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story.lead_photo.caption Conway junior guards Asiyha Smith (24) and Myla Yelder have been teammates since the second grade and know each other well. Coach Ashley Nance said Smith is “very hard-nosed and toughskinned,” while Yelder is “a pleaser and wants everyone to be happy with her.” - Photo by Thomas Metthe

CONWAY -- Myla Yelder and Asiyha Smith are two contrasting junior guards who have recovered from similar injuries to work together for the same goal.

Despite their different demeanors, the easy-going Yelder and the demanding Smith have found the right mix for success. The two have helped the Conway Lady Wampus Cats reach the Class 7A state championship game for the second time in the past three years.

"I think we get along because we are opposites," Yelder said. "Opposites attract."

"They're different, but they feed off of each other," said Conway Coach Ashley Nance, whose team faces North Little Rock in today's 2:30 p.m. title game at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs. "Both are extremely competitive."

Yelder and Smith have been teammates since the second grade. They know each other well, and Nance says it's that familiarity that has allowed the two different personalities to turn the Lady Wampus Cats (27-3) into a contender.

The two have similar statistics. Smith is averaging 15.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.3 steals a game; Yelder's numbers are 13.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.5 steals.

A month before their freshman year, both girls suffered torn ACLs -- the left knee for Smith, the right knee for Yelder.

"We were beating a team pretty bad," Smith said. "But my [summer league] coach put me back into the game just before halftime. I was going in for a layup, I stepped to the left and then I fell down. I felt a pop. I knew it was bad. I don't usually cry, but that's the first thing I did."

Yelder's injury came just after she attempted a three-pointer.

"I ran in for the rebound, and I turned to dribble out," Yelder said. "I fell, but I didn't think it was anything [serious]. At halftime my coach told me to walk it off, and I thought it was OK. But I tried to play defense and I fell again. That's when I knew there was no getting back up."

Recovery took nine months for Smith and a little longer for Yelder.

"That bothered Myla, but I think it made her more determined to get better," Nance said. "It was just another driving force for Myla."

"Watching everybody else play," Yelder said when asked what was the toughest part about going through rehab. "That triggered my emotions. I didn't like having to sit and watch."

"I'm the same as Myla; I didn't like sitting," Smith said. "It was a long recovery, but I went through recovery with Myla and that made it a little bit better."

As sophomores, Smith was a starter while Yelder was the team's "sixth man."

Both have fully recovered and neither have to wear a brace. Now their contrasting personalities can make an impact on the court.

"When Asiyha tells someone to do something, they do it," Nance said. "They listen to her. Nothing bothers Asiyha. She's very hard-nosed and tough-skinned. She's an old-school player. She doesn't mind getting into someone's face, and she doesn't worry about hurting anyone's feelings.

"Myla is sensitive, very sweet-spirited. She's a pleaser and wants everyone to be happy with her.

"It's an interesting mix, but they both know that about each other and they know what to expect."

Photo by Thomas Metthe
Conway’s Myla Yelder (5) drives to the basket past Little Rock Central’s Ariyanna Hall (5) during the third quarter of Conway's 59-54 win on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, at Central High School in Little Rock.

Sports on 03/08/2018

Print Headline: Conway's contrasting duo fits perfectly

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