BRYANT -- Conway Coach Brian "Salty" Longing believed his team needed its "A" game to beat North Little Rock on Friday night, but the Wampus Cats did him one better.
"The guys played at an A-plus level, and we had to in order to beat that team," Longing said after Conway upset No. 1-ranked North Little Rock 72-57 in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A boys state tournament at Hornet Arena. "We played with North Little Rock for three quarters and was down one in the fourth in both of our meetings only to lose. They torched us in transition in both of those games.
"So the guys took it to heart to keep them out of transition as much as possible. But there's no better way to limit another team's transition game than to make shots, and I thought we shot it well."
Conway (20-8) went 25 of 35 (71.4%) from the floor, including 13 of 16 in the second half. The Wampus Cats also knocked down 7 of 11 from beyond the three-point line.
Senior guard Trey Tull had 26 points and three steals for Conway, which will play Fayetteville today at 7:30 p.m. with a berth in next week's state championship game on the line. Senior forward Caleb London added 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists while junior center Jayden Williams poured in 10 points and 6 rebounds.
Spencer Simes, a senior forward, had 15 points and 10 rebounds for North Little Rock (22-5), the 6A-Central's top-seeded team. Senior guard Otis Jordan pumped in 13 points and sophomore forward Kel'el Ware ended with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Charging Wildcats, who were forced to play catch-up most of the way.
The teams were tied at 6-6 until Conway unleashed a 12-3 run to double up North Little Rock. That lead grew to as big as 30-19 in the second quarter behind strong showings from Tull and London before the Charging Wildcats crawled to within 36-28 at the half.
Conway continued to make shots in the third and fourth quarters, which denied North Little Rock a real shot at making a run.
"You've got to tip your hat to Conway because they just kept putting shots in the hole," North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice said. "It wasn't that we weren't playing hard or didn't shoot it well. Conway just played awesome.
"Every time we would cut it to five and had the ball to get it closer, Conway would come down and make a play."
North Little Rock, which hit 20 of 45 (44.4%) field goals, was behind 66-52 in the fourth but cut Conway's cushion to 66-57 after a layup from junior guard D.J. Smith with 2:01 remaining in the game. But the Wampus Cats went 6 of 10 from the foul line to put an end to the Charging Wildcats' season.
"We've gotta come back and try to do it again [today]," Longing said. "That's the tough thing. Hopefully, we've got another one in us."
Junior Tamaury Releford churned out 18 points to carry the Bulldogs to a victory over the host team in a game mired by fouls.
Each team was whistled for 30 fouls, not to mention three technicals against the Bulldogs. Still, Fayetteville (20-8) battled back from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter behind Releford.
The 6-6 center, who missed most of the first half because of foul issues, scored 16 points in the second half. His short jumper snapped a 56-56 tie and started a 14-2 run that sent the Bulldogs on their way.
Sophomore guard Landon Glasper scored 15 points and senior guard Connor Barnett had 12 for Fayetteville, which outscored the Hornets 26-8 in the fourth quarter to eradicate a 52-47 Bryant lead.
Senior guard A.J. Jenkins had 16 of his 18 points in the first half for Bryant (17-12). Senior guard Treylon Payne scored 16 points and sophomore guard Khasen Robinson had 11.
Sports on 03/07/2020