By Rob Patrick
Photos by Kevin Nagle
VILONIA — The Bryant Hornets freshman team played hustling, hard-nosed man-to-man defense in[more] their season debut on Monday night. Against most teams, particularly at this stage of the season, that would’ve probably produced lots of turnovers and easy scoring opportunities.
But the Hornets were opening against a Vilonia team that looked in mid-season form. The Junior Eagles not only endured the Bryant defense, they were able to pull off a 42-23 victory behind the play of 6-4 eighth grader Matt Stanley who finished with 12 points and three rebounds.
“The kids played hard,” said the Hornets new coach Mike Simmons, who headed up the program at Mountain View last year. “Having most of the kids out for four practices after football season, you could tell, they’re just not in basketball shape. We’ve gone through about a tenth of what we need to go through. But they play hard so they’ll get better every time we step on the floor.
“They just played a team that has pretty much got all their kids in off-season basketball and they’re a lot further ahead than we are right now,” he noted.
Not only is Simmons just getting his football players but he’s trying to bring together two groups from opposing eighth grade teams. Plus, there have been some move-ins.
“Two junior high teams and maybe five moved in so, yes, it takes a while to mesh and, like I said, we’ve had four days of practice together,” he acknowledged. “I’m disappointed losing but I know this team is going to do nothing but get better and better every time we step on the floor.”
The rust showed up mostly in their shooting. The Hornets were 10 of 34 (29 percent) and 3 of 12 at the free-throw line.
Kevin Hunt led the team with 6 points. Clay Ingold added 4, Cameron Murray and Alex Oneal 3 each, and Evan Lee and Demaja Price 2 apiece. Savonte Turner, Lee and Murray each had three rebounds for the Hornets who had nine different players pull down boards as they kept pace with the Junior Eagles who had the edge overall just 27-26.
Along with Stanley, Josh Green scored 8 points, Jackson Berry 7 and Tripp Reed 6 for the Junior Eagles. Berry collected a game-high eight rebounds.
The key for Vilonia, however, was point guard Austin Newell who handled a lot of the Bryant pressure defense.
The Hornets’ lone lead of the game was 3-2 after a basket by Hunt and a free throw by Oneal. A three-point play by Berry put the Eagles up for good as it turned out, starting a 12-3 run to end the first quarter.
On a free throw by Dagan Carden and a post-up basket by Murray off a feed from Quinton Royal interrupted the run.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter. Hunt and Lee had Bryant’s buckets. After Greer gave Vilonia an 18-10 edge, Murray hit a free throw and Price hit a 12-footer to cut the lead to 5. But another three-point play, this time by Stanley, and a long-range 3-pointer by Reed extended the lead to 10.It was 23-15 at the half and 28-15 in the third quarter before Oneal ended a Bryant drought. Hunt made a steal and layup to trim the lead to 9 and force a Vilonia timeout. When play resumed, Turner made a steal for the Hornets but a turnover cost them the opportunity.
Bryant forced another Vilonia miscue but missed free throws kept them from slicing the lead further. This time, Reed pumped in another 3 and the Eagles took a 33-19 lead into the fourth quarter.
Stanley scored the first two buckets of the fourth quarter and the Eagles led by double digits the rest of the way despite late baskets by Clay Ingold and Kameron Guillory.
The Hornets return to action on Thursday when they travel to Watson Chapel. They’ll host the Bryant Invitational starting Monday, Nov. 12. They’ll open at the Bryant Middle School gym at 7:45 p.m., against Maumelle.
The tournament also includes Conway White, Pulaski Academy, North Little Rock, Hot Springs, Lake Hamilton and Benton.
JUNIOR EAGLES 42, JUNIOR HORNETS 23
Score by quarters
BRYANT 6 9 4 4 — 23
Vilonia 14 9 10 9 — 42
JUNIOR HORNETS 23
Oneal 1-4 1-2 3, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Hunt 3-7 0-0 6, Thornton 0-0 0-0 0, Carden 0-1 1-2 1, Murray 1-3 1-6 3, Royal 0-4 0-0 0, Lee 1-2 0-0 2, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Price 1-3 0-0 2, Watson 0-3 0-1 0, Ingold 2-5 0-0 4, Turner 0-1 0-1 0, Croom 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Guillory 1-1 0-0 2, Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-34 3-12 23.
JUNIOR EAGLES 42
Jacob Berry 2-6 0-0 4, Greer 4-8 0-0 8, Jackson Berry 3-6 2-3 7, Newell 1-4 0-0 2, Thomas 1-2 0-0 2, Stanley 5-9 2-4 12, Harper 0-0 0-0 0, Paladino 0-1 0-0 0, Reed 2-5 0-2 6, Payne 0-0 0-0 0, Luck 0-0 0-0 0, Wood 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-41 4-9 42.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 0-3 (Oneal 0-1, Hunt 0-1, Royal 0-1), Vilonia 2-11 (Reed 2-5, Greer 0-3, Jacob Berry 0-1, Newell 0-1, Stanley 0-1). Rebounds: Bryant 26 (Murray 3, Turner 3, Lee 3). Turnovers: Bryant 15, Vilonia 14. Team fouls: Bryant 11, Vilonia 13.