Powerful Wampus Cats don’t put away Hornets until late

K-Ron Lairy (Photo by Rick Nation)

By Rob Patrick

CONWAY — There were, no doubt, many folks who figured Tuesday’s game between the Conway Wampus Cats, ranked in the state’s top five in any poll you can find, and the Bryant Hornets would be a blowout.

And, in the end, it looked like one with Conway pouring it on late for a 62-37 win. But, for a long time, the Hornets wouldn’t go away. In fact, they were within 9 points going into the final minute of the third quarter. A 14-2 run from that point, however, put the game out of reach.

The Wampus Cats improved to 14-2 overall and 4-0 in the 7A-Central Conference. Bryant fell to 8-10 and 1-3.

An upset victory would’ve been great but the Hornets actually face a much more urgent task this Friday when they host the Cabot Panthers, one of the teams they have a chance to beat out for a trip to the State tournament.

“This could’ve been a huge win for us but the Cabot game — if we can beat Cabot then we can get two teams behind us and that’s a good thing for us,” acknowledged Hornets coach Ron Marvel. “As long as we can keep two behind us, we’re in good shape.”[more]

Of Conway, he said, “They’re the most talented team we’ve played. No doubt about that. They’ve got three D-I prospects and they’ve got some other kids that are very good.

“We did all the right things, they were just very athletic,” he added. “Our kids were just a little bit slow and we got our shots blocked from behind seven or eight times. Of course, when that happens to you, you’re leery of shooting the ball but we probably shot more lay-ins tonight than we’ve shot against most other teams.

“Our defense wasn’t up to par tonight,” Marvel stated. “We didn’t defend very well but I thought our kids hung in there and I was pretty pleased with them into the second half. The last quarter or so, we just kind of gave it up.”

The Hornets actually kept a couple of those D-I prospects under double figures. Kenyon McNeaill, a three-year starter, managed just 6 points and Micah Delph, son of the famous Arkansas Razorback, got only 5.

But the inside tandem of Preston Purifoy and Colt Fason combined for 25 points to lead the Cats. They also were a big part of a 39-24 rebound advantage.

Point guard K-Ron Lairy led the Hornets with 19 points but no one else had more than Brandon Parish’s 5.

Lairy had all 8 of Bryant’s points in the first quarter which ended with Conway up 15-8. Despite Conway’s aggressive full-court defense, Bryant had been cited for six fouls to just one for Conway at the first break. The Cats were also more aggressive to the basket which had a lot to do with the discrepancy.

Conway had a chance to increase the lead to start the second quarter but Parish took a charge — one of three absorbed by Bryant defenders during the game — and Kendall Butzlaff banked in a short jumper to trim the lead to 5.

Fason and Delph answered but a three-point play by Connor Rayburn kept the Hornets close. Conway pushed it back out to 10 but and had a chance to make it 12 or 13 only to have L.J. McLaughlin set up defensively and take a charge, setting up a jumper in the lane by Lairy that was followed by two free throws from Butzlaff that had the margin back to 25-19 with 1:24 left in the half.

Purifoy hit a free throw and the Hornets had a chance to get closer only to have Purifoy make a steal and layup. After McLaughlin couldn’t get either of a pair of free throws to fall with :07 left, Fason beat the buzzer with a 15-footer that had Conway back up 30-19.

And when Teshawn Sims knocked down a 3 to start the second half, it looked like the rout might be eminent. The two teams traded baskets for a while, however. With 3:51 left in the third period, the Conway lead was hovering at 14, 39-25.

Bryant’s K.J. Hampton hit the offensive boards for a basket and, after Purifoy missed, Parish buried a 3 to trim the lead to 39-30.

And the Hornets had chances to get closer. Glenn Norris missed a 3 for Conway but Parish couldn’t get a jumper to fall. Rayburn, however, took a charge on a drive by Delph to give Bryant another chance but Butzlaff’s shot was blocked. In turn, Delph misfired but the Hornets turned the ball over and Conway’s Xavier Clardy hit the offensive boards for a bucket with :29 left in the third to start his team’s game-breaking run.

Another Bryant turnover led to a late layup by Norris to end the quarter with Conway up 43-30. And when Sims nailed his second 3 and Fason followed up a Bryant miss with a layup, the lead had ballooned to 18 points. Lairy knocked down a driving jumper but Conway scored the next 5 points to push the lead over 20.

Free throws by Lairy and a driving layup by Parish enabled the Hornets to cut the lead to 54-37 before both coaches subbed. Three late baskets including two of them that went for 3 expanded the final margin.


Score by quarters

BRYANT 8 11 11 7 — 37

Conway 15 15 13 19 — 62

HORNETS (8-10, 1-3) 37

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Lairy 6-13 5-6 1-2 3 2 19

Parish 2-7 0-0 0-0 0 2 5

Butzlaff 1-5 2-2 1-5 6 1 4

Hampton 2-3 0-0 1-4 5 2 4

Renuard 0-5 0-0 1-4 5 2 0

McLaughlin 1-5 0-4 1-1 2 0 2

Rayburn 1-3 1-1 0-0 0 3 3

Cozart 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Nossaman 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Motto 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Garner 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Team 2-1 3

Totals 13-42 8-13 7-17 24 12 37

WAMPUS CATS (14-2, 4-0) 62

Player fg-fga ft-fta reb fls pts


Sims 4-8 0-2 4-2 6 2 10

Delph 2-8 0-0 1-1 2 2 5

McNeaill 2-10 2-4 1-1 2 2 6

Purifoy 3-7 7-8 3-3 6 2 13

Fason 6-10 0-1 2-7 9 2 12

Norris 4-8 0-0  1-1 2 0 8

Clardy 1-2 1-2 3-2 5 2 3

Reed 0-0 0-0  1-3 4 3 0

Guiden 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 2

Davis 1-1 0-0 0-1 1 0 3

Noble 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Harmon 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0

Alspaugh 0-0 0-0  0-0 0 0

Team 0-1 1

Total 24-56 10-17 16-23 39 15 62

Three-point field goals: Bryant 3-11 (Lairy 2-5, Parish 1-1, Renuard 0-2, Rayburn 0-2, McLaughlin 0-1), Conway 4-15 (Sims 2-3, Delph 1-4, Davis 1-1, McNeiall 0-3, Norris 0-3, Harmon 0-1). Turnovers: Bryant 15, Conway 7. 

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