BENTONVILLE — Braylen Steen pumped in 30 points as the Bryant Hornets completed a sweep of the field at the annual Crabtree Invitational Classic this morning at Bentonville High School with a 76-56 victory over the Wynne Yellowjackets.
Steen was one of four Hornets in double figures for the second game in a row. Calvin Allen added 13 points, Romen Martin and Sam Chumley each had 10. Lowell Washington finished with 7, Kaleb Turner 4 and Caylin Allen 2.
Wynne, which had lost on Thursday to Clarksville, came into the contest on the heels of a surprising victory over the host Bentonville Tigers on Friday.
“Steen, obviously, had a monster game,” said Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “He was awesome. He had a great tournament. I call him the unofficial MVP. They don’t really give an award but he played great for us all week. As did the whole team.”
In the three contests, Steen averaged over 21 points a game.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Braylen didn’t have three double-doubles,” Abrahamson stated. “We haven’t statted it yet but it wouldn’t shock me. He was very good for us in all areas, defensively, rebounding, offensively, free throws, leadership.
“We had to keep him in at the end of the second quarter,” the coach recounted. “Lowell and Deron (Canada) were in foul trouble and he needed a break. But we had to leave him in. To his credit, he sucked it up and played well for us all throughout. I’m proud of him. He’s really grown up and matured. He’s become very dependable. He’s come a long way.”
The Hornets built a 17-4 lead in the first quarter, holding Wynne to just four free throws.
“We started really well,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “Our defense was really strong to start the game. I wouldn’t say we jumped on them because it wasn’t necessarily a quick thing. It was just a possession-by-possession thing. We had a good first quarter.”
The Yellowjackets revved it up a bit more in the second quarter but the Hornets still held a commanding 35-20 lead at the half. The third quarter brought a Wynne rally in which they actually got the margin down to 8 with an offensive-round basket in the final seconds.
“They’re big and they rebound well,” Abrahamson related. “They attacked the offensive glass really well. It was a challenge for us in that regard.
“We were defending really well then they started coming down and just shooting; no pass and they just shot it,” he continued. “They made a couple and, I think, once they saw the ball go through the rim, that got them going a little bit.
“They had a really good third quarter,” the coach said. “They were attacking the glass and we were having trouble blocking out, keeping them off the offensive glass.
The Hornets got a lift however when they inbounded after the Wynne basket, pushed it up the floor and found Chumley for a 3-pointer. Instead of a 50-42 lead, it was 53-42 going into the final stanza.
“A quick answer there; that was huge,” Abrahamson said. “It put us back up by 11 and gave us something positive going into that timeout between quarters.
“They second half — we knew this was coming but it’s another thing to play against it,” he mentioned. “I knew they weren’t going to quit and I knew they were going to give it everything they had to try to come back. And that’s what they were doing. They’re driving. They’re shooting. They’re being aggressive. They’re on the offensive glass. They were more aggressive defensively. And they started to catch up.
“In the fourth quarter, we handled all those things so much better,” the coach asserted. “They weren’t making the shots that they had been making. I don’t know if fatigue was a factor.
He added, “We blocked out better. We handled their pressure better. We got some layups, got to the free-throw line, made some free throws. I was really proud of how our guys played to start the game and then to respond going into the fourth quarter to finish the game and extend that lead and really put them away. Our kids really showed a lot of toughness.”
That toughness will be invaluable as the season goes along generally and in their next outing in particular. Bryant opens play in the annual Jammin’ for Jackets Tournament at Little Rock Hall against the perennial powerhouse, Little Rock Parkview. The game is set for Thursday, Dec. 8, at 8:30 p.m.