Photos by Kevin Nagle
When Randy Thomas hit two free throws with 4:55 left in the Bryant Hornets’ freshman game against the Lake Hamilton Junior Wolves on Monday night, it gave Bryant a 42-40 lead. And Kajuan Robinson followed up with a steal. Thomas got a look at a 3 but it refused to fall.
At the other end, Lake Hamilton’s Sabby Vinson hit a running jumper, then Brennan Gibson made a steal and drove for a layup.
That started an 11-2 run for the Wolves that produced a 51-44 lead with less than a minute to go.
Blaise Smith provided the only basket to interrupt that flurry and he drove for another to end it with :38 left. A miss by Lake Hamilton’s Clyde Hill gave the Hornets a chance to trim the margin further and Daelin Drake took advantage with a driving layup as he was fouled at the :17 mark.
After a timeout by Bryant, Drake missed on the free-throw try but the carom was tapped around and eventually came back to him. He quickly made another move to the hoop and scored to cut the margin to 51-50.
With :10 left, Lake Hamilton’s Mondo Watkins was fouled. He made just one giving the Hornets a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the closing seconds. But a turnover with :02 left spoiled their chances as the Wolves held on for a 52-50 victory.
“That’s just not typical of this team,” said Bryant coach Tyler Posey, regarding the scoring drought down the stretch. “We’ve done a really good job of staying with the system, playing better team basketball. We just had a stretch where we got away from the system. I’m not sure what happened. It kind of cost us a little bit.
“We had a couple that wanted to be the hero and a couple that wanted to kind of let someone else take it away,” he added. “We’ve got to get a better balance on that. That’s something we’re definitely going to be working on the next couple of days in practice, to try to push this team to where I know they can go.”
The Hornets, now 2-4, travels to North Little Rock on Thursday.
Lake Hamilton had four players score in double figures led by guard Lane Kersey with 12. Watkins, Vinson and Gibson each had 11 and Hill 7. The Wolves attacked the basket all night on offense. That resulted in a lot of layups (as indicated by their 61 percent shooting from the field (20 of 33) and 22 free-throw attempts (with 11 makes) compared to Bryant’s 6 of 11 from the line.
For Bryant, Thomas broke out with a 23-point, 12-rebound performance. Smith finished with 9 points and seven boards. Rodney Lambert scored 5, Robinson and Drake 4 each. Henry Terry hit a 3 and Tyler O’Neal scored 2.
The Hornets out-rebounded the Wolves’ 35-20 including 19 boards on the offensive end. That produced 53 shot attempts, of which they converted 21 times (40 percent).
The Wolves led much of the first half. They surged to turn a 7-6 edge into a 17-6 lead before a pair of offensive-rebound baskets by Thomas in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter to make it 17-10.
The Hornets continued to surge, completing a 10-0 run with a pair of free throws by Thomas after Kajuan Robinson had scored inside. Kersey drove for a basket to keep the Wolves ahead then Watkins added a free throw to make it 20-16.
Bryant resumed its push with a three-point play by Thomas off a nice feed inside by Alex Blair. Moments later, Smith found Terry with a kick-out pass. Terry drained a 3 to give the Hornets a 22-20 advantage.
Gibson hit a free throw then Lambert drove for a basket. Two free throws from Kersey made it 24-23 going into the final minute.
Both teams missed chances to change that score at the free-throw line but the score didn’t change going into the break.
Hill hit a layup to give Lake Hamilton the lead early in the third quarter but a three-point play off the offensive boards by Smith put Bryant back on top. Smith hit an 8-footer then Thomas scored inside to stretch the Hornets’ lead to 31-25.
Lake Hamilton called a timeout with 3:08 left in the quarter. At that point, the Wolves had only been able to attempt three shots while the Hornets had converted 3 of 8 from the field.
The Wolves rallied to regain the upper hand, 34-33 but a drive by Kajuan Robinson had the Hornets back on top. Over the next minute, Bryant’s Josh Robinson took a change on a drive by Hill — the only one of the night for the Hornets, despite Lake Hamilton’s constant driving. After a Bryant miss, Josh Robinson blocked a shot by Watkins only to have him follow up to put Lake Hamilton up 36-35.
It appeared the Hornets got a big momentum swing, however, when Lambert nailed a 3 from the corner to beat the buzzer ending the quarter, giving Bryant a 38-36 lead.
Gibson drove for a bucket to tie the game. Drake fed Thomas inside to get the Hornets back in front. Kersey cashed in a drive to the rack to knot it. Thomas was fouled following his own miss for Bryant, making it a 42-40 game before the Wolves’ run began.