Streaking Hornets close out regular season in impressive fashion

Bryant Hornet seniors, from left, Zach Cambron, Strodney Davis, Riley Hall, Skyler McKissock and Luke Rayburn. (Photo by Rick Nation)Photos by Kevin Nagle and Rick Nation

By Rob Patrick

If the atmosphere for all Bryant Hornets home basketball games was like it was on Tuesday[more] night, they might never lose at home.

K.J. Hill (5) shoots over El Dorado's Chris White. (Photo by Rick Nation)

Fueled by that raucous crowd — a near full house — the Hornets closed out the regular season with a Senior Night to remember. Against a talented El Dorado Wildcats team, which came in ahead of them in the South Conference standings, the Hornets ran away with a 64-36 victory in which, incredibly, concluded with the Arkansas Activities Association’s Sportsmanship Rule in effect (30-point lead in the fourth quarter, clock runs continuously).

In just three quarters of play, sophomore K.J. Hill scorched the Wildcats for 28 points, half of which came at the free-throw line, mostly from attacking the rim. Tyler Simmons added 14 of his 16 in the first three stanzas. Strodney Davis wound up with 7, Brian Reed 6, Luke Rayburn 3, C.J. Rainey 2, Skyler McKissock and Ricky Buchanan 1 each.

Davis, Rayburn, and McKissock along with Zach Cambron and Riley Hall (both out with injuries) were the senior honorees.

It was the eighth win in the last 10 games for the Hornets who opened conference 0-4 but finish 8-6. They take an 18-9 record into the Class 7A State Tournament. They will likely be the No. 4 seed from the West and will probably open play at Fayetteville High School on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 8:30 p.m., against perhaps an old Central Conference rival like Cabot or Conway.

Strodney Davis shoots between a pair of El Dorado defenders. (Photo by Rick Nation)

“We’ve come a long way,” stated Hornets coach Mike Abrahamson. “We’re not done, I hope. I like the way that we’re playing right now but now everybody starts with a clean slate. You get seeded where you get seeded. We probably won’t officially know until Friday night or Saturday morning but all we can control really is how we’re playing and where our energy and enthusiasm is at and where our execution level is at and what our attention to detail is at. We can try to make the other team play poorly but, really, there’s only so much you can control in the this game and I think as of right now, we’re doing a good job of that. We’ve just got to maintain it because you can’t take it for granted.”

On Tuesday, El Dorado’s Wildcats were unable to corral the Hornets with their full-court press — Bryant, with Rainey and Hill doing most of the ballhandling, turned it over just eight times in the game — and wound up fouling a whopping 31 times. Bryant turned that into 39 free throws. Meanwhile, El Dorado committed 18 turnovers against the Hornets’ 3-2 zone and went 12 of 18 from the line and 0 for 9 from 3-point range. Bryant hit 7 of 14 from long range.

C.J. Rainey (Photo by Rick Nation)

Even in their overtime victory at El Dorado, the Hornets shot 28 free throws to the Wildcats’ eight. And in the last 10 games, they’ve attempted 36, 23, 27, 12, 32, 11, 28, 25, and 16 free throws. You can guess which of the 10 games were the losses.

“Everything seemed to really go well for us tonight,” acknowledged Abrahamson. “The first quarter, I was getting goose-bumps because of our crowd. They were amazing. Our student section and our fans and our parents — I’ve never heard it like that in here. That was amazing.

“It dropped a little bit in the second quarter but it’s hard to maintain what was going on here in the first quarter,” he added. “The players were feeding off of it. Boy, it was fun.”

The Hornets went 7 of 12 from the field including three 3’s in as many tries while building a 21-14 lead.

“But, if you really think about it, we were giving up points too,” Abrahamson pointed out. “It was a back-and-forth game, really exciting for those fans to watch, but I was concerned we weren’t getting stops. Well, we started getting stops. They got 9 points in the second half. I mean, what more can you ask for?

Bryant's Tyler Simmons goes for a reverse layup against El Dorado's Sandy Brown. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

“That’s the fourth game in a row where we’ve given up less than 40 points,” he noted. “I’m proud of the that. We knew we had to contest their shots and we had to get that first rebound. They’re so athletic and they’re so good on the offensive boards, it’s not ever over until you get that ball in your hands.”

At El Dorado, the Cats collected 15 offensive rebounds. On Tuesday, they got five even though they out-sized the Hornets whose tallest player on the floor for much of the game was 6-2 Greyson Giles after the 6-3 Reed was cited for two early fouls.

“We’re just small but we didn’t play small,” Abrahamson said. “We blocked out, defended well around the basket, didn’t let them high-low us. We just really battled and I’m just so proud of that effort.”

El Dorado actually led 8-3 early on, partly because the Hornets had two baskets by Reed wiped out due to charging calls. But when Hill made a steal and got to the line where he converted his first two free throws, Bryant started a run to the lead. Hill took advantage of another Wildcats turnover by driving for a layup. Giles made a steal and Hill cashed in on the momentum by knocking down a triple to put the Hornets up 10-8.

Jalen Cunningham drove for a bucket to tie the game but when Simmons canned a triple with 3:04 left in the half, Bryant was up for good.

Skyler McKissock (2) and Strodney Davis (11) defend against El Dorado's Jacorey Tate and Curstin Johnson (50). (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

Chris White and Hill traded buckets then Deaunte Broadnax scored for the Wildcats to cut it to 15-14 with 2:28 left in the period. But that was the last El Dorado point for a while.

Before Sandy Brown hit two free throws with 6:57 left in the half, Bryant reeled off a 12-0 run. Before the quarter was over, Hill drove for another bucket, canning a scoop shot in traffic. Davis took a charge and, with the resulting possession, Rainey fed Simmons who drained another trey. Hill’s free throw in the final minute made it 21-14 going into the second quarter.

Simmons buried another 3 and, after an El Dorado miss, Davis’ drive resulted in a three-point play and a 13-point lead.

The two teams traded licks for much of the rest of the half. Going into the final minute, the lead was 34-25. Rainey fed Davis for a layup and, after Brown scored inside, Hill converted three free throws on consecutive trips to the line to make it 39-27 at the half.

To start the third quarter, Rayburn flushed a 3. Brown countered with a free throw then a field goal with 5:33 left in the period. From that point on, however, the Wildcats managed just 2 points the rest of the quarter and the first 4:29 of the fourth.

Hill scored 10 straight points for the Hornets. In the final minute of the third period, Rainey made a steal and layup then fed Simmons for a buzzer-beating 3 to make it 59-32.

Before El Dorado could manage a free throw by Jactavis Williams to stop their dryspell, Simmons, McKissock and Reed hit free throws. McKissock’s conversion with 7:05 left made it 62-32, starting the mercy rule.


HORNETS 64, WILDCATS 36


Score by quarters

El Dorado 14 13 5 4 — 36

BRYANT 21 18 20 5 — 64


WILDCATS (13-12, 8-6) 36


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts

o-d-t

Tate 1-4 4-4  0-1 1 5 6

Cunningham  2-3 2-4 0-2 2 4 6

Brown 3-5 3-5 1-11 12 3 9

White 4-10 1-2  2-6 8 4 9

T.Johnson 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 3 0

Shutes 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0

Broadnax 2-5 1-1 1-1 2 2 5

Tr.Simmons 0-5 0-0 0-0 0 2 0

J.Davis 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 4 0

Sewajo 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 2 0

S.Johnson 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Williams 0-0 1-2  0-0 0 0 1

Team 1-0 1

Totals 12-34 12-18 5-22 27 31 36


HORNETS (18-9, 8-6) 65


Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts

o-d-t

Hill 6-11 14-19 1-3 4 2 28

McKissock 0-2 1-2 0-0 0 3 1

Rayburn 1-4 0-2 0-2 2 2 3

S.Davis 2-5 3-3 1-3 4 2 7

Reed 2-3 2-3 0-2 2 3 6

Giles 0-3 0-0 0-4 4 2 0

Rainey 1-2 0-0 1-1 2 1 2

Ty.Simmons 4-6 4-6 2-3 5 2 16

Crosby 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Hall 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0

Murray 0-0 0-2  0-1 1 0 0

Buchanan 0-0 1-2 0-0 0 0 1

Team 0-0 0

Totals 16-36 25-39 5-19 24 18 64


Three-point field goals:
El Dorado 0-9 (Tr.Simmons 0-4, Tate 0-2, Cunningham 0-1, White 0-1, Sewajo 0-1), Bryant 7-14 (Ty.Simmons 4-5, Hill 2-3, Rayburn 1-2, McKissock 0-2, Giles 0-2). Turnovers: El Dorado 18, Bryant 8. 

The Hornets celebrate their victory. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

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