Northside clears road hurdle

Posted: February 7, 2018 at 2:21 a.m.

Little Rock Central’s Elyse Smith (right) blocks a shot by Fort Smith Northside’s Jersey Wolfenbarger during Northside’s 49-45 victory Tuesday night. Smith had 9 points for Central, while Wolfenbarger scored 5 for Northside.

Fort Smith Northside got the victory it needed to keep pace atop the 7A-Central Conference.

The No. 2-ranked Lady Bears knocked down 7 of 9 free throws over the game's final six minutes and got an efficient outing from junior forward Sara Bershers to hold off Little Rock Central 49-45 on Tuesday night at Tigers Fieldhouse.

"We didn't rebound or shoot it very well, but the kids found a way to get it done," Fort Smith Northside Coach Rickey Smith said. "We hit some free throws down the stretch and made a few stops late, especially over the final 30 seconds or so. Central is a very good team, one of the top five teams in the state.

"But the kids gutted it out and found a way get a win."

The victory kept Northside (20-2, 8-1) tied for the top spot in the conference with North Little Rock, which beat Conway 72-68. Northside travels to Conway next Tuesday before hosting North Little Rock on Feb. 16, but Smith knows the luster of those games would be tarnished a bit had the Lady Bears not handled business in hostile territory.

"I'm going to be honest with you, some of the girls were a little intimidated coming in," he said. "Some of these kids hadn't played here before, and they found out just how tough it is to come in here and beat a good team like Central."

Northside stayed a step ahead behind Bershers, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Senior guard Sydney Green added 11 points and 5 rebounds while freshman forward Tracey Bershers had 10 points.

Senior forward Erynn Barnum had 15 points and 14 rebounds for Central (13-8, 4-5), which held a 32-28 lead midway through the third quarter before withering late. Junior guard Ariyanna Hall had 11 points while freshman guard Elyse Smith chipped in with 9.

Central, which shot 17 of 56 (30 percent) and held a 37-28 rebounding edge, got off to a quick start and held a 15-10 lead after the opening period but missed its first eight shots of the second quarter to fall behind. Central also committed five turnovers during that stretch, four of which led to points for Northside.

The Lady Bears, who finished 14 of 44 (32 percent) from the floor, went on an 11-0 run during that time frame and grabbed a 17-15 lead on a layup from sophomore forward Jazzlyn Coleman with 4:33 left before halftime. Barnum finally got Central on the board in the quarter with a short jumper, but Sara Bershers followed with a 22-footer moments later. The Lady Tigers did hit their final two baskets of the half to get within 24-22 at the break.

The lead changed hands five times in the third quarter, with neither holding more than a four-point cushion.

Northside took a 40-34 advantage early in the fourth, but Hall drilled three-pointers on consecutive possessions to tie the game with 5:43 left. Central didn't score again until 1:33 remained, and by that time, the Lady Bears had opened up a 47-40 lead.

Barnum did hit a pair of buckets, including a three-pointer with 1:06 showing, to pull Central within 47-45, but Sara Bershers knocked down two free throws with 15 seconds left to help Northside win for the eighth time in its past nine games.

FS NORTHSIDE (49)

Wolfenbarger 1 3-4 5, Mays 0 0-0 0, S. Bershers 6 2-2 17, T. Bershers 3 3-4 10, Coleman 3 0-0 6, Carey 0 0-0 0, Green 1 9-11 11, Cooksey 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 17-21 49.

LR CENTRAL (45)

Lewis 0 0-0 0, Barnum 6 2-2 15, Hall 4 0-0 11, Smith 4 0-0 9, Cole 0 2-2 2, Green 0 0-0 0, Pendleton 2 2-2 6, Ashford 1 0-2 2. Totals 17 6-8 45.

Fort Smith Northside (20-2);10;14;12;13;-49

Little Rock Central (13-8);15;7;12;11;-;45

Three-point goals -- Fort Smith Northside 4 (S. Bershers 3, T. Bershers), Little Rock Central 5 (Hall 3, Smith, Barnum). Total fouls -- Fort Smith Northside 9, Little Rock Central 17. Fouled out -- none.

Sports on 02/07/2018