FORT SMITH -- As much as his offensive play was needed, it was two big defensive plays by Jaylin Williams in his final home game Friday at the end that lifted Fort Smith Northside.
Along with his game-high 21 points, Williams took a charge with 1.6 seconds left to snuff out a North Little Rock rally to lead the Grizzlies to a 45-42 win over the top-ranked Charging Wildcats in a 6A-Central game on Senior Night at Kaundart-Grizzly Fieldhouse.
The win snaps a three-game losing streak and keeps Northside (18-8, 8-4 6A-Central) alive for a first-round postseason bye at next month's 6A state tournament in Bryant.
"We want the best seed to put us in the best position in the state tournament," Northside coach Eric Burnett said. "We can't get first, so we are fighting for second. We made a huge step tonight."
The loss ends a 13-game winning streak by the Charging Wildcats (20-4, 11-1), who clinched the league title and top seed on Tuesday at Little Rock Catholic.
"We were playing uphill the whole game ... on the road against the defending state champion," North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice said. "We could never get over the hump to get the lead or make that one key play. In this game, every possession became important. We'll learn from this game.
North Little Rock never led in the game yet had a chance to tie with 1:43 left trailing 43-41, but Tracy Steele made just one of two free throws. The Charging Wildcats had two different possessions with a chance to take the lead, but Williams snuffed them both out.
On the first possession, Williams blocked a layup and got the rebound with 1:15 left, but a Northside turnover gave the possession back to North Little Rock with 44 seconds left.
After North Little Rock called timeout with 16.3 seconds left, Northside used its two fouls to give, one in the backcourt and the Charging Wildcats were down to 6.3 seconds.
Spencer Simes drove to the basket and Williams took the charge with 1.6 left. Jacob Joe was fouled and made both free throws with 1.3 left to seal the win.
Williams also had 13 rebounds and three blocks for the Grizzlies.
"One the last play, we just wanted to keep them in front of us," Burnett said. "I was excited how we played defense at the end. Those fouls to give were huge pushing them back into backcourt. That gave them one shot and not much of a chance for a rebound."
Though Northside once led by 12 in the first half and by nine as late as the third quarter, Burnett said the slower style was more to his team's liking. In the first meeting, the Grizzlies lost a 22-point lead as the Charging Wildcats rallied last month at home.
Bryson Warren had 11 points to lead North Little Rock.
North Little Rock 6 11 17 8 -- 42
FS Northside 12 10 16 7 -- 45
North Little Rock (20-4, 11-1): Warren 11, Steele 8, Jordan 7, Simes 6, Ware 6, Etim 2, Sheppard 2.
FS Northside (18-8, 8-4): Williams 21, McKinley 8, Gordon 7, Keller 4, Joe 4, Owens 1.
Springdale Har-Ber 46, Van Buren 35
JuJuan Boyd was 8-of-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to help the Wildcats avoid an upset.
Boyd scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the final minutes for Har-Ber (20-3, 11-1), who now have a two-game lead in the 6A-West standings after Bentonville knocked off Rogers on Friday. Har-Ber travels to Rogers on Tuesday before closing the regular season next Friday at home against Fayetteville.
Tavari Eckwood scored 10 points for Har-Ber.
Blake Gilmore led Van Buren (9-15, 3-9) with 14 points and Gary Phillips added 11.
Bentonville High 51, Rogers High 36
Bentonville jumped out to a 16-5 first-quarter lead and won their third straight game as the Tigers kept Rogers out of reach inside Tiger Arena.
The win means Bentonville (16-8, 7-5) can finish no worse than fourth in the 6A-West standings before heading into the Class 6A state tournament in Bryant.
Jaylin Lee had 10 of his 19 points in the second quarter and Sawyer Price had eight of his 15 points in the first quarter for the Tigers, who went on to take a 30-14 halftime lead and led 41-24 after three quarters.
Derek Hobbs had 20 points and was the only player in double figures for Rogers (20-3, 9-3).
Bentonville West 69, Rogers Heritage 61
The Wolverines snapped a six-game losing streak to stay in the hunt for a state tournament berth.
West (9-13, 4-8 6A-West hadn't won a game since defeating the War Eagles 56-47 on Jan. 24. The Wolverines jumped to a 24-12 lead after a quarter and extended the advantage to 15 at halftime. However, Heritage (9-15, 2-10) pulled within 48-42 entering the fourth quarter.
Fayetteville 52, Springdale High 33
Tamaury Releford scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Purple'Dogs to a win in the renewal of the Battle of the Bulldogs.
Releford scored six of Fayetteville's eight first-quarter points and scored eight in the third quarter when the Purple'Dogs (18-8, 9-3) began to pull away.
Jordan Owens scored 14 points for Springdale (10-14, 3-9).
Preps Sports on 02/22/2020
Print Headline: Williams, Grizzlies top North Little Rock