By Rob Patrick
The Bryant Hornets freshman team held off a second-half rally by the Lake Hamilton Junior Wolves to capture their fourth win in a row and fifth in the last six games, 33-28, on Thursday, Jan. 29.
The Hornets led by 10 midway through the third quarter only to have Lake Hamilton whittle it down to 3 early in the fourth. Bryant built the margin back to 8 before the Wolves sliced it to 3 again in the final two minutes.In the latter case, Cody McPherson and Brantley Cozart hit clutch free throws to keep the Hornets ahead.
The win improved Bryant to 12-8 overall and 6-5 in the South Division of the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference. More importantly, the team is on a roll as the regular-season winds down and the league’s post-season tournament looms. If they can continue to win through the final three games, they could be a darkhorse to win the tourney. But they’ll have to wade through three of the top teams in the division, North Little Rock on Monday, Feb. 2, Cabot South on Thursday, Feb. 5, and Benton on Monday, Feb. 9.The tournament begins Saturday, Feb. 14, at Greenbrier.
The Hornets got out to a fast start thanks in large part to a pair of steals by Derek Johnson. The first led to a 3-pointer by Cozart, the second resulted in a basket for Johnson who scored after he rebounded a teammate’s miss.McPherson added a pair of free throws and it was 6-0.
Lake Hamilton’s Landon Meeks hit a 3 but that proved to be his team’s only field goal until just 1:20 was left in the half.
The Hornets led 10-3 at the end of the first quarter as Johnson and Cozart added buckets.Neither team scored through the first 2:30 of the second quarter. Finally, L.J. McLaughlin followed his own miss to bump the advantage to 12-3.
Bryant led 17-8 at the end of the half, which was capped off by a last-second jumper from McLaughlin.
The Wolves trimmed into the margin on a free throw by Dante Ransom and a layup from Levi Runyan but Johnson, who led the Hornets with 9 points and eight rebounds, hit the offensive glass for a basket and McPherson hit another pair of free throws to give Bryant its largest lead at 21-11 with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
The Hornets, however, just couldn’t shake the Wolves, who used full-court pressure and a quicker pace on offense, whittled the margin down to 23-18 by the end of the quarter with Blake Tilley drilling a 3 with :07 left. And when Cody Brickell started the fourth quarter with a stickback, the lead was down to 3.
But the Hornets busted the press for back-to-back layups by Jonathan Parks and Tyler Nelson to re-establish themselves. And when Parks hit a free throw with 4:01 to go, it was 28-20.
Another 3 by Tilley fueled Lake Hamilton’s last-gasp. Moments later, Dalton Daniels hit a layup and the Wolves were within 28-25 with 1:23 left.
With 1:14 to go, McPherson, who scored all 7 of his points from the line, converted twice in the clutch.Tilley got a look from the arc again but couldn’t get the shot to go down. Yet, the Wolves got another chance after a Bryant miss. The Hornets, however, forced a turnover and, with :41.5 showing, Cozart hit a free throw.He missed the second but Johnson scrambled after the rebound and got it back to Cozart who went back up for a shot only to miss.Tilley answered with his third 3 with :13 showing to trim the margin to 31-28 but, with :07.6 to go, McPherson sealed the victory with two more from the charity stripe.
JUNIOR HORNETS 33, JUNIOR WOLVES 28
Score by quarters
Lake Hamilton 3 5 10 10 — 28
BRYANT 10 7 6 10 — 33
JUNIOR WOLVES 28
Tilley 3-9 0-0 9, Ransom 0-1 1-3 1, Daniels 2-8 0-0 4, Runyan 1-3 0-2 2, Meeks 2-7 1-2 6, Jessup 0-0 0-2 0, Porter 2-4 0-0 4, Brickell 1-3 0-0 2, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 11-36 2-9 28.
JUNIOR HORNETS 33Cozart 2-7 1-2 6, McPherson 0-5 7-8 7, Nelson 1-5 0-0 2, Johnson 4-7 1-4 9, McLaughlin 3-8 0-0 6, Motto 0-2 0-1 0, Parks 1-2 1-2 3, Trudell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-36 10-17 33.
Three-point field goals: Lake Hamilton 4-15 (Tilley 3-8, Meeks 1-3, Porter 0-2, Ransom 0-1, Daniels 0-1), Bryant 1-7 (Cozart 1-3, McPherson 0-2, Nelson 0-2). Rebounds: Lake Hamilton 19 (Meeks, Ransom, Porter 4), Bryant 35 (Johnson 8, McLaughlin 6). Turnovers: Lake Hamilton 9, Bryant 13. Total fouls: Lake Hamilton 18, Bryant 13. Fouled out: Lake Hamilton, Runyan. Technical foul: Lake Hamilton coach.