By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
The Bryant Hornets freshman team just had no answer for Little Rock Catholic’s[more] Lance Thomas. Those that were strong enough weren’t quick enough and those quick enough weren’t strong enough.
Thomas poured in 25 points including 13 of 15 free throws and collected 14 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 40-33 win over the Hornets, spoiling Bryant’s final home game of the season on Monday night.
The Hornets close out the regular season this Thursday at Conway Blue with the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference tournament to follow. Monday’s loss to the Rockets means the Hornets will probably be opening the tourney in the play-in game on Monday, Feb. 11, at 6 p.m., against either Cabot North or in a rematch with Catholic, as the eighth and ninth seeds. Whichever team finishes as the eighth seed will host the game.
Bryant broke out to a 4-0 lead when Cameron Murray followed his own miss and scored then Kris Croom canned a driving jumper from the lane.
Catholic followed with a 8-1 stretch to end the first quarter with Thomas contributing three free throws including two in the final second to add to the Rockets’ 6-5 edge.
Jaelynn Jones made a steal and scored inside off a nice feed from Dagan Carden to start the second quarter but the Hornets could only add three free throws the rest of the half. With Thomas scoring his team’s next 10 points, Catholic closed the half leading 20-10.
The Hornets put together a run of their own to start the third quarter. Kevin Hunt scored off the offensive glass then Simeon Watson drove for a layup that resulted in a three-point play. And when Hunt drained a 15-footer and was fouled, producing another three-point play, Bryant was within 20-18 less than two minutes into the half.
But Thomas’ stickback stopped the Hornets’ momentum. A layup off a run-out by Andre Sale pushed the lead to 24-18.
Again, however, the Hornets rallied. Watson fed Murray for a bucket then Croom hit a free throw when the Rockets’ head coach Tim Glancy was hit with a technical foul after disputing a call. On the subsequent possession, Watson was fouled and added another free throw to close the gap to 24-22 with 2:17 left in the third quarter.
Thomas hit two free throws but Murray answered off a feed from Croom after Murray had made a steal on the defensive end.
Bryant had a chance to tie or take the lead but suffered a turnover and, with :25 left in the period, Ethan Elia scored to give the Rockets a 28-24 edge going into the final stanza.
The Hornets were never able to get that close again. Chad Wharton opened the final period with a slashing move to the hoop for a bucket and, after the teams traded turnovers, Thomas went to the line and converted twice.
Murray and Croom managed free throws over the next minute but what could’ve been 6 points wound up being half that and Catholic still held a 32-27 lead before Thomas converted both ends of a one-and-one with 3:06 to go to make it a 7-point game.
A driving layup by Watson cut it to 34-29 with 2:39 left but a big play followed. Sale was fouled but missed the front end. The Hornets, however, could not keep Thomas for getting to the rebound and he scored.
He would do the same thing in the final minute. The Hornets, trailing 38-31, fouled Will Stafford with :27.3 showing. Stafford missed both shots but somehow Thomas scrambled for the rebound and scored to squelch the Hornets’ lingering hopes.
Murray and Croom finished with 9 points each for Bryant. Hunt had 7, Watson 6 and Jones 2.
JUNIOR ROCKETS 40, JUNIOR HORNETS 33
Score by quarters
Catholic 8 12 8 12 — 40
BRYANT 5 5 14 9 — 33
LITTLE ROCK CATHOLIC 40
Wharton 2-6 0-0 4, Stafford 0-0 0-2 0, Thomas 6-13 13-15 25, Sowell 0-0 0-0 0, Sale 3-9 1-4 7, Thompson 1-3 0-0 2, Elia 1-1 0-0 2, Enderlin 0-4 0-0 0, Meyers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-37 14-21 40.
Watson 2-5 2-3 6, Hunt 2-6 3-4 7, Croom 1-9 7-10 9, Ingold 0-0 0-0 0, Murray 4-7 1-3 9, Jones 1-2 0-0 2, Carden 0-1 0-0 0, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Lee 0-0 0-0 0, Oneal 0-2 0-0 0, Gentry 0-0 0-0 0, Guillory 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-32 13-20 33.
Three-point field goals: LR Catholic 0-8 (Wharton 0-2, Thomas 0-2, Thompson 0-2, Enderlin 0-2), Bryant 0-10 (Hunt 0-3, Croom 0-3, Watson 0-2, Oneal 0-2). Rebounds: LR Catholic 33 (Thomas 14), Bryant 18 (Croom 6). Turnovers: LR Catholic 18, Bryant 17. Team fouls: LR Catholic 15, Bryant 18. Fouled out: LR Catholic, Wharton. Technical foul: LR Catholic coach Glancy.