Complacency may be too strong a description. So is being flat.
Settled may be closer to the truth.
The Conway girls (24-1), who haven’t lost to an Arkansas team this season, may be stricken with that ailment all coaches dread for teams that don’t much of a target to immediately shoot at for a couple of weeks — tournamentitis.
The Lady Cats played sloppily in muddling to a 63-45 victory Tuesday night over Mount St. Mary. Conway, which has already clinched a No. 1 seed in the 7A state tournament, never was in danger of losing but the game was competitive longer than it should have been. The Belles are 4-16, 0-8 in conference. The Lady Cats breezed to a 61-23 victory earlier in the season in Little Rock.
Conway has superior talent to MSM. The Lady Cats could play so-so and win by double digits and they knew it.
Tuesday night was a cruise control game with jolts — so much that coach Ashley Nance benched her five starters twice for a few minutes to instill more of a sense of urgency.
The Lady Cats played hard. It wasn’t the effort. It was a lack of focus that resulted in missed free throws, missed open shots, poor decisions. A sparse crowd at Buzz Bolding Arena — which led to no real enthusiasm — added to the blahs.
Factoring the difference in talent level and depth, the Belles outplayed the Lady Cats in several areas.
“If I’m Mount St. Mary’s coach, I might consider this a win because they got after us,” Nance said. “To me, it’s almost like a loss. We’re the No. 1 team in the state and we have to realize we are everybody’s championship game right now. There is a huge bull’s-eye on us.”
After defeating Van Buren and Russellville, their toughest 7A/6A Central opponents, the Lady Cats close out the conference season with teams that have already defeated decisively. They haven’t been seriously challenged in awhile and Nance saw it coming.
“The key is focusing on what we are doing,” she said. “I did something Monday you don’t like to do at this stage of the season. We had a hard practice because we have to get ready for what’s ahead in the state tournament.
“But you see this in a lot of teams that have their seeds wrapped up.”
In fact, Nance is more in a comfort zone than having a panic attack — although her team may not recognize it during the next couple of practices.
“We actually had more problems with this (putting things on cruise control against lesser opposition) last year,” she said. “We struggled more with this last year.
“This year’s team is more of a blue-collar team. We are not flashy. We got out and work hard and win. That’s just what we do.”
Nance knows her team. And she knows too much taking the foot off the accelerator in February could result in running out or gas or not getting into the right gear in March.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)