Junior Charging Wildcats trim Hornets in first-place showdown

For more photos of this event by Kevin Nagle, go here

Marqelle Barnes tries to score in traffic. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

NORTH LITTLE ROCK — With a share of first place in the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference on the line, the Bryant Hornets and North Little Rock Charging Wildcats freshman teams were all tied up 34-34 with 3:37 left to play on Monday night.

The Hornets had a chance to take their first lead since midway through the second quarter when North Little Rock’s Spencer Sims missed a shot. Colby Washington rebounded for Bryant but, like most everything else in the game, the Hornets were contested as they started back up the court to their offensive end. A turnover ensued and, with 3:14 left, the Charging Wildcats took advantage. Davion Larff knocked down a 3-pointer.

And when the Hornets missed a shot at the other end, Larff dashed to the rack and made a tough shot as he was fouled. The result was a three-point play and a 40-34 lead with 2:44 to go.

Sims wound up making 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute as the Charging Wildcats held on for a 48-42 win.

Catrell Wallace gets a clean look inside. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

North Little Rock remains tied with Russellville, a 33-25 winner of Little Rock Catholic on Monday, for first in the league at 10-2. The Hornets dropped to 9-3, tied with Conway White. Bryant hosts Conway Blue on Thursday.

“We had ourselves set up a couple of times,” said Hornets coach Tyler Posey. “We just missed some shots that we normally would make. I have all the confidence in the world that, if we get it back again, we’ll make those shots.

“We let them get a couple of offensive rebounds and putbacks,” he noted. “We were about a half a step away on multiple plays, from either making a play or finishing a play.”

The Hornets actually out-rebounded the Cats 26-23 with 16 offensive boards, which helped create 45 field goal attempts. But they converted just 15 times, shooting 33 percent from the field.

Meanwhile, North Little Rock shot 16 of 30 (53 percent).

It was a rugged, fast-paced game as indicated by the fact that the teams combined for 45 turnovers.

Keith Merriweather Jr. finished with a game-high 17 points. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The Hornets didn’t go away after Larff’s back-to-back plays in the clutch. Keith Merriweather, who led all scorers with 17 points, hit a 15-footer. Bralin Nieves answered for the Wildcats then Merriweather knocked down another jumper to keep Bryant within 42-38.

After a North Little Rock timeout, the Hornets forced a turnover only to give it back. With 1:14 to go, Lamonte Boyd collected an offensive rebound and scored for the Cats to make it a 6-point game again.

An offensive-rebound bucket by Washington trimmed it to 45-42, a one-possession game, with :32 left. Posey quickly got a timeout.

When play resumed, the Wildcats played keep-away until Sims was fouled and sent to the line. He made just one shot but, it was enough to make it a two-possession game. He added two more from the line with :13.3 showing, sealing the victory.

The Hornets got off to a good start in the game. A baseline drive by Merriweather, a follow shot by Catrell Wallace and a steal by O.J. Newburn that Darrick Rose cashed in made it 6-2.

Tracey Steele buried a 3 to cut the lead to 1 but before the Cats could score again Wallace, who finished with 8 points and seven rebounds, hit the offensive boards for back-to-back baskets pushed the margin to 10-5.

Darrick Rose tries to hit his layup before the defense arrives. (Photo by Kevin Nagle)

The Hornets had chances to extend the margin but converted on just 1 of 4 free throws. Still, they held an 11-9 edge at the break.

Rose hit a floater on a drive into the paint to open the second quarter. Marqelle Barnes hit a free throw and it was 14-9. Washington stepped up and gook a charge on a drive by D.J. Smith but the Hornets were unable to take advantage.

With 3:45 left in the half, Steele scored and Sims followed with a 3 to tie it. Newburn hit a free throw to put Bryant up 15-14 but that was the Hornets’ last lead. Larff popped a 3 to put North Little Rock on top. It was 20-17 at the half.

Over the first four minutes of the third quarter, the Hornets were limited to just two free throws by Merriweather. As a result, North Little Rock increased its advantage to 30-21.

A layup on a full-court drive by Merriweather got the Hornets back on track. He would nail a 3 and Washington chipped in twice at the line. And when he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored with :03 on the clock, the game was knotted at 30.

With 5:38 left, Sims made a drive up the left baseline only to have the 6-5 Wallace block his shot from behind. On a delayed whistle, Wallace was charged with a foul. Sims drained both free throws to give his team the lead again.

Barnes tied it at the free-throw line and, after Smith untied it for North Little Rock, Barnes converted two more times at the charity stripe to make it 34-34.

Larff finished with 13 points and Sims 11 for North Little Rock. Wallace added 8 for the Hornets but he had just 2 after the first quarter.

Though small consolation, the game was much closer than the previous meeting between the two teams. On Dec. 1, the Wildcats blistered the Hornets, 51-34, at the Bryant Middle School gym.


Score by quarters

BRYANT          11        6          13        12 — 42

No.Little Rock 9          11        10        18 — 48


Rose 2-8 0-0 4, Merriweather 7-18 2-3 17, Newburn 0-2 1-2 1, Wallace 4-6 0-0 8, Hilkert 0-1 0-0 0, Barnes 0-4 5-7 5, C.Washington 2-5 3-4 7, West 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-45 13-17 42.


Steele 3-4 0-0 7, Smith 2-4 3-4 7, Sims 2-6 6-8 11, Boyd 3-7 0-0 6 Nieves 1-1 0-0 2, Larff 4-6 3-3 13, Harris 1-2 0-0 2, Pitts 0-0 0-0 0, Rogers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-30 12-15 48.

Three-point field goals: Bryant 1-5 (Merriweather 1-3, Newburn 0-1, West 0-1), North Little Rock 4-8 (Larff 2-3, Steele 1-2, Sims 1-1, Boyd 0-1, Harris 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 21, North Little Rock 24. Rebounds: Bryant 16-10 26 (Wallace 4-3 7, C.Washington 5-2 7, Rose 2-3 5, Merriweather 3-0 3, Newburn 1-1 2, Barnes 0-1 1, team 1-0 1), North Little Rock 6-17 23 (Boyd 3-6 9, Nieves 1-3 4, Steele 0-3 3, Harris 1-1 2, Smith 0-1 1, Sims 1-0 1, Larff 0-1 1, Pitts 0-1 1, Rogers 0-1 1). Team fouls: Bryant 12, North Little Rock 11. Fouled out: Bryant, Wallace.

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