North Little Rock's 51-40 victory over Cabot on Friday night wasn't particularly memorable, but it wasn't supposed to be.
The Charging Wildcats (22-4, 13-1) did enough to win at Charging Wildcats Arena to wrap up the 6A-Central season, but they had something more important in the back of their minds.
"We tell them there are three seasons," Coach Johnny Rice said. "Your nonconference season, your conference season and now the real season's here. Do or die. Win or go home. Every possession is going to be precious. We've been gearing up for this. And it's here."
North Little Rock, the Democrat-Gazette's second-ranked team, won't play again until Friday night in the Class 6A state tournament at Bryant.
Rice said it's his goal to get his team to line up its mental game with its physical talent.
"On paper, we've got everything you need to win a state championship," he said. "We've got guard play, we've got shooters, we've got big guys. We can play big, we can play small. We can play slow, we can play fast.
"We've got it all on paper, but if we don't come together and play together and do all that, we're not going to."
North Little Rock did not do those things to Rice's satisfaction during the first half, which ended with the Charging Wildcats leading 21-16. Rice said his message at halftime was a familiar one.
"I've got it on the board written," Rice said. "Play the right way. They know what I mean. Playing together, making the correct play and not try to do things on our own."
North Little Rock was crisper in the third quarter, getting five points from senior point guard Otis Jordan -- who finished with a team-high 15 -- and five points from Tracy Steele.
Bryson Warren scored two of his 14 points in the third quarter when five different Charging Wildcats scored between two and five points.
Rice said Jordan is playing the way that he did as a sophomore starter on the 2018 championship team.
"He's playing like a senior championship guard," Rice said. "That's what I'm telling him."
Cabot (17-10, 7-7) was coming off a last-second overtime victory over Fort Smith Northside on Tuesday when senior Jacob Hudson hit a three-pointer as time expired. Hudson (21 points) accounted for more than half of the Panthers' production Friday night.
"We're a different ball team when he's playing well," Cabot interim coach Logan Bailey said.
It didn't matter against North Little Rock.
"That's just a really good ball team," Bailey said. "They've got length at every position. They've got quickness. They guard you like crazy and they make everything tough on you."
Rice said making it tough on the opposition is what North Little Rock is aiming to do, especially on the defensive side.
"They've been there, done that," Rice said of his team. "They know what the ultimate goal is. I'm hoping that's what finally locks us in and we peak."
NORTH LITTLE ROCK 42
Cabot senior guard Shy Christopher, waiting at the top of the key with the clock ticking down, hit a driving layup as time expired to lift Cabot (22-5, 10-4) to a 6A-Central victory over North Little Rock (15-12, 8-6).
Christopher, a Southeast Missouri State signee, scored 34 of her team's 43 points, including the final 11 for the Lady Panthers.
North Little Rock led 34-30 with 6:33 to play and was up 42-39 with 2:05 to play before Christopher made a whirling move for a layup with 31.7 seconds left to make it 42-41.
North Little Rock's April Edwards, who finished with six points, missed two free throws with 17.3 seconds to play.
Sports on 02/29/2020