The Conway Wampus Cats substituted freely, surged past Little Rock Catholic, 65-48, and clinched a berth in the 7A state tournament Tuesday night at Buzz Bolding Arena.
Leading only by 18-15 with 2:13 left in the first half, the Cats (7-5, 11-12) used a three-point play by Kendarious Smith and a fast break basket by Triple Williams to build a 33-22 lead at the half.
They extended their defense further in the second half, which generated a series of transition baskets that produced a 15-2 run that made things more comfortable for a quarter and a half. The Rockets (3-15, 2-8) didn’t score their first field goal of the second half until 5:01 remained in the third quarter.
“The way our offense is set up, we hope to turn defense into offense,” said Conway coach Will Johnson. “We pushed things and were more aggressive on defense and that led to some runouts. We did a better job of running our offense.”
The win clinches a No. 3 seed for Conway in the state tournament at Cabot.
Kendarious Smith led a balanced attack with 12 points. Prentice Mullins and Williams each had 11.
“In certain games, I like to play 11 or 12 people, so we can come in with energy and get after it,” Johnson said.
“That was ugly,” said CHS girls coach Ashley Nance after her team struggled more than they needed in a 63-45 victory over Mount St. Mary (4-16, 0-8).
Conway (24-1, 11-0), missing shots, free throws and plaque by a variety of turnovers, led only 15-14 when Nance removed her starters for about three minutes for motivational purposes midway through the second quarter. The Cats surged to a 38-23 lead at the half and pretty did enough to hold serve the second half.
“We played hard but our focus wasn’t there,” Nance said. “We played like a lot of teams at this stage of the season that have clinched a top seed in the state tournament and know they can play mediocre and beat an opponent. We can’t do that in a couple of weeks.
“The tough thing is we play our toughest conference teams, Van Buren and Russellville, at the top of the conference rotation. Against the other teams, we play hard when we have to.”
Alexis Tolefree led the Lady Cats with 18 points. Savannah Lowe added 13 and Hailey Estes added nine points on nine 3s.