CONWAY — Neither the Bryant Hornets nor the Hot Springs Trojans managed more than a 3-point lead in the first half of their game at the Bank of the Ozarks John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational Tournament at Buzz Bolding Arena Monday night. In fact, that was the Hornets’ margin after Romen Martin drilled a 3 with 1:29 left to snap a 25-25 tie.
Hot Springs’ Clarence Ford hit a free throw then missed one at 1:19 and the Hornets worked the ball down inside of 20 seconds. It looked like they might get the last shot of the half and would lead going into the break by 2 or 3 or 4.
But they suffered a turnover with :18 to go and Hot Springs rushed to the other end. Exavian Christon scored with :16 left and the Hornets couldn’t get a rushed shot to go at the end.
So it was tied 28-28 at the half and the Trojans had the momentum.
Now that didn’t show up immediately in the second half as Bryant’s Lowell Washington hit the offensive glass and scored to put the Hornets up 2 18 seconds in. But, after that, Hot Springs put together an 18-2 rush, interrupted only by a 15-foot jumper by Kevin Hunt with 1:24 left in the third quarter. The Trojans thus took control of the game on the way to a 64-47 win.
Hot Springs advances to play Jacksonville on Friday in a winners’ bracket semifinal. The Hornets will take on Pine Bluff Thursday at 8:30 p.m., in the consolation bracket.
Bryant wound up 2 of 8 from the field in the third quarter and 5 of 18 from the floor in the second half. The Hornets wound up shooting 40 percent from the field while Hot Springs went 26 of 49 (53 percent) including some late misses by reserves. The Trojans were nearly 60 percent through three quarters.
“When you can’t score, your defensive intensity drops a little bit, kids feel a little more tired,” noted Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “You’ve got to score to keep that energy up. We just struggle to score at times. The third quarter was definitely one of those.”
Actually, it looked like the Hornets had weathered the worst of it when the half ended deadlocked despite Hot Springs going 7 of 8 from the field in the second stanza. The Hornets had only turned the ball over five times against the Trojans’ press.
In the third quarter, however, Hot Springs ratcheted up the pressure resulting in six of the Hornets 14 turnovers in the game during that game-turning surge.
“They started picking up the pressure, which I thought we handled early in the game fairly well,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “But we didn’t in the third quarter. They get some easy buckets and we’re struggling to score and things just kind of snowballed.
“I do think we competed hard trying to trap them to get some things going,” he added. “I thought that group we had on the court, they didn’t give up and competed against a really good team. It was a learning experience for us.”
Martin led the Hornets with 18 points and Hunt had 14. No one else had more that the 6 points produced by forward Lowell Washington, all in the first half.
The lead seesawed in the first quarter after Martin opened with a 3 and Hot Springs’ Anthony Tate and Deshawn Hampton countered. Washington’s stickback put Bryant back on top and the teams traded baskets after that. Bryant had the upper hand going into the second quarter when Washington’s basket as he was being fouled made it 11-10, though he was unable to complete the three-point play.
Kennedy Corder’s basket to start the second quarter had the Trojans back on top. Hunt buried a triple but when Christon hit two free throws with 6:50 left in the half, it was the first of six ties in the quarter.
The Hornets never trailed in the period. They answered every time Hot Springs pulled even.
The snowball in the third quarter began with a basket inside by Tate. Kajuan Christon and Tate then knocked down back-to-back 3’s, each after a Bryant turnover, giving the Trojans the lead for good. At that point it was just 36-30.
The Hornets suffered another turnover but Antavious Lewis took a change on a drive by Trey Lenox and they got a second chance to cut into the margin. But Martin couldn’t get his jumper to fall.
Kajuan Christon followed his own miss to make it 38-30 and, after Hunt’s jumper rimmed out, Abrahamson took a second timeout to try to stop the momentum. The Hornets had been using a 1-3-1 zone defense much of the way to that point. When play resumed, they switched to a man. It produced consecutive turnovers but the Hornets were unable to take advantage.
Breakaway layups by Kajuan Christon and Corder on either side of Hunt’s basket made it 42-32 going into the fourth quarter. Corder and Quindell Smith added the first two buckets of the fourth quarter.
Bryant was able to attack the Hot Springs defense a little more effectively down the stretch. After shooting just five free throws in the first three quarters, the Hornets were 9 of 10 at the line in the fourth.
When Martin scored inside with 3:57 left and Hunt hit two free throws after a Trojan turnover at 3:26, Bryant had the lead whittled from 17 to 12. But over the next two minutes, Hot Springs went on a 9-0 surge to put the game away.
TROJANS 64, HORNETS 47
Score by quarters
BRYANT 11 17 4 15 — 47
Hot Springs 10 18 14 22 — 64
C.Allen 0-2 3-4 3, Martin 5-11 5-5 18, Hunt 5-14 3-5 14, Lewis 1-4 0-0 2, Washington 3-4 0-1 6, Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Moody 0-0 0-0 0, Peters 1-3 0-0 2, Turner 0-0 0-0 0, McIntosh 1-1 0-0 2, R.Allen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-40 (40%) 11-16 (69%) 47.
Tate 4-5 0-0 10, Hampton 1-1 0-0 2, K.Christon 6-10 0-0 13, E.Christon 5-7 4-4 14, Lenox 2-6 1-2 5, Dobbins Jr. 0-0 0-0 0, K.Corder 4-7 1-2 9, Floyd 1-4 1-2 3, Smith 3-5 2-3 8, Pondexter 0-2 0-0 0, Goffigan 0-0 0-0 0, Spratt 0-2 0-0 0, M.Corder 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 (53%) 9-13 (69%) 64
Three-point field goals: Bryant 4-13 (Martin 3-6, Hunt 1-5, Peters 0-1, C.Allen 0-1), Hot Springs 3-9 (Tate 2-3, K.Christon 1-2, E.Christon 0-1, Lenox 0-1, K.Corder 0-1, Pondexter 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Hot Springs 10. Rebounds: Bryant 11-13 24 (Martin 3-3 6, Washington 2-2, 4, Lewis 1-2 3, Moody 0-2 2, C.Allen 0-1 1, Hunt 1-0 1, Wilson 1-0 1, Turner 0-1 1, team 3-2 5), Hot Springs 12-15 27 (K.Christon 4-3 7, Floyd 2-3 5, Hampton 1-3 4, Smith 3-0 3, Tate 2-0 2, Lenox 0-2 2, E.Christon 0-1 1, Dobbins Jr. 0-1 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls: Bryant 18, Hot Springs 19.