Conway’s Wampus Cats went into the deep freeze during the fourth quarter Friday night about the moment Van Buren’s Hooper Vint turned it on.
The Pointers (10-6, 4-0) ended the Cats’ 7A-Central Conference winning streak (over three seasons) at 24 games with a 54-50 victory at Buzz Bolding Arena. In the process, they outcored Conway 18-7 in the fourth quarter and that onslaught was 18-3 until a meaningless technical foul against the Van Buren bench led to two free throws and a buzzer basket by the Cats in the final 3.4 seconds.
Conway (12-4, 3-1), which led 21-17 after a nip-and-tuck first half, led by eight points on three occasions the third quarter.
Then, the 6-foot-11 Vint ignited a 21-5 run in the next six minutes (stretching into the third and fourth quarters) to give the Pointers a 50-43 lead and command of the game.
"For whatever reason, about halfway through the third quarter, we took it to another level," said Van Buren coach Randy Ward, whose team took over sole possession of first place in 7A Central.
A big reason was Vint, who blocked four shots and altered at least a half-dozen others as the Cat offense went cold and out of sync throughout the lineup. Vint was also a force on the offensive end on the way to 29 points.
"That’s what Hooper does (disrupt things)," said Ward. "He was a big problem when their players tried to get to the rim."
"We went south in a hurry in the third quarter," said Conway coach James Bates, whose Cats led 38-30 with 2:16 left in the third quarter. "Micah (Delph) got some good looks, Colt (Fason) got some good looks. It was a good basketball game on both ends, but when down the stretch when it got tight, we couldn’t make shots.
"Maybe we got too deep sometime when we drove in the lane. But Vint’s a load. We knew he was gonna get points. But he may have been more effective with his defense."
Both teams seemed to be content to let the clock run out with the Pointers holding a 54-46 lead when a technical was called against a Van Buren substitute for something he said when running onto the court. Conway got two free throws with 3.4 seconds left, then got a buzzer putback to draw within four. That point differential could prove vital later when state playoff seedings are set.
Tyler Spoon was the only other Van Buren player in double figures with 11.
Fason led the Cats with 13 points. TeShawn Sims and Everett Reed had nine each for the Cats while Delph added eight on a poor-shooting night.
Leading only 31-25 at the half, Conway (13-1, 3-1) produced a 28-point third quarter and surged to an 80-55 victory.
"I didn’t think we came out with the intensity we needed," Conway coach Ashley Nance said. "We were 12-up the first half, then we went in at 6-up."
"The second half we played great. We seem to play better once we get a big lead."
Taylor Gault ignited the Lady Cat surge on the way to 34 points. Madison Foster added 11 and Enjonae Chambers 10.
"We feed off Taylor Gault," Nance said. "When she is having a good game and scoring, we usually do well."
The Conway teams will play Tuesday at Russellville.