Photos by Kevin Nagle
There aren’t many junior high basketball teams that play above the rim but this season’s North Little Rock Charging Wildcats freshman team has a handful of players that do just that.
The Cats, who have run roughshod through their schedule so far including a 3-0 start to the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference slate, besides having leaping ability, are aggressive, quick and deep.
And size. This year’s Bryant Hornets freshman team has as much size as any class to come through in recent years but North Little Rock had half a dozen players that were taller than any of the Hornets.
But, after falling behind the Wildcats 14-1 initially, the Hornets stayed with them much of the game. But a flurry at the end of the third quarter including the lone clean dunk the Cats had broke the game open and North Little Rock came away with a 61-33 victory.
The Hornets, now 1-2 in league play, will try to get back on track Thursday when they travel to Conway to play the Blue Wampus Cats.
In Monday night’s game at the Bryant Middle School gym, it took a while for the Hornets to get used to the aggressive, physical full-court pressure applied by the Wildcats.
They finally got on track when they beat the press for a layup by Randy Thomas with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. After two free throws for North Little Rock, Bryant’s Blaise Smith was fouled inside and converted twice at the line. Moments later, off an inbounds lob, Smith scored again. And when Rodney Lambert fed Thomas for another layup, the Hornets had whittled the margin to 16-9.
The Wildcats led 20-9 going into the second quarter.
A three-point play by Tyler O’Neal trimmed the margin back to 8 but back-to-back baskets by North Little Rock pushed the lead back to double-digits and the Hornets were never that close again.
Layups by Lambert and O’Neal each cut it to 10. After a North Little Rock 3, Lambert fed Thomas who was fouled and converted a free throw. Lambert made a steal but missed at the other end. But layup by Thomas had the score 29-19.
But the Wildcats extended the advantage to 36-23 at the half.
North Little Rock scored the first two baskets of the third quarter. The second hoop was the dunk on which the player hung onto the rim and swung resulting in a technical foul. The Wildcats’ coach protested, trying to make the case that the player was holding on to protect himself and other players.
As it turned out, three technical fouls were issued. Lambert went to the line for six free throws, making three and cutting the lead to 40-26. The Hornets also got the ball but suffered a turnover.
The charged up Charging Wildcats proceeded to go on a 19-2 blitz to blow the game open. Only a layup by Daelin Drake interrupted the surge.
Thomas led the Hornets with 11 points. O’Neal and Smith had 7 each, Lambert 5. Drake had 2 points and Alex Blair 1.