By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
PEARCY — It looked like a good strategy right at the start. After Kris Croom and Simeon Watson[more] combined to make a steal, Croom drove right at Lake Hamilton’s 6-5 man-child Jason Burks and got close enough that he not only couldn’t block it but had to foul. Croom hit both free throws to give the Bryant Hornets freshman team a 2-0 lead.
But, after that, the Junior Wolves played like their hair was on fire, responding with an aggressive press defense that sparked a 9-0 run that the Hornets never could recover from. Lake Hamilton forced 18 turnovers in the first half, 27 for the game, rolled up a 37-8 lead by halftime and wound up with a 51-34 win in Central Arkansas Junior High Conference play.
Lake Hamilton, which features a starting five that played a lot of freshman ball last year as eighth graders, lost its first game in the Bryant Invitational Tournament back on Nov. 12 but hasn’t lost since. The Wolves’ five-game winning streak includes two wins over the Hornets. They met in the consolation final of the tournament with Lake Hamilton prevailing 45-26.
It didn’t help on Monday night that the Hornets had a trio of players in head coach Mike Simmons’ primary rotation out with injury or unavailable. That included a pair of the team’s best ball-handlers in Alex Oneal and Kevin Hunt. Often times, though, the Hornets’ rebounders were attacked by the Wolves and couldn’t get the ball to the guards.
Bryant has been plagued this season with dry spells on offense, even with everyone available. This time, it just that drought came early as the Hornets managed just two field goals in the first half, one by Watson that had them within 9-4. The other was by Crooms with 1:54 left in the first quarter. The baseline jumper had Bryant within 12-6.
But it was never that close again. By the end of the first quarter, the Wolves had run the advantage out to 17-6 and when Hunter Daley drilled consecutive 3’s to start the second quarter, it was 23-6.
Cameron Murray ended Bryant’s scoreless stretch with a free throw after pulling down one of his 10 rebounds. He converted one from the line then Lake Hamilton scored the next 10 points before Croom interrupted with a free throw.
The Hornets came out much more aggressively in the second half but the hole was too deep. After scoring just 8 points in the first half, the Hornets more than tripled that with 26 in the second half as everyone on both teams got into the action.
Trey Harris drained a pair of second-half 3’s for the Hornets enabling him to match Croom for team-high honors. Murray added 6 while Watson and Jordan Walker added 4 each. Quinton Royal hit two free throws down the stretch and Jordan Gentry added one.
Lake Hamilton had 11 players score in the game led by Daley’s 12 and Burks’ 11.
Like the start of the game, the Hornets finished with a highlight. At the buzzer, Demaja Price fired in a 3 from three-quarter court to set the final score.
Now 2-5 overall and 0-2 in league play, the Hornets are set to host Conway White this Thursday.