BRYANT – It wasn’t exactly the way Bryant Hornets’ Coach Mike Abrahamson drew up the play, but C.J. Rainey found a way to achieve the desired result.
Rainey took a pass on the right side of the floor, curled into the lane and hit a layup with 6.6 seconds to go to tie the game at 43. His free throw after drawing contact gave the Hornets a 44-43 win over the Little Rock Fair Eagles on Friday. The Hornets defeated Pine Bluff 42-41 on Tuesday for their first 7A/6A South win.
“We know to stay patient and stay poised,” Abrahamson said, “and C.J. knows to keep working it. He’s played a lot of minutes for us and made a lot of plays.”
The Eagles had a two-point lead thanks to Antonio Pointer who finished with 15 points for Fair.
In less than a one-minute stretch, Pointer hit a three, stole an inbounds pass after a travel call and converted an easy layup with 32.1 seconds to go to give Fair a one-point lead.
Pointer then stepped to the foul line and hit a foul shot to put the Eagles up 43-41 with 22 seconds to go.
But in that final minute, the Eagles struggled from the foul line. Head Coach Charlie Johnson said it was the key to his team’s loss.
“You are on the road in a conference game,” Johnson said. “You have to hit free throws. We only hit 1 of 4 down the stretch.”
Abrahamson said neither team seemed aggressive in the first quarter.
“Seemed like we were just feeling each other out,” Abrahamson said.
Jerrick Cole’s pull-up jumper on the right elbow with 5:23 to go in the first quarter was the first points of the game for either team.
It took an entire minute for the Hornets to answer thanks to a bucket by Romen Martin. His subsequent free throw bounced off the right side of the rim to keep the game tied at two.
Fair managed to build a 6-3 lead, but with nine seconds to go in the first, Rainey snagged a rebound and dribbled the length of the floor, spun into the lane in traffic and cut the Eagles’ lead to one at 6-5 just before the first-quarter buzzer.
Neither team could make baskets consistently in the first quarter. In the second, neither could miss.
A three in the first 20 seconds of the second quarter by Cole pushed Fair ahead four. Cole hit again after a Hornets’ turnover giving him five straight before Kevin Hunt laid one in off the front of the rim and Rainey hit a short turnaround to cut Fair’s lead to two at 11-9.
While the two teams combined for 11 points in the first quarter, the two teams exceeded 11 points each by halftime.
Rainey’s three at the four-second mark put Bryant up at at halftime, 21-18.
Bryant picked up in the third where they left off at halftime. Martin’s three doubled the Hornets’ cushion to six at 24-18.
Meanwhile, Fair came up empty on their first four offensive trips of the third quarter which allowed the Hornets to build a 27-18 lead.
That’s when Nick Jones stepped up for the Eagles
Jones broke Fair’s scoreless streak at the 4:58 mark of the third when a bucket and a free throw cut Bryant’s advantage to six. Jones hit consecutive 3-point shots from the right corner to go on a personal 9-0 run and tie the score at 27 with 3:22 to go in the third causing Abrahamson to call timeout after Jones’ second trey.
The Eagles took the lead on their next trip on a pair of foul shots by Pointer.
But Bryant quickly snatched the lead back on a three by Martin to give the Hornets a 30-29 lead. The Hornets scored the game’s next four points to take a 34-29 lead going into the final quarter. Martin finished the game with 10 points.
Cole hit a pair of threes in the opening minute of the fourth to give Fair a quick one-point lead.
But the Hornets came back with six straight including a pair of driving layups by Kevin Hunt who scored a dozen on the night.
A Hunt foul shot pushed Bryant up by four at 41-37 with 2:27 to go.