FORT SMITH – After losing to Texas High 76-66 in the second round of the Coca Cola Classic in Fort Smith on Friday, the Bryant Hornets salvaged a 1-2 showing in the tourney with a 56-49 win over Subiaco Academy on Saturday afternoon.
“We were aggressive and got to the foul line, so that was good,” Bryant Coach Mike Abrahamson said. “We shot the ball a little bit better from the outside, which really helps. We defended a little bit better than we had been.”
The Hornets (11-3) lost to the No. 1 team in the state North Little Rock in the first round and to Texas High in Round 2.
“Subiaco has three really good players to work with and some really good role players, too,” Abrahamson said. “They’re really a pretty good team. We made it hard on their top three.”
After being down early, the Hornets came back to tie it at 9-apiece after one quarter and led 29-20 at the half. Bryant got up by as many as 11 in the second half, but held at least a five-point lead the rest of the way.
“We couldn’t put them away,” Abrahamson said. “We did a good job of attacking the basket and did a good job of getting to the free-throw line, but we missed some shots around the basket that I thought we should have made. We just couldn’t put them away.”
Junior guard CJ Rainey scored 21 points, hitting three 3-pointers, to lead Bryant, with senior Tyler Simmons (two 3-pointers) adding 11 and sophomore KJ Hill with 10. Junior forward Brian Reed added eight points. The Hornets hit 24 of 31 from the free-throw line.
Despite the win, Abrahamson said his team is in some definite need of shaking some rust off.
“We just need some practice,” he said. “That’s what I’ve learned this tournament. We haven’t practiced since before we played Texas High (a 73-69 win on Dec. 21) the last time. Because of the holidays and because of the snow and because of the way the holidays fell. We just need some practice time more than anything and we’ll get it here coming up.”
The Hornets will take on rival Benton Panthers at home for both teams’ first conference game of the season on Friday, Jan. 4. Tipoff will be 7:30.
“They’re really good,” Abrahamson said of Benton. “They’re experienced and big and it’s going to be a tough task for us. It’s going to be a tough challenge to overcome those things.”