NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- Rickey Smith didn't like what he saw when Bentonville High's girls hit three field goals in the first 3 minutes of Friday's game.
Fort Smith Northside's coach, however, enjoyed the view over the next few minutes. The Lady Tigers' shooting went ice cold, hitting only one more field goal through the rest of the first first half, and that allowed the Lady Bears to turn the Class 7A State Tournament semifinals into an all-Central affair with a 63-53 victory in Charging Wildcat Arena.
FORT SMITH NORTHSIDE 63, BENTONVILLE HIGH 53
FS Northside (26-3): S. Bershers 32, Wolfenbarger 15, T. Bershers 9, Coleman 6, Mays 1.
Bentonville (22-6): Hughes 17, Hawkins 10, Dauda 7, Wagner 6, Skidmore 6, Palasak 3, Smith 3, Sanders 1.
CONWAY 60, VAN BUREN 38
Van Buren (18-11): Ryan 9, Evans 7, Kinney 6, Sandoval 6, Greebe 5, Myers 3, Porter 2.
Conway (26-3): Smith 23, Yelder 14, Nolen 9, Netherlain 6, Chatman 5, York 3.
Northside (26-3) will face Conway in the 6 p.m. semifinal today, while the noon game features Little Rock Central against host North Little Rock.
"I thought our conference was very, very good," Smith said. "I've been in the West for many, many years, and the West dominated for a lot of years. I knew the Central was tough.
"We have a pretty good ball club, and we struggled. We struggled to win games and compete because teams were so athletic in the league. It's hard to believe all four Central teams are in the semifinals."
Freshman Maryam Dauda had two of Bentonville's three early buckets, including a 3-pointer, to lead to an early 7-3 lead. The Lady Tigers' other field goal, however, came when Avery Hughes scored on a jumper in the lane with 3 minutes, 7 seconds before halftime.
Northside seized the opportunity, taking the lead for good when Sara Bershers hit back-to-back 3-pointers and made it 9-7. The Lady Bears' lead continued to grow into a 29-15 cushion at halftime, then Northside opened the third quarter with 12 straight points and made it a 41-15 after a Bershers bucket with 3:41 left in the third quarter.
"Coming out of the third quarter, we went on a roll where I thought we were really, really good offensively," Smith said. "We started expanding our lead, so I started subbing because I starting thinking about our game (today) and rested some kids.
Bentonville (22-6) finally found its scoring touch, hitting a trio of 3-pointers and making it a 43-26 game after three quarters. The Lady Tigers cut Northside's lead to single digits when a Hughes 3-pointer made it 54-45 with 2:37 remaining, and a pair of Millie Skidmore 3-pointers made it 61-53 with 28 seconds left.
Bershers finished with 32 to lead Northside, while Jersey Wolfenbarger added 15. Hughes had 17 to lead Bentonville, while Fess Hawkins added 10.
Conway 60, Van Buren 38
Conway had to wait almost the entire week to get into the action, and the Lady Wampus Cats wasted little time in seizing the opportunity.
Lydia York needed only 19 seconds to hit a 3-pointer and give Conway (26-3) a lead it never relinquished, and that helped set the tone as the 7A-Central's top-seeded team cruised into the semifinal round.
"With us having one of the last games and the bye, our girls came out and shot the ball really well," Conway coach Ashley Nance said. "We made some big threes at the beginning, and even when we went through a little dry spell, getting out and getting that early lead was really important.
"I was pleased with our defense, too. Their 2-3 matchup is so good, but I have a lot of confidence in our 1-3-1."
Conway scored the first eight points, but Van Buren used 3-pointers to regroup and pulled within 12-10 after Rylee Ryan's 3-pointer with 2:20 left in the first quarter. The Lady'Cats, however, scored 15 of the next 16 points and stretched their lead to a 27-13 margin on Cardrina Nolen's bucket with 4:34 before halftime.
The lead wouldn't get out of double digits again as Van Buren (18-11) was held to one field goal in the second quarter, and Conway put together a pair of scoring spurts to blow the game open.
"One of our goals was no uncontested shots," Nance said. "Even when they made it, I think we had a hand on their face. I think they hit six 3s, and I know this sounds crazy but our goal was to hold them under five 3s. Once they had to extend that 2-3, we were able to penetrate and inside and get some inside baskets."
Asiyha Smith had 23 points to lead Conway, followed by Myia Yelder with 14. Ryan led Van Buren with nine.
Preps Basketball on 03/03/2018
Print Headline: Bentonville's cold spell aids Fort Smith Northside