The Conway boys and girls basketball teams stepped into Buzz Bolding Arena as conference hosts for the first time this season.
While the girls game featured two of the state’s top teams, the boys game featured the state’s top team according to the Arkansas Sports Media Polls.
The North Little Rock boys entered Friday’s game fresh off an 80-73 loss to reigning 6A State co-champion Little Rock Central on Tuesday, while the Wampus Cats took down Little Rock Southwest 60-51 in the two team’s inaugural meeting.
Neither Charging Wildcats nor Wampus Cats gave either team much room to work with as Conway never led more than six, while NLR got its largest lead on its final bucket with 27.4 seconds left in the game on its way to a 67-56 win.
Entering the fourth quarter, both teams were tied at 43 as Conway’s slow, methodical pace slowed down a Charging Wildcat team that seemingly scores 70 or more points with ease.
However, it was a six-point swing in NLR’s favor two minutes into the final frame that set the table for the conclusion of the game.
After a layup by Conway junior forward Keiron Duncan to bring the Wampus Cats back within two before the Charging Wildcats started to get more separation.
NLR senior guard Tracy Steele finished off the back end of an alley-oop with a layup the gave the Charging Wildcats their four-point lead back.
Then, Conway junior guard Paul Harris picked up his fifth and final foul, which sent NLR senior guard DJ Smith to the free-throw line, where he buried both.
Then, Smith scored on a up-and-under layup on the other end to bring the Charging Wildcat lead back out to eight.
A three-point play by Duncan cut the lead back down to five, but a 3-pointer by NLR junior guard Charles Maris essentially erased Duncan’s efforts.
After a bucket by Conway junior DJ Lockhart, the Charging Wildcats pushed their lead out to nine as 7-foot junior center Kelel Ware split a pair of free throws and Smith buried his two.
Duncan and senior forward Jayden Williams brought Conway back within five, but the Wampus Cats couldn’t get much going as NLR went on an 8-4 run over the final two minutes to push the lead out to 13 with 27.4 seconds left before Lockhart scored the final basket of the game.
Smith led all scorers with an explosive second half, scoring 24, while Steele and Ware scored 10 each.
Conway had a trio of scorers in double figures as Willaims led the way with 15, followed by Duncan’s 13 and Lockhart’s 11.
Conway travels Tuesday to Cabot.
North Little Rock 47
The Conway Lady Cats’ dynamic trio of junior guard Jaiden Thomas, sophomore guard Chloe Clardy and sophomore center Savannah Scott left little room for NLR as the trio outscored the Lady Charging Wildcats 57-47.
The final score finished at 68-47, but it was never in doubt, except for a two and a half minute scoring drought the Lady Cats went through to open the game.
Meanwhile, the NLR opened with a pair of 3-pointers as junior forward Destine Duckworth and senior guard Kalina Foster quickly put the Lady Charging Wildcats up 6-0.
Conway finally got on the board as Scott scored on a layup off a NLR turnover.
Clardy then repeated Scott’s efforts, while also knocking down both free throws to tie the game at six.
The two teams battled out the first quarter, going into the second with the Lady Cats leading 17-14.
In the second quarter, Conway started opening the floodgates as it outscored NLR 17-8 to build a 34-22 lead by halftime.
The third was much the same as the Lady Cats their lead to 26 as they threatened to put the game into the Arkansas Activities Association mercy rule.
NLR outscored Conway in the final frame 18-13, but it was too little too late for the Lady Charging Wildcats.
Clardy led all scorers with 23 points, while Thomas scored 19 and Scott scored 15 before she fouled out with 3:10 left in the game.
Senior guard Arin Freeman was the lone NLR scorer in double figures with 11.
The Lady Cats travel Tuesday to Cabot.