Sparked by the 3-point shooting of Berkarion Black, the Watson Chapel Wildcats freshman team answered a third-quarter surge that had the Bryant Hornets freshman ahead 30-29 Thursday night. Black, who hit a trio of triples in the second half, helped his team push out to a 42-33 lead before Bryant rallied behind Rodney Lambert. Though the Hornets cut the lead to 5 twice, the Wildcats held on for a 46-39 win in the season opener for both teams.
The Hornets did a great job of getting to the free-throw line, attempting 30 shots from the line to just 13 for Chapel. But, after hitting 10 of 14 in the first half, they struggled in the second, converting just 3 of 16 in the second half.
“I’ve had so many guys out in football, it just didn’t seem like we had our legs really under us,” said Bryant coach Tyler Posey. “We’ve got to get into a little bit better shape and we’ve got to value the basketball a little bit more. We had a few turnovers. We got the first-game jitters out of the way, hopefully.”
The Hornets suffered 16 turnovers but just four during the second half. They out-rebounded the Wildcats, however, 33-28.
It just seemed like they were always playing from behind, though they continued to battle back.
“We gave a lot of fight,” Posey stated. “We gave all we had and that’s a great thing to see. The effort’s absolutely there. When we get a couple of the technicalities worked out and the rotation set a little bit better, I think we’ve got a shot to be a pretty good team.”
Chapel led 6-2 with 1:33 left in the first half. A three-point play by Henry Terry spurred the first rally of the game. After DeJuan Harris scored for the Wildcats, Kajuan Robinson converted two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound to make it 8-7. An illegal screen cost Chapel possession in the final seconds of the quarter and Lambert drilled a running jumper to beat the buzzer, giving the Hornets a 9-8 edge.
Lambert would finish with 11 points. Blaise Smith paced the Hornets with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Off a nice inbounds pass from Tyler O’Neal, Michael Chatman added to the lead early in the second quarter. Lambert converted a free throw at the 5:26 mark and the Hornets had their largest lead of the game at 12-8.
But, moments later, Black drilled the first of his four 3-pointers in the game to spark a Watson Chapel rally. Before Smith ended a drought for the Hornets with two free throws at the 3:14 mark, the Wildcats had surged to a 15-12 lead.
Along with Smith’s free throws, fruitful trips to the line by O’Neal had the Hornets within a point going into the final minute of the half but Black drove for a layup and the Wildcats held a 21-18 lead at the break.
Black wound up leading all scorers with 18 points. Harris had 10 for Chapel.
The Wildcats led 26-23 after Henry followed his own miss at the 3:08 mark of the third quarter when Black nailed a 3 to make it a 6-point game. Robinson hit a free throw, Smith scored inside and Lambert scored down low to cut the lead to 29-28 despite a Chapel timeout.
After a held ball gave Bryant possession, Lambert missed a 3 but Smith rebounded and missed only to follow up. He scored and was fouled. Though he couldn’t get the free throw to fall, the Hornets were up 30-29 with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
Chapel regained the lead with a basket by Gray and, after a pair of missed at the line for Bryant, Black drained a trey to make it 34-30 going into the fourth quarter.
Black’s final triple opened the scoring in the fourth. Kavon Mitchell added a free throw for the Wildcats and it was 38-30.
Smith scored to end Bryant’s dryspell but a pair of hoops from Harris pushed the lead to 42-33. That’s when Lambert went on his spree. Though he missed two free throws, he drove for layups on three consecutive trips up the floor. But a chance for a three-point play on the third layup went by the boards with another miss at the line. Moments later, O’Neal missed a pair.
It was a scramble over the final 1:52 with multiple turnovers and missed shots. Chapel put the seal on the victory with a basket with :29 to go.
The Hornets’ next outing will be Monday, Nov. 16, in the first round of the Bryant Invitational Tournament. They’ll take on Hot Springs Lakeside at 7:30 p.m., at the Bryant Middle School gym.
WATSON CHAPEL 46, BRYANT 39
Score by quarters
Wildcats 8 13 13 12 — 46
HORNETS 9 9 12 9 — 39
WATSON CHAPEL 46
Mitchell 2-8 2-4, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 5-10 0-1 10, Black 7-13 0-2 18, Kendal 1-3 0-0 2, Gray 3-4 0-0 6, Shelton 0-2 0-0 0, Clay 0-0 0-0 0, Urquhart 0-0 2-4 2, Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Neal 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 19-44 4-13 46.
Drake 0-1 0-0 0, Terry 2-5 1-1 5, J.Robinson 0-1 0-0 0, Blair 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 5-12 4-12 14, Lambert 5-7 1-7 11, K.Robinson 0-2 3-4 3, Chatman 1-1 0-0 2, O’Neal 0-0 4-6 0. Totals 13-31 13-30 39.
Three-point field goals: Bryant 0-7 (Terry 0-3, Lambert 0-2, J.Robinson 0-1, Smith 0-1), Watson Chapel 4-7 (Black 4-6, Harris 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 16, Watson Chapel 10. Rebounds: Bryant 33 (Smith 14, K.Robinson 6), Watson Chapel 28 (Harris 5). Team fouls: Bryant 15, Watson Chapel 22. Fouled out: Watson Chapel, Kendal.