North Little Rock followed an inside game led by 6-11 junior center Kelel Ware and the outside play of senior guards Tracy Steele Jr. and D.J. Smith to an 82-36 victory over Little Rock Southwest at Charging Wildcat Arena on Tuesday night.
Ware had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocked shots.
"He is such a weapon on both ends of the floor in front of the rim," North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice said. "When he's playing hard all the time, he's an elite guy."
Southwest Coach Christopher Threatt wasn't going to argue that point.
"He does his job very well," Threatt said. "He's the biggest kid we've played this year, and sometimes you have a big kid who doesn't want to play big, but he knows who he is. He's not confused. He's embraced his role."
North Little Rock (8-1, 2-1 6A-Central) was helped by Southwest's 28 turnovers.
"A team like North Little Rock doesn't need help," Threatt said. "If we're going to give them turnovers, then we're giving them help. We're helping a team that doesn't need it, and it just starts an avalanche we're not going to come back from."
Steele and Smith each scored 14 points for North Little Rock. Senior forward Darius Eason Jr. and junior forward Emir Siddiq each scored seven points to lead Southwest.
Eason picked up his fourth foul less than three minutes into the second quarter but remained in the game until the final minute of the fourth.
"I wanted to play him because he plays hard," Threatt said. "We needed him out there. It's a long season, and it gives you room to grow even in bad situations."
Eleven first-quarter turnovers by Southwest (2-6, 1-2) helped North Little Rock take command early.
After his second blocked shot of the game, Ware scored on a 5-foot baseline jumper to give North Little Rock a 13-4 lead with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
A three-point play by senior forward Kareame Cotton gave North Little Rock a 21-6 lead two minutes later.
Two free throws by Eason pulled Southwest within 23-8 early in the second quarter, but an 18-2 run completed with a three-point shot by Steele gave North Little Rock a 41-9 lead with 3:26 left in the second.
A layup by Siddiq cut North Little Rock's lead to 45-16 with 1:18 left in the first half, which North Little Rock completed with a 52-18 lead after Smith's three-pointer with three seconds left.
"Our whole focus was to play with a little more energy and passion tonight, and I think we did that," Rice said.
Threatt said he was impressed.
"They compete on every possession," Threatt said. "Playing hard is not a skill, but it should be a requirement. When the ball's loose, they're going to go for it. I don't think they care who scores. They're just going to play hard every possession regardless."
North Little Rock 81, Little Rock Southwest 23
Junior forward Amauri Williams scored 16 points to lead North Little Rock to victory.
Junior forward Destine Duckworth scored 14 points for North Little Rock (9-4, 2-1 6A-Central). Senior guards Kalina Foster and Arin Freeman each scored 10.
Senior forward Nariah Samuels led Southwest (3-6, 0-3) with seven points. Senior guard Takyra Miles scored five.
North Little Rock led 55-11 at halftime.