With top of the conference battles, Conway and Fort Smith Northside split games Tuesday night with the Lady Cats forging a tie with the Lady Bears in the 7A Central.
The Lady Cats (22-3, 9-2 7A Central) and Lady Bears (21-3, 9-2 7A Central) fought like two boxers in a championship bout, going punch for punch and never really getting gassed in a game Conway won, 56-52, at Buzz Bolding Arena.
Instead of a belt or a purse on the line, it was a chance to further put Conway behind and solidify a top-two seed for Northside or to tie the Lady Bears and push a second-place finish to a tiebreaker for Conway. Both are now a game behind firs-place Nortjh Little Rock, which still has to play Northside at Fort Smith.
The Lady Bears relied on 6-foot-1 freshman Tracey Bershers helped pace the Fort Smith offense for the first half, where she scored 15 points of her game-high 18 points.
However, the Lady Cats hit six first-half 3-pointers, keeping pace with Northside.
A 3-pointer by Conway junior Asiyha Smith with 7.2 seconds left in the third quarter game the Lady Cats a 38-35 lead. It was the second time Smith hit a 3-pointer at the end of a quarter. The first came at the end of the first quarter at the buzzer, lining up from about 5 feet behind the 3-point line in front of the Northside bench.
In the fourth quarter, Conway went for the knockout punch, increasing its lead to as many as nine points early into the fourth quarter after an 11-2 run.
Down 46-37 with 5:56 left, the Lady Bears closed the gap to 54-52 with 15.8 seconds left with a 3-pointer by junior Sara Bershers.
The Lady Cats finally hit the final blow with a pair of free throws by junior Myia Yelder with 9.7 seconds left.
Conway’s 56 points was 10 points below its season average, which was caused by the Northside zone slowing down the Lady Cats offense.
“Northside does a really good job of sprinting back and making us beat its zone,” Conway coach Ashley Nance said. “They’re a lot taller than you think. They’ve got probably three girls that are about 6 foot. We’re not very big in the guard area, so its wingspan in that zone makes it tough.
“And then, us not being able to get into transition. I thought our kids did a great job of hitting big shots.”
The Lady Cats hits 11 3-pointers during the game.
“We haven’t hit big shots the last few games,” Nance said. “We feel like we haven’t had a game where everyone is hitting like we know they can. For us to be at home where we practice everyday to be able to hit those shots are big.”
Despite the length of the Lady Bears, Conway outrebounded Northside, allowing for second-chance points and starting transitions.
“We’ve been talking about getting on the glass,” Nance said. “In the first three games of the second half of conference, we have been outrebounded. For us, with our size, if we don’t rebound, we don’t have a chance to beat Northside or North Little Rock. If we want to get in the mix, we have to bust our butt and rebound.”
No other Lady Bear scored in double figures.
Conway was led by Smith’s 13, while Yelder followed with 11.
Northside 51, Conway 45
The boys game became an uphill battle for the Wampus Cats (15-9, 6-5 7A Central). The Cats are in fourth place.
It was one that they didn’t start climbing until the fourth quarter got underway.
After a strong start, the Grizzlies started gaining control without Arkansas recruit Isaiah Joe, who was out with a concussion.
Conway and Northside were tied after the opening quarter at 14.
However, the Grizzlies outscored the Wampus Cats 18-5 in the quarter, gaining a 32-20 lead at halftime.
Conway once again struggled putting the ball in the basket in the third quarter, scoring just six points.
This caused it to fall behind 39-26 heading into the final quarter.
The Wampus Cats were able to trim the lead to six with 29.2 seconds left on a 3-pointer by junior Lerome Thompson.
Northside sophomore Noah Gordon finished with a game-high 17 points, while junior Anthony Travis scored 11.
Wampus Cat junior Kylen Milton led Conway with 12 points, followed by sophomore Caleb London’s 10.
Conway travels Friday to Central for 7A Central matchups.