griffin poured in 23 points. Cozart, playing off the bench after suffering a cracked rib diving into the bleachers during the North Little Rock game, scored 19. Each had a trio of 3’s, as did Houston Garner. Marcus Wilson hit two and Logan Trudell drained one.
“We really shot the ball well,” Abrahamson emphasized. “We just really executed well offensively. Brantley and Jordan did a great job of handling the ball. (Central) played us a 1-2-2 zone in the half-court and we were able to get the ball into Jordan in the middle of the zone and he just made plays. He got to the free-throw line a lot.
“And he found people,” added the coach. “When Houston was hot, our players were smart enough to go back to the hot hand. He was really big for us. He had that look in his eye. He was very confident. I’ve been hoping and waiting for that to happen because he’s a good shooter. I think he just needed to see the ball go through the hoop. Once he hit that first one, he was very confident and didn’t hesitate at all. And he really played big for us defensively all night.
“Logan hit a 3 and took a charge,” he continued. “I was real proud of him for that. Quinton Motto took a charge too.”
Regarding Cozart who was slated to sit the game out as of Wednesday, Abrahamson said, “I brought him off the bench. I felt like we’d give him a shot and see how it goes. And he played just like normal. He dove into the bleachers again. He went after a loose ball over our bench and into the bleachers. He saves the ball and it goes to one of Central’s guys and he went back and ended up getting a steal out of the play. It was just incredible to see him, with cracked ribs, play fearless like that for his teammates.
“I’m just so proud of the way the guys executed and their effort,” the coach stated. “I’m just so happy for them because they work so hard and have been in so many close games. For them to pull away like that in that kind of environment — packed house, homecoming, the student section was really into it, they were getting on to us all, on me — but we did a good job of keeping our composure.”
Bryant led 10-9 after the first quarter then 21-20 at the half and 38-37 going into the final period.
Of the late surge, the coach said, “I really believe it started with our defense. We were getting (Central) to take jumpshots and we started rebounding really well in the fourth quarter. I thought we did a really good job playing our zone all night except they were getting some offensive rebounds and getting two or three attempts every possession. That’s how they were scoring.
“We just did a much better job of really clogging up the middle, not letting them get it inside the zone, making them take a contested jumpshot and then coming away with that rebound,” he added.
The Hornets will face another one of the teams tied for first in the league when they return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 1. The Van Buren Pointers with star 6-11 post man Hooper Vint visit the Hornets Nest.