Bodies were flying all about the floor. Players threw arms, elbows, knees. Players came up limping. At times, the fast-paced play was like soccer.
Futbol on floor. Girls basketball in reality
It was about as physical an encounter as girls can legally get away with in Conway.
It was Conway vs. Vilonia in the girls championship game of the First Security/John Stanton Wampus Cat Invitational.
The Lady Cats (8-0) avenged last year’s loss to the Lady Eagles (7-1) in the title game here with a hard-fought, 62-49 victory.
But not without a scrap.
The Lady Cats used their fast-break attack and their pressure to take a 12-2 lead in less than four minutes and used a late flurry in the second half for a 30-22 lead at intermission.
The Lady Eagles got back in it with a 15-2 run in the third quarter, forced the game on the halfcourt and led 38-36 with 7:25 to go.
The Lady Cats, with Taylor Gault playing all over the floor, found another gear with their pressure deense and scored 13 straight points to pull away for good.
"We were dead at halftime, had that deer-in-the-headlights look," said Conway coach Ashley Nance. "I told the girls at halftime that Vilonia wasn’t going to stop. There’s no quit in them. Vilonia was going to come out and play like it was 0-0. We were going to have to come out and really play and we didn’t.
"We weren’t shooting the ball very well. Everything went in the other night against Alma. They didn’t tonnight. But we found a way to turn it on, things starting clicking and we hit some big shots. We got some turnovers and we built momentum off our pressure."
"We got the lead, had the momentum, then got tentative and lost the momentum," said Vilonia coach Alvin Riley. "And we couldn’t get a rebound in the fourth quarter. The two things we had to do to win, we did not do a good job and that was rebounding and handling the ball."
Enjonae Chambers, who got some easy layups and open shots off the Conway pressure, led the Lady Cats with 26 points. Her 3-pointer with 4:01 left, gave the Lady Cats a cushion. Gault, who had at least eight steals, had 20 points.
Catherine Puckett, who sparked the Vilonia comeback in the third quarter, led the Lady Eagles with 20. Betsy Barlett had 10. Conway boys 57,Fayetteville 48
In the third-place boys game, the Wampus Cats led almost wire-to-wire in a rematch of last year’s 7A state title game.
The quicker Wampus Cats (5-2) spread the court nicely and gradually pulled to a 29-17 halftime lead. That advantage reached 43-23 with 5:10 left in the third. The Purple Dogs pulled within seven in the fourth quarter before Micah Delph stopped the run with a 3-pointer. Conway’s lead reached 15 before Fayetteville pulled within seven again and missed three straight shots.
"We told our guys at halftime that we knew they (the Bulldogs) were gonna make runs and they kept doing that," said Conway coach James Bates. "Our kids responded most of the time.
"We are a smaller team and we try to take advantage of that with our speed and quickness. We’re trying to turn defense into offense and our kids are doing a good job of that right now."
Delph and Colt Fason had 15 points each for the Cats. Tim Boyd added nine.
Sylvan Hills boys 74,
The fifth-place boys games featured a matchup between Sylvan Hills’ Archie Goodwin, one of the top juniors in the state, and Guy’s Denell Henderson, one of the top seniors.
The game featured a stirring Thunderbird comeback that took things to the wire.
Guy (13-6) trailed by 28-15 at the half before Alex Davis became more active inside in leading a third-quarter comeback
The Thunderbirds took a 68-65 lead with with 3:13 left on a free throw by Brandon Rooney and a putback by Davis. Goodwin gave the Bears the lead for good at 70-68 on a transition basket with 2:20 left, but Guy could get few shots after that, turned the ball over and the Class 6A Bears hit enough free throws to win against the Class A Thunderbirds.
"We had our chances against a good team but we couldn’t get over the hump again," said Guy coach John Hutchcraft, whose team lost in the final minute to Fayetteville in the first round of the tournament. "But this was a good game for us. We’ve had about six good games in a row now.
"When we got down by 13, lot of teams would have been beat, but we came back, gave ourselves a chance and it became a good high school game."
Henderson had 22 points and Davis added 20. With Arkansas coach John Pelphrey watching, Goodwin had 19 points and Dion Patton 10.
North Pulaski 57 boys, Vilonia 37
North Pulaski’s Braylon Colson hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter on the way to 17 points in leading the Falcons to victory in the boys seventh-place game.
Boys championship: Jacksonville 55, Jonesboro 46
Bryan Colson added 16 points for North Pulaski.
Sean Talbert and Trevor Martin each had nine points for Vilonia.
Girls seventh place: Jacksonville 61, LR Fair 39
Girls fifth place: Benton 52, Springdale 35
Girls third place: Alma 65, Nettleton 52