FORT SMITH — The first few minutes of the Bryant Hornets’ 6A-Central Conference battle with the Fort Smith Southside Mavericks on Tuesday night didn’t go so well for the team or, in particularly, senior Rodney Lambert. On either side of a basket by Southside’s Mykale Franks, Lambert was called for a palming the ball as he started to make a move, a call you rarely see in today’s game.
And, since it was a relatively elderly official, the smattering of fans from Bryant needled him about that being a call from 1980 or something.
Those were two of eight turnovers the Hornets suffered in the first quarter. Lambert didn’t let if phase him as he went on to score a career-high 33 points to lead the Hornets to a 66-43 victory.
Bryant improved to 12-4 overall on the season and 3-1 in league play, tied for second with North Little Rock behind Conway.
“He didn’t get rattled, didn’t get frustrated again,” said Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson of Lambert. “He had to adjust, just stay with it. I’m really proud of that because a lot of teenagers would go in the tank right there. He showed a lot of maturity, just staying the course and staying in attack mode. But, at the same time, just keeping it simple, getting to the free-throw line. I would’ve hated to have that be my job, keeping in front of him all night long. He was really having a game.”
“I went to the bench and Coach A said that I need to adjust, that there was nothing I could do about it,” Lambert said of the early struggles. “I could only control the things that I can control.”
That fact was that no one could control Lambert even though he only had 2 points in the first quarter. Once he got it going, he was able to drive to the rack as usual. He was much more consistent at finishing once he got there. He also popped a couple of 3-pointers and wound up making 9 of 10 free throws.
“Every day in practice, when we shoot, (Coach Abrahamson) tells us to work on game shots, Lambert related. “In my game, it’s more catch-and-shoot 3’s and fast-break layups. I just focused in more on making my layups.”
“Our guys are happy for him,” Abrahamson said, when asked about the rest of the team looking for Lambert. “They like to see that. They cheer for each other.
“Rod was just really locked in tonight, just really aggressive,” he concluded.
Khalen Robinson, who continues to improve since a leg injury on Dec. 30, came off the bench to score 14 points for the Hornets.
Baskets by Robinson and Catrell Wallace had the Hornets up 7-4 a little over halfway through the first quarter but the hard-charging Mavericks surged to an 11-7 lead by the end of the quarter then Taye Gatewood hit a free throw to start the second-quarter scoring to give the Mavs a 5-point lead, their largest of the game.
“There was a little bit of a lid on the basket for us to start the game,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “Southside was just shoving the ball down our throat in transition. They did a really nice job. Our guys really had to adjust to the way they were pushing the ball. Once they started stopping that it was great. Then (the Mavericks) hit some 3’s, with some nice drive-and-kicks. They played really well in that first half.
“For us, we just wanted to stick to our plan,” he related. “We thought we might have a chance to wear on them with our full-court man, and just kept going. Offensively, I just felt, we’re going to get there. It’s going to work. Let’s not panic. We’re doing good stuff but it’s just really not going down.”
The Mavericks are now 0-4 in league play but in each of their other games, against Conway, Cabot and North Little Rock, they were close at the half only to suffer through rugged second halves and winding up on the short end of lopsided final scores.
The same held true on Tuesday.
The Hornets went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter, to grab the lead. Lambert had a drive to the rack and a 3. Robinson drove for a layup off a steal by Camren Hunter. Lambert fed A.J. Jenkins for a layup and Khasen Robinson hit a pull-up jay to cap the run with Bryant up 18-12.
The Mavericks surged back, however, and regained the upper hand, 25-23 going into the final minute. They had a couple of chances to add to the margin but Treylon Payne made a steal and got to the free-throw line where he converted twice to tie the game.
And when Khalen Robinson drove for a basket in the final seconds, Bryant head a 27-25 lead.
Those last 4 points of the half started a Bryant run of 24-1 that blew the game open.
Payne made another steal and fed Jenkins for a layup then Lambert scored the next 8 points with only a free throw by Gatewood interrupting.
After Payne and Robinson added free throws, Wallace made a nice post-up move on the right block and scored over Southside’s big man Colton McBride. Lambert drove for a basket then capped the outburst with his second triple to make it 47-26 in the final minute of the third quarter.
By the end of the stanza, Bryant led 49-29. The Hornets were 11 of 12 at the free-throw line down the stretch. The Hornets’ largest lead was 28.
“Awesome effort by our guys, Abrahamson said of the third quarter blitz. “It helps we were scoring so we were able to set the defense without having to try to scramble to stop them. Guarding the ball is where it started then limiting them to one shot, finishing off with a rebound. Great team effort that quarter.”
Lambert finished his night with just over three minutes left when he made a steal and a dunk.
The Hornets host Cabot this Friday.
HORNETS 66, MAVERICKS 43
Score by quarters
BRYANT 7 20 22 17 — 66
FS Southside 11 14 4 14 — 43
HORNETS (12-4, 3-1) 66
Payne 0-4 5-5 5, Lambert 11-15 9-10 33, Jenkins 2-2 0-2 6, Hunter 0-6 0-0 0, Wallace 2-3 0-2 4, Kl.Robinson4-6 5-5 14, Martin 1-2 0-0 2, Ks.Robinson 1-2 0-0 2, Adams 0-1 0-0 0, Brunson 0-1 0-0 0, Montgomery 0-0 0-0 0, West 0-0 0-0 0, Schroeder 0-0 0-0 0, Hall 0-0 0-0 0, Newburn 0-2 0-0 0. Totals21-44 (48%) 21-24 (88%) 66.
MAVERICKS (5-12 0-4) 43
Thomas 2-6 0-0 6, Davinport 0-1 0-0 0, Gatewood 2-9 4-8 8, Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, Franks 4-8 0-0 8, York 4-8 1-2 12, McBride 2-3 0-0 4, Merrill 0-1 0-0 0, Infield 0-2 0-0 0, Mitchell 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, D.Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Fonsoofon 1-2 0-0 3. Totals16-45 (36%) 5-10 (50%) 43.
Three-point field goals:Bryant 3-12 (Lambert 2-3, Kl.Robinson 1-3, Payne 0-3, Newburn 0-2, Ks.Robinson 0-1), FS Southside 6-17 (York 3-5, Thomas 2-4, Fonsoofon 1-1, Infield 0-2, Mitchell 0-2, Gatewood 0-1, Coleman 0-1, Franks 0-1). Turnovers:Bryant 23, FS Southside 20. Rebounds:Bryant 10-28 38 (Martin 2-6 8, Lambert 0-6 6, Wallace 2-4 6, Kl.Robinson 1-2 3, Payne 0-2 2, Hunter 2-0 2, Hall 0-2 2, Jenkins 0-1 1, Brunson 0-1 1, Montgomery 0-1 1, West 0-1 1, Schroeder 1-0 1, team 2-2 4), FS Southside 4-15 19 (McBride 1-2 3, Thomas 0-2 2, Gatewood 0-2 2, Franks 1-1 2, York 0-2 2, Davinport 1-0 1, Coleman 1-0 1, Merrill 0-1 1, Boswell 0-1 1, Infield 0-1 1, Mitchell 0-1 1, team 0-2 2). Team fouls:Bryant 9, FS Southside 18. Fouled out:FS Southside, Thomas.