HOT SPRINGS -- North Little Rock's defense traveled to Bank of the Ozarks Arena for the Class 7A boys state championship game Thursday afternoon.
The Charging Wildcats held Fort Smith Northside to 35.5 percent shooting in a 64-51 victory to win their 10th state championship.
"This is the best defensive team we've had," North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice said. "We're so young. But they played 30 games. They're not rookies anymore.
"I told them, 'Every championship team has something they can hang their hat on that they can do well every single night.' They bought into the fact that we were going to shut people down defensively. We did that.
"We had teams where we could press and trap and we'd score 80, but we'd give up 70. This team, they'd give up 30-something. I can't do nothing but tell them great job. They really got after it."Gallery: Boys 7A Basketball Championship
Junior forward Collin Moore led North Little Rock (26-5), which shot 24 of 50 (48 percent) from the floor, with 22 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals. Sophomore guard Moses Moody had 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block, earning MVP honors. Sophomore guard Spencer Simes chipped in 11 points.
Northside finished 22 of 62 from the floor and shot 5 of 26 from three-point range. Senior guard Isaiah Joe, who has signed with the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, had 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting and was 2 of 9 from three-point range.
"We wanted to contain Isaiah Joe," North Little Rock senior guard Ray Fresh said. "We know he can get hot fast. Keep him under control. I played him a whole lot since we were growing up, so I know how he plays."
The Charging Wildcats led 49-37 entering the fourth quarter. Junior guard Decorey Watkins' three-point play extended North Little Rock's lead to 52-37 with 7:23 remaining.
Northside went on a 10-0 run to pull closer. Junior forward Anthony Travis' layup got the Grizzlies within 52-47 with 4:41 left, but that was as close as the Grizzlies would get.
From there, North Little Rock pulled away.
Moore's layup made it 54-47. After Joe missed a three-pointer, Fresh missed a layup, but Simes got the offensive rebound and the tip-in to stretch the Charging Wildcats' lead to 56-47 with 3:34 left. Moore blocked Travis' jumper, then drove for a layup and converted a three-point play with 3:13 remaining for a 59-47 advantage.
"When you get to this stage, you're going to have great players make great plays," Northside Coach Eric Burnett said. "They made great plays. When we made our run, they made great plays to finish out the game. It happens like that."
Rice said the Grizzlies had the Charging Wildcats on their heels. But eventually, his team got things figured out and closed out the Grizzlies.
"We finally settled down where we got past that first level, and when we got to the second level, we finished inside," Rice said. "They responded. I knew they weren't going to quit."
North Little Rock led 34-22 at halftime as Moody scored 12 of his 16 points in the first 16 minutes.
Moody's jumper made it 38-24 with 6:36 left in the third quarter. Northside cut the lead to 44-37 on sophomore forward Jaylin Williams' jumper with 2:04 left in the quarter, but Fresh knocked down a three-pointer with 11 seconds left in the third quarter to give North Little Rock a 49-37 lead.
Releford scored 12 points for the Grizzlies.
North Little Rock avenged its title game loss from a season ago to Northside and won all three meetings against the Grizzlies this season, including two in 7A-Central Conference play.
"This is what we worked for all year, especially after losing to them by one point last year," said Fresh, whose Charging Wildcats lost 50-49 to the Grizzlies in last year's title game. "Beating them by 13 was great."
At a glance
CLASS 7A BOYS
STATE TOURNAMENT SCORES
N. Little Rock 64, Fort Smith Northside 51
Fort Smith Northside 78, Fayetteville 54 North Little Rock 73, Springdale Har-Ber 39
Fayetteville 52, Springdale 44 Fort Smith Northside 69, Bentonville 42 North Little Rock 66, Bentonville West 41 Springdale Har-Ber 53, Rogers Heritage 50
Springdale 51, Bryant 38 Bentonville 46, Cabot 37 Bentonville West 72, FS Southside 62 Rogers Heritage 46, Conway 43
NORTH LITTLE ROCK
The North Little Rock sophomore guard scored 16 points, with 12 coming in the first half. He shot 5 of 6 from the floor, 2 of 2 from three-point range, and 4 of 4 at the free-throw line. Moody also had 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. Before the season, Moody transferred to North Little Rock from Little Rock Parkview. “I feel great. When I came over, the team welcomed me in. Coach welcomed me in. We came out victorious.”
This is North Little Rock’s 10th state championship and first since 2015. The Charging Wildcats won that title with current Florida junior guard KeVaughn Allen. … North Little Rock went 3-0 against Fort Smith Northside this season, including two regular-season victories in 7A-Central Conference play. … The Grizzlies were making their third state finals appearance, also appearing in 2007 and 2017. They defeated North Little Rock in last season’s Class 7A state final.
— Jeremy Muck
North Little Rock’s Moses Moody scored 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor, including 2 three-pointers, grabbed 6 rebounds and was named the MVP in the Charging Wildcats’ victory over the Fort Smith Northside Grizzlies.
North Little Rock’s Collin Moore scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Charging Wildcats over Fort Smith Northside.
North Little Rock players celebrate after the Charging Wildcats’ 64-51 victory over Fort Smith Northside in the Class 7A boys championship game Thursday at Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs.
Sports on 03/09/2018
Print Headline: 'Cats rely on their faithful defense