For more photos of this event by Rick Nation, go here; photos also by Andrew Schroeder
The 35-second shot clock is not the friend of the Little Rock Catholic Rockets. On offense, the Rockets have always been deliberate, passing, screening, cutting, trying to find a good shot and working as long as it takes to get one, making the defense work to keep up.
Even with the clock, defenses have to stay solid and work just as hard as the Rockets are working in their passing offense.
“They move so well and it’s not really repeatable,” observed Bryant Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson. “You kind of know what they’re looking for, but they make reads off of it. So, it’s not like you know exactly what’s coming.
“You kind of know what they like to do,” he continued. “You’ve got to really be disciplined. They move so well. And I thought our team tonight was really disciplined on defense, jumping to the ball, having their head on a swivel, seeing the ball and their man and helping on drives. It’s a tough job. It’s a lot easier said than done. Our guys did a really good job tonight on that end of the floor.”
Indeed, the Hornets forced 19 turnovers while limiting the Rockets to just 34 field-goal attempts and just nine makes (26 percent). Plus, they outrebounded Catholic 35-18.
Offensively, the Hornets turned those turnovers into points. They connected on 55 percent of their shots and assisted on 12 of their 28 baskets. They hit nine 3-pointers.
“The guys played well tonight,” Abrahamson assessed. “Sharing the ball, defending — that’s a good combination for us.”
Bryant improved to 15-3 overall this season and 7-3 in 6A-Central Conference play going into a shootout with league-leading Little Rock Central on Tuesday.
Freshman Drake Fowler had 14 points to lead the Hornets. Senior Camren Hunter added 11. Thirteen players got into the game. Eleven of them contributed to the scoring.
“We’ve got guys getting better,” said Abrahamson. “We’ve got a lot of guys now that are ready to give us some minutes. Guys that weren’t ready at the beginning of the year are now practicing better and earning more of an opportunity.
“There’s the same amount of minutes to go around though,” he added. “It’s a nice problem to have but we’re working through it. Practice, now, is more important than ever for guys that want to play.
“To guys’ credit, like Landyn Newburn and Darren Wallace, to give those two as an example, they’ve come a long way, the way they practice, what they want to do and how they help us on the floor.”
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock in accordance with the sportsmanship rule after Bryant had built a 59-20 lead by the end of the third.
The Hornets never trailed after Cory Nichols opened the scoring with a three-point play off a drive to the hoop. Kade Ruffner followed with a long-range 3 to make it 6-0.
Catholic’s C.J. Onyekwelu hit a free throw to break the ice for his team. The Rockets had a chance to cut more into the lead, but Fowler made a steal and earned points when his shot was goal-tended.
Nichols added two free throws then made a steal and fed Aiden Adams for a 3 to make it 13-1.
Beau Kronenberger hit a 3 at the buzzer to make it 13-4.
The Hornets had turned the ball over five times in the opening period more than they had (3) the entire rest of the game.
“We cleaned that up and played efficient basketball,” acknowledged Abrahamson.
Kornenberger opened the second quarter with a triple then Bryant’s Gabe George and Onyekwelu traded baskets and it was 15-9.
But the Rockets were unable to add another field goal for nearly the next six game minutes and the Hornets opened up a big lead.
Hunter, who had three assists, four steals and five rebounds in his time in the game, made a sparkling pass to Newburn behind the defense for a basket. At the other end, Hunter blocked a shot and it led to a trip to the free-throw line for George, who converted once as a 16-0 run began.
Newburn earned an assist on a basket by Ruffner then Fowler made another theft that led to a layup for Hunter.
That started a spree for the Bryant senior. He added a 3 then a layup off a dish from Austin Schroeder. Fowler drove for a layup then Hunter made a steal and a basket to cap the blitz with Bryant up 31-9.
The Rockets’ Noah Wright, who led the team with 7 points broke his team’s drought with a three-point play with :06 left in the half. In turn, Bryant rushed the ball up the floor and Ruffner fed Fowler for a buzzer-beating 3 to make it 34-11 at the intermission.
The Hornets opened the second half with a 15-0 surge to blow the game open completely. Fowler had two more treys along the way. Will Diggins hit a jumper in the lane off another assist by Ruffner. Nichols had a steal and layup and so did Hunter. Gavin Brunson scored inside to conclude the run with Adams picking up the assist.
Bryant led 49-11. After Parker Gordon hit a running jumper for the Rockets’ first points of the half at the 3:30 mark, Schrader went on a run. He fed Hunter for a 3 then scored off a pair of drives on either side of a layup by Gordon.
Gordon scored again but Schroeder buried a 3 to make it 59-17. Onyekwelu’s three-point play finished the scoring in the third quarter.
George scored 5 points and Newburn 4 during the final period. Freshman T.J. Lindsey’s layup in the final seconds set the final score.
HORNETS 70, ROCKETS 25
Score by quarters
LR Catholic 4 7 9 5 — 25
BRYANT 13 21 25 11 — 70
ROCKETS (8-12, 3-7) 25
Biernat 0-2 0-0 0, Pace 0-1 0-0 0, Washington 0-1 0-1 0, Kronenberger 2-8 0-1 6, Fitz 0-1 0-0 0, Cooper 0-1 0-0 0, Onyekwelu 1-2 4-7 6, Gordon 3-5 0-0 6, Wright 3-9 1-2 7, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Bowers 0-2 0-1 0, Thornton 0-0 0-0 0, Stephens 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 9-34 (26%) 5-13 (38%) 25.
HORNETS (15-3, 7-3) 70
Fowler 5-6 1-2 14, Nichols 2-4 3-3 7, Ruffner 3-6 0-0 8, Hunter 5-8 0-0 11, Diggins 1-1 0-0 2, Adams 1-3 0-0 3, Brunson 1-1 0-0 2, Schroeder 3-4 0-0 7, George 3-6 1-2 8, Newburn 3-4 0-0 6, Wallace 0-4 0-2 0, Billingsley 0-1 0-0 0, Lindsey 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 28-51 (55%) 5-9 (56%) 70.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 9-20 (Fowler 3-4, Ruffner 2-3, Adams 1-3, George 1-3, Schroeder 1-2, Hunter 1-1, Wallace 0-3, Newburn 0-1), LR Catholic 2-17 (Kronenberger 2-8, Wright 0-2, Bowers 0-2, Biernat 0-1, Pace 0-1, Cooper 0-1, Gordon 0-1, Stephens 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 9, LR Catholic 19. Rebounds: Bryant 9-26 35 (Hunter 0-5 5, Diggins 1-4 5, Brunson 1-4 5, Schroeder 2-2 4, Lindsey 2-1 3, Ruffner 0-3 3, Fowler 1-1 2, Newburn 0-2 2, Nichols 1-0 1, George 0-1 1, Wallace 1-0 1, team 0-1 1), LR Catholic 2-16 18 (Washington 0-7 7, Wright 1-1 2, Biernat 0-1 1, Pace 0-1 1, Fitz 0-1 1, Onyekwelu 1-0 1, Gordon 0-1 1, Brown 0-1 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 16, LR Catholic 9.