‘Next few men up’ spark Hornets to State victory over Van Buren

For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here; photos also courtesy of Andrew Schroeder and Paul Dotson

Austin Schroeder fires a shot from the left baseline over Van Buren’s Damarius Newton (5) and Brayden Gilmore (22). (Photo courtesy of Paul Dotson)

With a lot of their firepower — Treylon Payne, Arlon “A.J.” Jenkins and Khasen Robinson — on the bench with foul trouble and Camren Hunter in street clothes because of an ankle injury, the Bryant Hornets were in a difficult situation against the Van Buren Pointers in the first round of the Class 6A State Tournament at Hornet Arena Thursday afternoon.

Despite entering with a 10-16 record and being seeded sixth from the 6A-West Conference, the Pointers spent a lot of the game leading.

With some unsung and somewhat untested heroes, the Hornets, the third seed from the 6A-Central, found a way to forge a 58-47 victory. Bryant outscored the Pointers 21-5 in the fourth quarter.

“A common phrase in athletics is ‘next man up’ and today it was next few men up,” declared Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson, “because it was next man up and then foul trouble causing the next man up then foul trouble causing the next man up. And all these kids rose to the occasion. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

With Payne on the bench earliest with the foul trouble and held without a point before the final seconds of the first half, Robinson came off the bench and scored all of his 14 points including four 3’s. Aidan Adams hit four triples in the game for 12 points while Jenkins attacked the basket for 10 of his 13 points in the second half. And, at the end, Payne hit 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with 11 points.

Freshman Cory Nichols (5) defends against Van Buren’s Tiyeze Castleberry (21). (Photo by Keven Nagle)

Austin Schroeder and freshman Cory Nichols only had 4 apiece but they played huge roles for Bryant, particularly on defense. Nichols played the most minutes he had in a varsity contest, playing harassing defense and handling the ball on offense.

“So, I hope it was a combination of things,” said Abrahamson when asked how his team was able to hang around until their late push. “I hope it’s how we go about our business on a daily basis. I hope it’s some of the adversity we’ve already faced this year. I hope it’s having some talented guys, young guys that stepped up. I hope it’s having some guys that just keep coming back every day. 

“I hope, I think part of it was our student section,” he added. “I’ve got to give a shout-out to our students. Gosh, they sold over 600 tickets to kids at school for them to get out and come to this game today. It’s awesome. They created a great environment for us.”

Though the Hornets were out-rebounded 31-18, they forced 19 turnovers while committing just eight. Among those turnovers for the Pointers were seven charge calls.

“Those are game-changing plays,” Abrahamson asserted. 

Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter, which ended with them deadlocked 6-6. A pair of Robinson’s 3’s accounted for Bryant’s points. Brayden Gilmore had 4 for Van Buren.

Aidan Adams hit four 3’s for the Hornets. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Schroeder)

“Huge coming in,” said Abrahamson of his sophomore guard. “He hit four 3’s in the first half. We believe in Khasen and we’re not surprised at all. But what I will say, it was huge for our team. We needed it. It kept us right there early which gave us a chance late.”

Nichols started the second quarter with a steal and layup to give Bryant an advantage. But the game was tied at 11, 13, 23 and 25 in the quarter.

The Hornets had a burst midway through the period. Down 15-13, they went to Jenkins who pulled up for a jumper and was fouled. His three-point play gave Bryant the lead again. Adams took a charge on a drive to the rack by Tiyeze Castleberry and, at the other end, Jenkins drove and kicked-out to Robinson for a 3.

Avery Salisbury hit two free throws for the Pointers, but Robinson buried another triple.

But the Pointers battled back. With :14.8 left, Damarius Newton hit a free throw to tie the game at 25. Just moments after picking up his third foul amid a scramble on the floor for a loose ball, Payne finally scratched with a 16-foot jumper with :06 showing. And Bryant led 27-25 at the break.

Khasen Robinson (11) drives the baseline against Damarius Newton as Van Buren head coach Brad Autry encourages his players in the background. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Bryant led 33-31 about midway through the third after Schroeder hit a 3. But with Abrahamson trying to protect his foul-crippled players, Van Buren made a little run. Gilmore hit a free throw then Gary Phillips, who led the Pointers with 15 points, drove for a basket. Newton and Nichols traded baskets then Newton scored again to make it 38-35.

A three-point play by Phillips extended the margin to 5. It was 42-37 going into the fourth quarter.

Before Abrahamson started filtering his prime-time players back into the game, Adams started the final period with a 3. The Hornets jumped into a trapping defense and the Pointers started to scramble. Jenkins drove for a basket to tie the game, took a charge at the other end, then drove for a bucket, speeding past the Van Buren defenders, to put his team back on top.

“The adjustments, in the second half, were we started pressing a little bit just to try to speed up the pace of the game,” said Abrahamson. “We tried to get into the passing lanes a little bit. And then me made some adjustments on offense. We kind of opened that lane up for Arlon.” 

Adams took a charge and Van Buren head coach Brad Autry, tired of seeing those calls go against his penetrating guards, drew a technical foul.

Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Payne hit a free throw, but the Hornets didn’t take advantage of the subsequent possession. Gilmore missed for the Pointers and Adams drained a 3 in response as Bryant’s lead grew to 48-42.

Off another miss, the Hornets’ parade to the free-throw line commenced. They were 9 of 14 at the stripe in the quarter. Free throws by Jenkins and Payne pushed the lead to its maximum of 10 before Payne beat the buzzer with a layup that set the final score.

“I tried to tell our team before the game how good Van Buren is,” Abrahamson said. “When I finally figured out who we were playing Friday night (Feb. 28), I went home and I started watching film and I was going, ‘My gosh, how are they the six seed? They’re big. They’re athletic. They’ve got shooters.’ They’ve got one kid that hit like eight 3’s last Friday night. I mean, they’re really good. They’re a really tough team. 

“I hope eventually we kind of wore on them a little bit,” he concluded.

The win sets up a quarterfinal game against the number two seed from the West, Fayetteville, Friday night at 8:30 p.m.

“They’re big. They’re athletic. They’re deep. They’ve got shooters,” the Abrahamson said. “In my opinion, they’re the most talented team in the West and that’s no offense to Har-Ber (the West’s one seed). 

Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson credited the Bryant student section crown for an assist for Thursday’s win. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Schroeder)

“On one hand, we’ve played a lot of teams like that,” he concluded. “But, on the other hand, we haven’t played them, and they look really good on film. I know they’re well-coached and talented so it’s going to be tough. But we’re glad we’re going to be here.”

With top scorers Treylon Payne, Arlon “A.J.” Jenkins and Khasen Robinson on the bench with foul trouble and another, Camren Hunter, in street clothes because of an ankle injury, the Bryant Hornets were in a difficult situation against the Van Buren Pointers in the first round of the Class 6A State Tournament at Hornet Arena Thursday afternoon.

Despite entering with a 10-16 record and being seeded sixth from the 6A-West Conference, the Pointers spent a lot of the game leading.

With some unsung and somewhat untested heroes, the Hornets, the third seed from the 6A-Central, found a way to forge a 58-47 victory. Bryant outscored the Pointers 21-5 in the fourth quarter.

“A common phrase in athletics is ‘next man up’ and today it was next few men up,” declared Hornets head coach Mike Abrahamson, “because it was next man up and then foul trouble causing the next man up then foul trouble causing the next man up. And all these kids rose to the occasion. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

With Payne on the bench earliest with the foul trouble and held without a point before the final seconds of the first half, Robinson came off the bench and scored all of his 14 points including four 3’s. Aidan Adams hit four triples in the game for 12 points while Jenkins attacked the basket for 10 of his 13 points in the second half. And, at the end, Payne hit 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with 11 points.

Austin Schroeder and freshman Cory Nichols only had 4 apiece but they played huge roles for Bryant, particularly on defense. Nichols played the most minutes he had in a varsity contest, playing harassing defense and handling the ball on offense.

“So, I hope it was a combination of things,” said Abrahamson when asked how his team was able to hang around until their late push. “I hope it’s how we go about our business on a daily basis. I hope it’s some of the adversity we’ve already faced this year. I hope it’s having some talented guys, young guys that stepped up. I hope it’s having some guys that just keep coming back every day. 

“I hope, I think part of it was our student section,” he added. “I’ve got to give a shout-out to our students. Gosh, they sold over 600 tickets to kids at school for them to get out and come to this game today. It’s awesome. They created a great environment for us.”

Though the Hornets were out-rebounded 31-18, they forced 19 turnovers while committing just eight. Among those turnovers for the Pointers were seven charge calls.

“Those are game-changing plays,” Abrahamson asserted. 

Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter, which ended with them deadlocked 6-6. A pair of Robinson’s 3’s accounted for Bryant’s points. Brayden Gilmore had 4 for Van Buren.

“Huge coming in,” said Abrahamson of his sophomore guard. “He hit four 3’s in the first half. We believe in Khasen and we’re not surprised at all. But what I will say, it was huge for our team. We needed it. It kept us right there early which gave us a chance late.”

Nichols started the second quarter with a steal and layup to give Bryant an advantage. But the game was tied at 11, 13, 23 and 25 in the quarter.

The Hornets had a burst midway through the period. Down 15-13, they went to Jenkins who pulled up for a jumper and was fouled. His three-point play gave Bryant the lead again. Adams took a charge on a drive to the rack by Tiyeze Castleberry and, at the other end, Jenkins drove and kicked-out to Robinson for a 3.

Avery Salisbury hit two free throws for the Pointers, but Robinson buried another triple.

But the Pointers battled back. With :14.8 left, Damarius Newton hit a free throw to tie the game at 25. Just moments after picking up his third foul amid a scramble on the floor for a loose ball, Payne finally scratched with a 16-foot jumper with :06 showing. And Bryant led 27-25 at the break.

Bryant led 33-31 about midway through the third after Schroeder hit a 3. But with Abrahamson trying to protect his foul-crippled players, Van Buren made a little run. Gilmore hit a free throw then Gary Phillips, who led the Pointers with 15 points, drove for a basket. Newton and Nichols traded baskets then Newton scored again to make it 38-35.

A three-point play by Phillips extended the margin to 5. It was 42-37 going into the fourth quarter.

Before Abrahamson started filtering his prime-time players back into the game, Adams started the final period with a 3. The Hornets jumped into a trapping defense and the Pointers started to scramble. Jenkins drove for a basket to tie the game, took a charge at the other end, then drove for a bucket, speeding past the Van Buren defenders, to put his team back on top.

“The adjustments, in the second half, were we started pressing a little bit just to try to speed up the pace of the game,” said Abrahamson. “We tried to get into the passing lanes a little bit. And then me made some adjustments on offense. We kind of opened that lane up for Arlon.” 

Adams took a charge and Van Buren head coach Brad Autry, tired of seeing those calls go against his penetrating guards, drew a technical foul.

Payne hit a free throw, but the Hornets didn’t take advantage of the subsequent possession. Gilmore missed for the Pointers and Adams drained a 3 in response as Bryant’s lead grew to 48-42.

Off another miss, the Hornets’ parade to the free-throw line commenced. They were 9 of 14 at the stripe in the quarter. Free throws by Jenkins and Payne pushed the lead to its maximum of 10 before Payne beat the buzzer with a layup that set the final score.

“I tried to tell our team before the game how good Van Buren is,” Abrahamson said. “When I finally figured out who we were playing Friday night (Feb. 28), I went home and I started watching film and I was going, ‘My gosh, how are they the six seed? They’re big. They’re athletic. They’ve got shooters.’ They’ve got one kid that hit like eight 3’s last Friday night. I mean, they’re really good. They’re a really tough team. 

“I hope eventually we kind of wore on them a little bit,” he concluded.

The win sets up a quarterfinal game against the number two seed from the West, Fayetteville, Friday night at 8:30 p.m.

“They’re big. They’re athletic. They’re deep. They’ve got shooters,” the Abrahamson said. “In my opinion, they’re the most talented team in the West and that’s no offense to Har-Ber (the West’s one seed). 

“On one hand, we’ve played a lot of teams like that,” he concluded. “But, on the other hand, we haven’t played them, and they look really good on film. I know they’re well-coached and talented so it’s going to be tough. But we’re glad we’re going to be here.”

HORNETS 58, POINTERS 47

Score by quarters

Van Buren       6          19        17        5 — 47

BRYANT           6          21        10        21 — 58

POINTERS (10-17) 47

Newton 3-5 3-6 9, Henry 2-4 2-2 7, Salisbury 0-4 2-2 2, Castleberry 2-4 0-1 4, Br.Gilmore 3-9 1-4 7, Phillips 6-6 3-5 15, Estrada 1-1 0-0 3, Brady 0-0 0-0 0, Bl.Gilmore 0-0 0-0 0, Jasna 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-33 (52%) 11-20 (55%) 47.

HORNETS (17-11) 58

Payne 2-6 7-10 11, Schroeder 1-5 1-2 4, Jenkins 4-9 5-8 13, Adams 4-7 0-0 12, Diggins 0-1 0-0 0, Robinson 5-11 0-2 14, Nichols 2-3 0-0 4, L.Newburn 0-0 0-0 0, O.Newburn 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-42 (43%) 13-22 (59%) 58.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 9-21 (Robinson 4-8, Adams 4-6, Schroeder 1-4, Payne 0-1, Jenkins 0-1, Nichols 0-1), Van Buren 2-10 (Henry 1-2, Estrada 1-1, Salisbury 0-4, Br.Gilmore 0-2, Castleberry 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 13, Van Buren 19. Rebounds: Bryant 4-14 18 (Payne 0-4 4, Adams 1-2 3, Robinson 2-1 3, Nichols 1-2 3, Schroeder 0-2 2, Jenkins 0-1 1, Diggins 0-1 1, team 0-1 1), Van Buren 8-23 31 (Newton 5-9 14, Br.Gilmore 1-6 7, Henry 2-1 3, Salisbury 0-2 2, Castleberry 0-2 2, Phillips 0-1 1, Brady 0-1 1, team 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 20, Van Buren 22. Fouled out: Bryant, Robinson; Van Buren, Newton. Technical foul: Van Buren coach Autry.



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