Perfection is hard to come by.
The Conway boys (22-2, 12-0) found that out first hand against a scrappy bunch from Van Buren on Friday. Nevertheless, the Wampus Cats fought through the Pointers’ aggressive first half play before posting a 63-50 victory at Wampus Cat Arena to remain unbeaten in the 7A-Central Conference.
The Conway girls (16-8, 8-4) remain alive for the second seed in the conference after clocking Van Buren 50-33.
Conway’s Kenyon McNeaill and Micah Delph led a charge in the second half that more than likely kept their season winning streak alive. McNeaill ended up with a game-high 23 points and Delph added another 22 points. Delph gave the Cats their first lead at 42-40 in the second half once he drained a 3-pointer from the wing. He followed with two from the foul line, with 3:47 left. Then, Conway’s Preston Purifoy brought the house down after he stole the ball at halfcourt and slammed it down two-handed, with 3:22 left in the third.
"We’re excited. This is a super group to work with," Conway coach James Bates said, referring to being undefeated in conference play. "I don’t know if we came out flat our what, but it seemed like Van Buren was making all of their shots in the first half. One thing that we talked about at halftime was not getting beat off the dribble, and we did a better job in the second half. We have two seniors that bring it and do a good job of leading. We have a total of four seniors who do a good job of keeping everybody loose in the locker rooms."
The Lady Cats wasted no time with disposing of Van Buren.
Conway led wire-to-wire and the Pointerettes never threatened the lead, even early. Taylor Gault, who ended with a game-high 17 points, scored the first seven points for the Lady Cats, giving them a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes.
The Lady Cats extended their lead to 15-8 when Meghan Lewis drained a 3-pointer in the left corner, with 1:04 left in the first quarter. Lewis then created a steal on the other end and went coast-to-coast for lay-up, giving the Lady Cats there biggest lead until that point at 17-8.
"At this point of the season, we should be clicking on all cylinders and I’m really proud of the girls for bouncing back after a really tough loss to Bryant," Conway coach Janet Taylor said. "The character of this team is great and they don’t stay down long. I’m very proud of our effort tonight and we got some key people in off the bench."
Conway picked up where it left off in the second quarter by expanding the margin to double-digits. After Gault hit a short-ranged pull-up jumper, the Lady Cats led 26-13, with 1:17 left before the intermission. Lewis, a senior guard who recently returned from an ankle injury, swished another 3-pointer at the top of the key for her 10th point of the half, pushing the Lady Cats’ advantage to 29-13. Conway went into the break with a comfortable 29-15 lead.
"Coach really harped on us the last time we played them up there," Lewis said. "We really wanted to come out and play aggressive on both ends of the court. We knew that we had to come out and protect our home court because we’re still fighting for a high spot in our conference. It was important that we got off to a good start tonight."
Lewis and teammate Tamara Heard ended with 10 points apiece. For Van Buren, Keri Arnold led in scoring with 10.
"We have 12 games down and two more left to go and they’re just important as the others," Taylor said. "We know that we have one of those slots in the state tournament. We just don’t know which one yet and we’re not content on just being there. We want to get the best seed possible. I’ve had one of these type teams before where we’re gelling and coming together. I want to get in that state tournament and make some noise."
(See Sunday’s edition of the Log Cabin for more interviews and reports from the Conway-Van Buren games.)