Conway and Little Rock Hall engaged Saturday night in easily the fastest-moving, most physical game of the Bank of the Ozarks John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational.
It was one of the most up-and-down, freewheeling games seen in awhile. At times it was like rugby or hockey — bodies slamming against the press table and flying across the floor at Buzz Bolding Arena. At one point, six players were on the floor after a scramble for a loose ball.
And this was the girls championship game.
It was a matchup of two very good girls Arkansas high school basketball teams, one (Hall) loaded with experience; the other (Conway) loaded with good, young players.
The Warriors led most of the game, never comfortably, and pulled away to a 63-54 victory. Hall’s Tyler Scaife, a Rutgers recruit, scored 10 of her 32 points in the fourth quarter to help her team pull away.
"There is a reason she (Scaife) is rated one of the top players in the country and she showed it," said Conway coach Ashley Nance. "She’s just hard to defend. She can drive past you and she’s so much better with her shot this year. You can tell she’s worked on it. Last year, you could sag off on her."
Both teams got players in foul trouble, including Lady Cat guards Kianna Speight and Jordan Danberry.
"Those guards were two of our better defenders and it didn’t affect the game that much, but it did a little bit because it affected the style we wanted to play," Nance said. "We couldn’t get our transition game going as well."
Enjonae Chambers led the Lady Cats with 22 points.
Nash was disappointed that her team missed 10 free throws, which ended up haunting the Lady Cats.
"We have good shooters," she said. "But when you’re playing 100 miles an hour like we do, you have to settle yourself down and focus at the line. It’s the mentality you have to have to hit those shots."
The Lady Cats and the Lady Warriors both play in 7A/6A Central this year.
"This should give our young kids more confidence that we can be on the same floor with them and play pretty good," Nance said.
There was a sense of deja vu from the night before.
Conway rallied in the final seconds of regulation and tied Bryant on a buzzer basket by Tim Boyd, just as it had the night before against Pine Bluff.
The Wampus Cats lost in overtime, just as they had the night before. And the decisive points came on a layup by the Hornets’ Luke Rayburn with 14 seconds left after Boyd’s two free throws gave the Cats a 67-66 lead with 27 seconds left.
"We’ve got to work on our inside defense," said Conway coach James Bates. "We’re giving up too many easy points after we work hard for ours. Two straight games, we get close and then give up a layup for the winning points."
The Cats led, 47-41, after three quarters but 3-point baskets by the Hornets’ Tyler Simmons and K.J. Hill key a Bryant rally. A lane shot by Simmons and two free throws by Grayson Giles gave Bryant a 60-58 lead with 13.5 seconds left before Boyd forced the overtime with his lane drive.
Boyd led Conway with 27 points. Dominic Taylor added 10, Justin Leon, eight, and Adrian Moore, seven.