Conway’s big three wanted to have their place in the Wampus Cats’ history books by capturing the school’s first state championship in boys basketball since 1976.
Now they can check that off their to-do list.
The Cats’ seniors, University of Alabama-Birmingham signee Preston Purifoy and Kenyon McNeaill, who is undecided on his college choice, along with one of the state’s rising top college prospects, junior Micah Delph, ignited Conway’s charge to 66-56 victory over Fayetteville in the 7A state title game at Summit Arena in Hot Springs on Friday.
Despite injury to his right wrist suffered last week in the first quarter of the Cats’ semifinal win against Little Rock Central in Van Buren, McNeaill was still the quarterback on the floor. He coached guys into place on the Cats’ zone defense and set up Delph and Purifoy on plays. Purifoy and Delph combined for 50 points, with both scoring 25. Purifoy was named the MVP of the state tournament. He went 7 of 9 from the field and 11 of 16 at the line.
"I knew going into the game there was some things that I couldn’t do," McNeaill said. "I knew that I couldn’t dribble with my right hand and I knew I couldn’t shoot. Micah stepped up and did some stuff that I’ve never seen him do, and Preston with his spin moves with some and-ones. It was just fun watching those two go at it and I’m glad they were able help us get a ring."
Fayetteville coach Barry Gebhart gave Conway and its trio the ultimate praise by tagging them as the toughest team that the Bulldogs have seen this season, which included the second ranked team in Georgia and the fourth ranked team in the state of New York. Gebhart noted that Purifoy was nearly unstoppable.
"With this group, it has been a dream season," Conway coach James Bates said. "That’s why you go into this profession to coach these group of kids. There’s two Conway coaches going into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association this summer, C.D. Taylor and Joe Graham, and both have state championships at Conway. I consider it pretty special to be in a group with those two and I can’t say enough about the support of our community."
RED HOT START
Conway was 12 of 16 shooting in the first half for 75 percent, which was the Wampus Cats’ best percentage for a half this season.
Conway’s Preston Purifoy and Micah Delph were 4 of 5 on shooting attempts a piece. Both players converted at the foul line during the first half as well. Purifoy went 4 of 4 at the charity stripe, while Delph was 2 for 2. Purifoy had 12 points and the intermission while Delph had 10. Teshaun Sims was 2 of 2 from the field in the first, including a 3-pointer that aided in Conway’s biggest lead of 12, early.
Delph ended the game 8 of 9 from the floor and was 100 percent at the foul line, converting on all eight attempts.
Conway’s Kenyon McNeaill didn’t play most of the first half, but it wasn’t because of his injury to his wrist on his shooting hand.
McNeaill injured his wrist last week in the Cats’ semifinal victory over Little Rock Central in Van Buren. Coming into Friday’s title game, it was questionable just how many minutes the senior guard would get. McNeaill started the game, but picked up two early fouls and only played four minutes the entire first half.
"We didn’t think that he was going to play at all. I saw the injury and I was there in Van Buren," Fayetteville coach Barry Gebhart said. "We knew that he probably was going to be out there to give his team a lift. It something about looking over there and seeing one of your leaders on the court whether he can play fully or not. ... We didn’t have an answer for Preston. Our scouting reports also didn’t have Delph doing the things that he did. We had him down as a stationary shooter."
(For an in-depth follow-up with more game notes and post game interviews, please see Sunday’s edition of the Log Cabin Democrat.)