By Rob Patrick
HOT SPRINGS — The Bryant Hornets opened play in the annual Summit Bank Spa City Shootout on Tuesday with what head coach Mike Abrahamson acknowledged was their best[more] quarter and best half of the 2010-11 season so far.
And it came against the Texas High Tigers of Texarkana, a team the Bryant coach called probably the most talented in the Shootout.
The Tigers made a second-half run but the Hornets still had a lead with under five minutes to play and the game went down to the wire.
Texarkana led 36-34 with :36 left and Kentrell Manning at the free-throw line shooting a one-and-one. Manning had missed a front end with 1:16 left so he was the right guy to have at the line in the Hornets’ view. Sure enough, Manning missed. But, on the rebound, a pair of Hornets mistimed their leap. Texarkana’s Greg Pollins went up as they came down, grabbed the carom and was fouled with :31 left.
Pollins, who led all scorers with 16 points, hit both free throws to make it 38-34.
With :21 left, the Hornets’ Quinton Motto scored on an inbounds play to trim the margin back to 2.
Abrahamson called a timeout with :19 left but the Tigers were able to keep the ball moving so that Bryant was unable to foul (though Abrahamson felt they had on a couple of occasions) before Texarkana’s Dustin Thomas got free inside for a layup that set the final score, 40-36.
It was a tough loss, particularly in light of the way the Hornets had played most of the game. They’d surged to a 16-3 lead by the end of the first quarter and held a 25-19 edge at the half.
“We came out very confident, very loose, did a really nice job defensively, got them to miss some shots, blocking out and rebounding,” Abrahamson observed. “I was very pleased with our first half. The first quarter, in particular, was probably the best quarter we’ve played all year.”
Houston Garner nailed a 3 to start the scoring in the second half, giving Bryant a 9-point advantage but the Hornets didn’t score again in the third quarter. Texarkana erased the lead, taking a 29-28 advantage into the final period.
A 3-pointer by Jordan Griffin had Bryant back on top early in the fourth. Texarkana’s Derrius Gooden then traded 3’s with Griffin before Pollins tied it with a stickback at the 4:10 mark.
“I don’t think they did anything different,” Abrahamson said of Texas High. “I don’t think we’re used to playing with a lead. We got a little tight and a little bit passive. We started being very careful shooting the ball instead of shooting it confident like we did in the first half and first quarter. It just tightened up and tightened up and tightened up. It just kind of snowballed slowly. Texas High started gaining confidence and started playing like we did in the first half. They’ve got some good players. (Pollins) is tough. (Gooden), we didn’t expect him to shoot it that well.
“The offensive rebound on the free throw hurt us,” he allowed.
With the game deadlocked, both teams had chances to take the lead. Griffin missed a running jumper in the lane but Motto rejected a shot by Manning at the other end. The teams traded turnovers and, after Quinton Minniefield misfired for the Tigers, another Bryant turnover occurred.
Texas High took a timeout with 2:06 left, setting up a play that got Pollins free for a drive into the lane. Motto, Bryant’s 6-6 junior, had blocked three shots already and went for another only to have Pollins arch his shot over the Hornets’ defender for a go-ahead basket with 1:47 left.
After a Bryant miss, Manning went to the line and came up empty. Given another chance to tie or take the lead, the Hornets turned the ball over, leading to Manning’s second trip to the line and Pollins’ game-breaking play.
“I hope it’s a good experience for us, that you’ve just got to play with confidence,” Abrahamson said. “You’ve got to play loose no matter what the situation is. That’s when you play the best.”
Griffin finished with 14 points to lead the Hornets. Motto added 11 to go with a team-high eight rebounds. Gooden added 10 to Pollins’ 16.
Motto scored 7 of his points in that opening quarter. After Pollins opened the game with a 3-pointer, Motto knocked down a pair of free throws. Later, he took a charge that led to a 3 by Griffin and the first Bryant lead at 5-3.
What turned into a 16-0 run continued with a 3 by Motto in the corner. The Hornets then got a lift off the bench from sophomore Leon Neale. After Brantley Cozart took a charge, Neal hit a reverse layup after driving the baseline. Texarkana turned it over and Neale snared a feed from Cozart for another reverse layup, making it 14-3 going into the final minute of the quarter.
The Tigers’ John McGee missed on a 3-point attempt and Griffin drove for a bucket to make it 16-3 going into the second quarter.
Texas High trimmed the margin to 16-7 early in the second before Kyle Nossaman rebounded a teammate’s miss and fed Cozart for a bucket.
Still, the Tigers got within 18-14. But Griffin hit 3 free throws in two trips and Motto connected on two more as Texarkana piled up 10 personal fouls before the Hornets had committed one.
Free throws by Minniefield and a basket by McGee on a jump hook had the Tigers within 23-18 but Bryant countered with Aaron Bell’s drive to the rack. Gooden hit a free throw in the final minute to make it 25-19 at the break.
“With us, just playing four quarters of quality basketball whether we’re down or whether they’re up is a problem,” Abrahamson said. “Slow starts or slow third quarters or fast starts and slow finishes, slow starts and fast finishers. We’ve just got to put four good quarters together. It’s probably the result of inexperience. And it’s my first year. When I look at the tape, maybe I see that I should’ve done some things differently. It’s an experience for all of us. We’ll try to get better and get one tomorrow.”
The Hornets play again at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday against Hot Springs.
TEXAS HIGH 40, BRYANT 36
Score by quarters
Texas High 3 16 10 11 — 40
BRYANT 16 9 3 8 — 36
TIGERS (7-8) 40
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Manning 0-3 2-6 0-3 3 3 2
Minniefield 0-8 2-3 2-4 6 0 2
Pollins 6-13 2-2 5-4 9 1 16
McGee 2-8 0-0 2-2 4 3 4
Thomas 2-3 0-0 1-1 2 2 4
Gooden 3-10 1-2 0-1 1 2 10
Matlock 1-2 0-0 0-0 0 1 2
Hart 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Team 2-2 4
Totals 14-47 7-13 12-17 29 12 40
HORNETS (2-9) 36
Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts
Griffin 4-8 3-3 1-2 3 2 14
Cozart 1-12 0-0 1-0 1 3 2
Nossaman 0-2 0-0 3-0 3 2 0
Garner 1-3 0-0 2-3 5 2 3
Motto 3-8 4-6 2-6 8 1 11
Bell 1-1 0-2 0-3 3 2 2
Neale 2-4 0-0 0-2 2 0 4
Moore 0-1 0-0 1-3 4 0 0
Team 1-3 4
Totals 12-39 7-11 11-22 33 12 36
Three-point field goals: Bryant 5-19 (Griffin 3-5, Garner 1-3, Motto 1-2, Cozart 0-7, Nossaman 0-1, Neale 0-1), Texas High 5-20 (Gooden 3-9, Pollins 2-5, Minniefield 0-3, McGee 0-2, Matlock 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 14, Texas High 10.