Another goal was accomplished last week by the Maumelle Hornets, but it wasn’t easy.
The Hornets (23-7) won the 4A-North region title last week in Lincoln. After a first round blowout over Gravette, 75-57, Maumelle had to fight for its next two victories. The Hornets defeated conference foe Pottsville, 79-76, in the semifinals and edged Lincoln, 73-72 in overtime, in the finals.
Next up, the 4A state tournament at Lonoke where Maumelle meets the Stuttgart-Nashville winner at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
"It was good to be tested and good to know we can come back and win," Maumelle Coach Michael Shook said. "(In the last two games) Both of them we were down at halftime, and in the Lincoln game by double digits in the first half. It helped the kids’ confidence."
This year the Hornets are in the same situation they were last season, but Shook wants a different outcome. Also region champs last year, Maumelle received a first-round bye but lost 48-37 to Brookland. Immediately after winning the region title Saturday night, Shook talked to his players.
"I mentioned how proud I was of them, but also reminded them of last year," he said. "I told them a lot of people were going to tell them they were good but not to listen to that. If we get overconfident, we’ll get exposed like last year."
Shook had many reasons to be pleased about last week’s performances in the regional tournament. He was extremely happy the way the Falcons played against Gravette. Kendall Donnerson finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds, JB Minix added 12 points and Tyshun Robinson contributed 10.
"We were a little nervous early," Shook said. "I could tell a year of experience and having everyone back made us more comfortable. Last year, we were shell-shocked, even me."
In the Pottsville contest, Shook said the difference was rebounding in the second half. In the first half, the Hornets didn’t get the second-chance shots but ended up outrebounding the Apaches. Another plus was free-throw shooting (13-of-18) and only five turnovers. Minix finished with 22 points, Robinson added 15 and Donnerson chipped in 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"I knew Minix had been playing well, but thought he had 12-14 points," Shook said. "Donnerson scored all his points in the second half and had seven of his 10 rebounds. That was a big help. Because it is a friendly rivalry, we were drained after that game."
The Lincoln victory was a team effort. Because of fatigue, some of the reserve players had to step up and play minutes they don’t normally get in a close game. Shook said they did a good job of fulfilling their roles. Robinson, who led the Hornets with 21 points, hit a three-pointer in regulation at the buzzer to send the game to overtime. Donnerson added 18 points, and Gary Burton finished with 11.
"After Robinson hit the three-pointer at the buzzer, I had a feeling," Shook said. "The kids’ response was this is meant to happen, and we’ve got his now. We played well in overtime.