LITTLE ROCK — The Bryant Hornets freshman team fought back from a 16-13 deficit at the half to[more] take a 24-23 lead over the Catholic Junior Rockets going into the fourth quarter Thursday night. But the Rockets opened the final period with a 3-pointer and never trailed again, holding the Hornets to just 4 points in that last six minutes.
Thus, Catholic handed the Hornets their second loss in a row, 34-28, knocking Bryant out of a tie for the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference lead.
The loss came on the heels of an emotional overtime setback at North Little Rock that placed the first blemish on the Hornets’ league mark and ended a nine game winning streak that started after a 40-34 loss at home to Catholic.
It was a rough week for Bryant, which is now must win its final regular-season game over Conway Blue on Monday to keep from slipping to the fourth or fifth seed at the league’s post-season tournament in Bryant starting Thursday, Jan. 9.
“We’re in a slump,” acknowledged Hornets coach Jim Pennington. “We just really played sluggish the whole game. We were very sluggish defensively and we didn’t do a very good job of blocking them off the boards. And when our post guys got the ball down inside, we couldn’t finish.”
In fact, in the late stages of the game, the Hornets fouled and the Rockets accommodated by missing the front end of bonus opportunities at the line a couple of times. But in both instances, somehow the Rockets got the rebounds and milked some more clock.
Pennington allowed that the team might’ve been let down after Monday’s loss at North Little Rock.
“We told them that this was a very important game, that the winner was going to be second in the conference,” Pennington said. “We just didn’t do a good job of preparing them I guess. Now, we have to win Monday night to get third.”
K.J. Hill managed 17 points for the Hornets. Brandan Warner added 7 and J.C. Newborn 4.
The Hornets were able to hold Catholic’s D.J. Brown to 9 points after he’d scored 25 at Bryant. But Davis Allen had 9 and William Hancock 8.
“We were going to try to play a 1-3 with a chaser on him,” Pennington said of Bryant. “Catholic’s other kids shot the ball well. They hit two or three 3’s in the first half. (Brown) scored some too. He’s a very, very good player. Even if you are boxing him, if he gets the ball he’s able to take it to the hole.
“We really just made too many mistakes, too many mental mistakes,” the coach added. “It was probably the worst game we’ve played.”