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By Jeff Halpern | Photos by Tommy Land

BRYANT — Every time the Bryant Hornets made a run, the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats found a way to respond.

The No. 1-ranked Charging Wildcats (16-3, 4-1 6A Central) pulled away for a 72-54 victory over Bryant at Hornet Arena in a game in which the Hornets (11-5, 4-1) overcame a 27-17 deficit to close to 33-29 at halftime. Bryant tied the score at 40-40 in the third quarter and trailed 44-43 before North Little Rock took a 53-45 lead going into the fourth quarter before pulling away.

“We didn’t play our best game,” said North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice. “We played really bad in the first half and really selfish. We talked about that at halftime. We outworked them in the paint in the second half. 

“We talked about what travels and that’s defense and rebounding. In the first half we didn’t do any of that. In the second half we did. We needed that. That’s not fun. That’s exactly what we need down the stretch. The student section was right there. That was the best crowd we played in front of in two years.”

Trailing 27-17 in the second quarter, Gabe George made two three-pointers to close it to 27-20 and 29-23. A four-point play by Khassen Robinson closed it to 31-27. After Nick Smith made two free throws with 36.1 seconds left to put North Little Rock ahead 33-27, Robinson made one of two at the foul line to close it to 33-29 with 5 seconds left in the half.

After Smith opened the second half with a three-point play to make it 36-29, Robinson scored to make it 36-31. Following a basket by Kel’el Ware to make it 38-31, George, Patrick Newburn and Robinson had three pointers to tie the game at 40-40.

Baskets by North Little Rock’s Corey Washington and Ware put the Charging Wildcats up 44-40 before Newburn made another 3-pointer to close it 44-43. Ware scored to make it 46-43 starting a 9-1 run to end the third quarter that saw Smith and Washington account for seven of those points.

Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson was proud of his team’s effort but acknowledged that his team was not out for the moral victory.

“We know with them when times get tough, they go harder,” Abrahamson said. “Nick would shoot it and run and get the rebound. Corey would run and get the rebound. Keeping them in front of you is hard. “They make winning plays. They put a lot of pressure on you and are hard to deal with.”

North Little Rock out-rebounded Bryant 26-17 and shot 16-of-19 free throws while Bryant was 10-of1-2, two factors Abrahamson said were the big differences in the game.

“Rebounding and the foul line,” said Abrahamson. "We had us at minus -1 at half and minus-14 at the end of the game and that told the story.”

Smith led the Charging Wildcats with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Washington and 23 point and 6 rebounds. Ware had 19 points and 5 rebounds.

“They were pushing and shoving,” Rice said, “Kel’el responded. He missed some shots he normally doesn’t but that’s part of playing on the road.”

Robinson led the Hornets in scoring with 31 points while making 6-of-16 3-pointers and 7-of-8 free throws. George had 12 points and Drake Fowler had 11 points and three rebounds.

The Hornets, who shot 22-of-46 from the floor, made 11-of-25 three pointers in the game.

“They hit shots and maybe had a couple guys we didn’t scout on,” Rice said. “They worked the shot clock and have some good players who can shoot. They have big guys who do what they’re supposed to do.”

Abrahamson said, “We came here to win. We want to play up to our standards. I’m Proud of kids’ effort. There’s a lot to learn from.”

NORTH LITTLE ROCK 62, BRYANT 50 (GIRLS)

North Little Rock (15-3, 3-1) saw Bryant (10-6, 1-4) used a 12-0 run in the second and third quarter to tie the game at 28-28 and 37-37 and trailed 44-41 at the end of the third quarter before pulling away.

The Lady Hornets used 3-pointer by Lauren Lain, a free throw by Parris Atkins, a basket off a turnover by Atkins, a jumper by Atkins and a basket by Lain at the end of the half to cut the halftime deficit to 28-26.

Atkins opened the second half scoring on the break to tie the game 28-28 before North Little Rock responded with two free throws by April Edwards, a basket by Amauri Wiliams off a feed from Garin Freeman and a three-pointer by Freeman to make it 35-29.

Trailing 37-31, Atkins made 1-of-2 free throws to close it to 37-32. Atkins had a jumper to close it 37-34 and Emileigh Muise made a three pointer to tie it at 37-37.

Jasirae Vick made a 3-pointer to break the tie and put the Lady Charging Wildcats up 40-37. Ja’Miya Brown scored on an assist from Edwards to make it 42-37. After Muse made a jumper to make it 42-39, Kyrianna Jones made two free throws to put the Charging Wildcats ahead 44-39 before Atkins made two free throws to close it to 44-41.

Brown and Destine Duckworth scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to put North Little Rock ahead 48-41 and built its lead over the final period, making 11-of-12 free throws in the final period.

“Mid third quarter to early fourth quarter, our shooting percentage was not good enough to hang in there and that’s a tough team to come back on,” said Bryant Catch Brad Matthews. “They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. That’ s a really talented team. I’m proud of our effort.”

The Lady Hornets shot 5-of-13 in the third quarter and 8-of-24 in the second half, making 1-of-10 three pointers.

“We made some free throws,” said North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple. “We lost our composure for a little bit. Brad’s bunch played so hard. Paris played great and the supporting cast helped here.”

Vick led the Lady Charging Wildcats with 13 points, making 3-of-4 3-pointers. Edwards had 12 points and Williams had 10 points and nine rebounds.

“When you throw it to Amauri a lot of good things happen,” Fimple said. In the second half, we did a good job. We were lethargic in the first half.”

Atkins led the Lady Hornets with 27 points and 7 rebounds.

“Give credit to them,” Matthews said. “Their kids played well. Our kids played hard and competed. If we make two or three more plays, it’s a different game.”

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