HOT SPRINGS — North Little Rock never ran out of big shots Thursday afternoon.
The balanced Lady Charging Wildcats — led by senior guard Amber Hawkison’s 18 points — connected on 23 of 43 field-goal attempts on their way to a 66-49 victory over Conway in the girls Class 7A state championship game at the Bank of the Ozarks Arena.
North Little Rock (26-4) earned its fourth state title since 2006 and its second in the past three years. Junior guard Demyla Brown earned MVP honors with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Senior Yo’Myris Morris added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Hawkison had 3 steals, 2 assists and 0 turnovers to go along with her game-high scoring honors.
While North Little Rock’s scoring was spread out, its defense was just as solid. Conway was guilty of 18 turnovers, and the Lady Wampus Cats made it to the free-throw line only seven times after shooting a combined 46 free throws against Van Buren and Fort Smith Northside during the quarterfinals and semifinals of the state tournament.
“We did such a good job of not fouling,” North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said. “Our plan was to keep them off the free-throw line. I also thought it was important to keep them out of their transition game a little bit. Demyla and An’nyah [Pettus] did a phenomenal job of keeping their guards from penetrating so much.”
Thanks to 14 offensive rebounds, Conway (27-4) got plenty of shots, but the Lady Wampus Cats were only 18 of 50 from the floor, 7 of 28 from three-point range.
North Little Rock never trailed after Hawkison’s 24-footer at the 6:43 mark of the first quarter. The Lady Charging Wildcats led 19-8 after one quarter and 32-22 at the half.
Conway junior Myla Yelder, who led her team with 15 points, hit a three-pointer to pull the Lady Wampus Cats to within 34-27 with 5:14 left in the third quarter. But after Conway Coach Ashley Nance called a timeout, North Little Rock responded by scoring the next seven points.
“We were wanting to get to a point where we could say, ‘Let’s get it under 10, let’s cut it to five,’ ” Nance said. “It seemed like every time we did make a run we would either turn it over or they would hit a big shot. And North Little Rock was extremely balanced. They were good both inside and outside. For us, it’s more of an outside game.”
North Little Rock connected on 5 of 10 three-point shots and outscored Conway 32-16 inside the lane.
Brown was 3 of 6 on three-point attempts, 4 of 9 overall.
“We did a good job of swinging the ball around waiting for the shot to come open,” Brown said. “We’re all pretty good shooters. We take pride in our three-point shooting. We were amped up and ready to go.”
Junior Asiyha Smith, who finished with 14 points, scored back-to-back baskets late in the third quarter to pull Conway within 49-38. Conway’s Cardrina Nolen (6 points, 10 rebounds) hit a 3-footer to open the fourth quarter, but Hawkison countered with a 21-footer, a steal and a layup. After Jordyn Neal’s assist led to a Brown layup, North Little Rock’s lead had swelled to 56-40.
Conway was never any closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
In their two previous games, North Little Rock had squandered big fourth-quarter leads, losing one game while taking a narrow victory in the other, a fact that was not lost on Fimple.
“They shoot it so far out that you have to rebound the basketball,” Fimple said. “Our ability to push it back at them, which we weren’t doing earlier in the year, was big.”
“We started to make a run, and I thought, ‘Here we go,’ ” Nance said. “But we couldn’t stop them.”
At a glance
CLASS 7A GIRLS
STATE TOURNAMENT SCORES
North Little Rock 66, Conway 49
North Little Rock 77, LR Central 38 Conway 54, Fort Smith Northside 43
Little Rock Central 42, Fayetteville 40 North Little Rock 62, Springdale 46 Conway 60, Van Buren 38 Fort Smith Northside 63, Bentonville 53
LR Central 56, Springdale Har-Ber 35 Springdale 56, Fort Smith Southside 48 Van Buren 61, Bryant 32 Fort Smith Northside 56, Rogers 37
NORTH LITTLE ROCK
North Little Rock junior Demyla Brown hit 4 of 9 from the floor, 3 of 6 three-pointers and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in earning MVP honors for the girls Class 7A state tournament. Brown also grabbed six rebounds and made three steals in leading the Lady Charging Wildcats to their second state title in the past three years. Brown scored eight of her points in the first quarter as North Little Rock jumped out to a 19-8 lead.
Conway held only one lead in Thursday’s game when Alyssa Netherlain hit a three-pointer at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter to give the Lady Wampus Cats a 3-2 advantage. Netherlain scored all nine of her points from three-point range. … North Little Rock scored the next 10 points and never trailed again. … Attendance for the game was 3,589. … North Little Rock scored 22 points off of turnovers; Conway scored 16. … There were only four points scored by reserves with each team getting two. Kyjja Chatman scored for Conway and Kennady Tucker scored for North Little Rock.
North Little Rock’s Demyla Brown scored 17 points and grabbed 6 rebounds to earn MVP honors in the Lady Charging Wildcats’ victory over the Conway Lady Wampus Cats.