Southside holds off late rally to edge Hornets

FORT SMITH — It’s one thing for a basketball team to get out and run. It’s another[more] thing for them to do it well. It’s not just haphazard. It takes execution.

After establishing a lead early, the Fort Smith Southside Rebels used a well-honed transition offense to keep the lead over the Bryant Hornets Thursday night. Though the Hornets rallied to within a point with just over a minute to go, the Rebels made their free throws after that to hold on for a 56-50 win.

“We didn’t execute our entire game plan,” said Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “We wanted to keep them out of their fastbreak offense. They’re the best team that I’ve seen since I’ve been here at transition offense. We knew that going in. It was a point of emphasis to stop, to keep them out of that and we just couldn’t do it.

“They are so fast and execute so well in transition offense,” he noted. “Some of it was turnovers. We committed 12 turnovers in the game. Their point guard got a couple of steals on the ball. He’s small, he’s quick and he anticipates really well.

“They also had two wing players that had the green light any time and we wanted to make it really hard on them,” the coach mentioned. “We knew they were going to get shots. We just wanted to make them tough shots, contested shots. We did that, except right at the beginning of the game.”

Three quick buckets put the Rebels up and, by the end of the first quarter, they held a 19-14 advantage. It was 24-21 at the half and 30-27 going into the fourth quarter. In the wild fourth quarter, both teams nearly doubled their output.

“I didn’t think that we could press this team because their point guard is so quick but I think we caught them off-guard,” Abrahamson related. “They got a little rattled and we made a little comeback. We cut it to 1 with about 1:03 to go. I thought we were going to win the game. But they were able to get it across halfcourt and we had to start fouling with about 30 seconds to go or they were just going to hold it. And they made their free throws.”

Brantley Cozart, who led the Hornets with 17 points, hit three 3-pointers in the final period. Quinton Motto, who finished with 14 points, scored 12 in the last stanza. Anthony Black added all 7 of his points down the stretch. Jordan Griffin finished with 10 and Zach Cambron had 2 to complete Bryant’s scoring.

“We just got off to a shaky start,” Abrahamson said. “They scored 19 (in the first quarter) so they were on a pace to get 80. After that, we played well. Everything they got seemed to come out of their transition offense. If we made them play halfcourt offense, after the first quarter, they struggled. We got the guys that we wanted to shoot for them to take shots and we out-rebounded them 24-19. But they shot 45 percent and we were trying to hold them under 35 percent. It’s because they got a lot of layups in transition.

“They just out-executed us on that,” he added. “But in a lot of other areas, we out-executed them.

“Our team played hard,” stated the coach. “I saw a lot of good things out there. I thought Motto had a great second half. He was very aggressive. With the exception of a few turnovers, Jordan and Brantley played well.

“Anthony Black had a really good fourth quarter,” Abrahamson said of the sophomore transfer from Little Rock Central. “He started the game a little hesitant but it’s his first regular-season game with us. He’s trying to fit in with the team. He got real aggressive in the fourth quarter and that helped.”

Next up for the Hornets will be a trip to Benton to play the rival Panthers on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

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