For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here
CONWAY — For much of the night on Thursday, the Conway Blue Wampus Cats eighth-grade team struggled just to get into an offense in the half-court. Such was the defensive pressure for the Bryant White Hornets of Bryant Middle School.
The Hornets rolled out to a 10-1 lead to start the game at Buzz Bolding Arena and they never looked back. Everyone got some playing time as Bryant White dashed to a 45-24 victory.
Khasen Robinson, Will Diggins and Landyn Newburn each scored 8 points to lead the way. Isaiah Kearney added 6 with Daizure Hale, Cameron Boothe, Caleb Carter and Calvin Myles scored 3 apiece.
“This is a really good group,” acknowledged Hornets coach John Harrison. “They do things right and work hard. Yesterday’s practice went real well. Monday’s practice went real well. So, they’re buying in and doing everything I ask them to do.”
The Hornets rolled to a 22-point lead in the first half and, after the Cats whittled on it a bit in the second half, had a 22-point advantage again late in the game.
“Our press, when it’s effective, it’s good,” Harrison said. “These kids really get after you. And they’re so good at just making plays — the intangibles, being able to find the open guy quickly. They’re just so good at doing it. These guys have been playing basketball for a long time and it shows.”
The win improved the Hornets to 11-3 going into a final showdown against their crosstown rivals, Bryant Blue of Bethel Middle School on Monday night at the Bryant Middle School gym. They host Russellville on Feb. 1, travel back to Conway to play Blue on Feb. 6 before wrapping up their season on Feb. 8 hosting Conway White.
The Hornets scored the game’s first 8 points. Robinson hit a 3, Hale added a free throw and Diggins scored inside. Off a Conway turnover, Kearney hit a layup.
After a free throw for Conway Blue, Robinson made a steal and hit a scoop shot to make it 10-1.
Before the quarter was over, Gavin Burton hit a 3 and Robinson hit his second triple as he scored all 8 of his points in the opening period.
A basket by Hale to start the second-quarter scoring gave the Hornets a 19-5 lead. The Cats cut it back to a 10-point margin then the Hornets put together another surge which produced that 22-point lead. Kearney hit a short jumper.
Moments later, he was fouled and missed both shots but the ball went out of bounds off the Cats. On the resulting possession, the Hornets got the ball inside to Diggins. He was fouled and converted both shots at the line.
A driving jumper from Newburn, a steal by Robinson and a layup by Newburn made it 27-9. Diggins added a layup to make it a 20-point lead. Newburn scored off a baseline drive and it was 31-9 with :40 left in the half.
Conway Blue hit a 3 before in the final 30 seconds to make it 31-12 at the half.
And when Cameron Boothe started the second-half scoring and Caleb Carter added a free throw, the lead was back up to 22.
The Cats put together a 9-0 run to trim the margin to 34-21 but a basket by Newburn off an inbounds play in the final minute of the third quarter, made it a 15-point game going into the final quarter.
Two free throws for Conway Blue had the Cats within 36-23 but Bryant put the game away with a 9-0. Run that included baskets by Diggins, Carter and Kearney plus a 3 by Calvin Myles.