Jacksonville dominates second half to pin first loss on Hornets

By Rob Patrick

CONWAY — Bryant Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson knew what his team was in for when[more] they drew the Jacksonville Red Devils in the semifinals of the Wampus Cat Invitational Tournament after a 74-51 romp over North Pulaski on Monday.

But his players, none of which had played prime roles at the Class 7A varsity level before this season, probably didn’t realize exactly what was ahead of them. Jacksonville, a semifinalist in the rugged Class 6A tournament last year, is one of the top echelon teams again this year and with runs of 10-0 and 24-3 in the second half, the Red Devils turned a tie game at halftime into a 73-45 rout.

It’s Bryant’s first loss of the season after five straight wins. The Hornets will play in the tournament’s third-place game Saturday at 5:30 p.m., against either Pine Bluff or Conway.

“We’re not on that level yet,” stated Abrahamson, “and the only reason we’re not on that level yet is that those kids don’t believe it. I know their potential. I know we’re good enough to compete with that team and teams on that level right now.

“I think it boils down to belief and confidence and some things that come along with experience,” he added. “This particular team, the people I have on the court, haven’t had that experience.

“No disrespect to the teams that we’ve played but we haven’t played a team like that yet,” the coach said. “I’ve told them since Monday that we’ll find out and we found out. We found out where we are. We’re nowhere where we want to be.”

The Hornets showed that they could play with Jacksonville with a stellar second quarter. They turned a 23-9 deficit into a 27-27 tie at the half.

“I was proud of the second quarter, to fight back and tie it up, playing hard,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “We were able to get a couple of their guys in foul trouble and make some plays.”

But Jacksonville came out in the second half and scored the first 10 points. Spurred by a driving jumper by Greyson Giles and a drive to the rack by K.J. Hill, who accounted for 26 of the Hornets’ points, the Hornets forced a Red Devil timeout. And, after Jacksonville’s Kevin Richardson scored inside, Hill buried a 3, which had the Hornets back within 41-34.

That’s when Jacksonville got on a role. Inside, 6-7 Keith Charleston scored and, after Hill hit a free throw, Aaron Smith pumped in three straight 3-pointers. The first two completed the third quarter with the Devils up 49-35. The third started the scoring in the third quarter.

Alfred Graydon hit a running jumper for Jacksonville then Hill interrupted with a bucket at the 5:35 mark. But before he hit two free throws with 3:11 left, Jacksonville had amassed a 28-point lead, 65-37.

“Jacksonville came out in the third quarter and just imposed their will,” Abrahamson stated. “They’ve been there before and they know how to handle themselves in those situations.

“It almost doesn’t matter what I say or what I do at halftime or draw up in a timeout,” the coach said of his team. “They haven’t seen it played out themselves and experience is the best teacher. Hopefully, we’ll learn from this experience quickly because we’ve got to turn around and play tomorrow. And I’m glad because, although we probably need practices, if we can come out and put a good performance on tomorrow, it will take some of the sting off of this one.”

Charleston finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Red Devils. Smith had 14 and Sergio Berkley added 14. C.J. Rainey scored 8 points for the Hornets, Zach Cambron had 5.

Jacksonville cleaned up on the boards, out-rebounding Bryant 40-21 with 16 of the 40 on the offensive end.

The game actually got off to an ominous start for Bryant when one of the officials noticed that one of the Hornets dunked the ball in pre-game. Though it happens on a regular basis and is technically a technical, it’s not a call that’s enforced all the time. But it was this time so before a second had ticked off the clock, Jacksonville’s Justin McCleary knocked down two free throws.

The Devils led 6-3 before Rainey scored off a drive and Cambron scored inside despite being fouled, giving the Hornets their lone lead of the game at 7-6.

Jacksonville responded with a 13-0 run, which included a 3 by Smith.
The Hornets got a lift when Rainey hit a jumper off a drive with :03 left in the quarter to make it 19-9.

Berkley started the second quarter with a stickback and a running jumper then a steal. But when Charleston was cited for an offensive foul off the ball, it gave the Hornets a spark. Cambron’s jump hook was followed by a steal by Hill. He cashed in with a pair of free throws. After a pair of Jacksonville misses, Hill turned in a three-point play off a slashing move to the hoop and it was 23-16.

Berkley drove for a basket to interrupt. Hill and Jacksonville’s Kanaan Jackson traded hoops then Rainey knocked down a 3. He would add a free throw moments later. In the final minute, Hill hit a 3, made a steal and drove for a layup to tie the game with :21 left.

Jacksonville got a look at the buzzer but the shot rimmed out, sending the teams to the locker room knotted up.

The Hornets, however, were unable to score in the third quarter until it was more than half over.


Score by quarters

Jacksonville 19 8 22 24 — 73

BRYANT 9 18 8 10 — 45


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


McCleary 0-4 4-4 0-2 2 3 4

Smith 4-8 2-2 0-3 3 2 14

Berkley 4-8 6-6 2-1 3 0 14

Hart 4-6 0-0 2-2 4 2 8

Charleston 7-11 1-1 3-7 10 3 15

Richardson 1-2 0-0 1-0 1 0 2

Brockman 0-1 2-4 0-4 4 2 2

Graydon 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 2

Jackson 1-2 0-0 1-2 3 1 2

McChristin 0-2 0-0 1-0 1 1 0

Worthern 0-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Barnes 3-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 8

Matthews 1-2 0-0 2-2 4 1 2

Brown 0-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Wolfe 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Team 4-0 4

Totals 26-56 15-17 16-24 40 17 73


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Rainey  3-7 1-2 1-1 2 2 8

Hill 9-18 6-7 2-3 5 2 26

Simmons 0-5 1-2 0-2 2 0 1

Giles 1-7 1-2 0-3 3 4 3

Cambron 2-4 1-3 1-2 3 4 5

Reed 0-0 0-2  0-1 1 3 0

Rayburn 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Davis 0-1 0-0 0-1 1 1 0

Crosby 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Hall 1-1 0-0 1-0 1 0 2

Team 3-0 3

Totals 16-45 10-18 8-13 21 16 45

Three-point field goals: Jacksonville 6-15 (Smith 4-6, Barnes 2-2, Brown 0-3, Charleston 0-1, McCleary 0-1, Berkley 0-1, Worthern 0-1), Bryant 3-12 (Hill 2-3, Rainey 1-2, Simmons 0-4, Giles 0-1, Cambron 0-1, Davis 0-1). Turnovers: Jacksonville 9, Bryant 12. Technical foul: Bryant, Reed.

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