Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Wildcats pummel Warriors

Leader sports editor

Kevaughn Allen and Dayshawn Watkins shared MVP honors at the conclusion of North Little Rock’s 83-59 win over Little Rock Hall in Saturday’s championship game of the Joe Johnson Jammin’ for Jackets Tournament at Little Rock Hall’s Cirks Arena.

Allen and Watkins, both guards, scored a combined 48 points to lead the Charging Wildcats to the surprisingly easy win over the three-time state champion Warriors. NLR coach Johnny Rice had nothing but good things to say about the play of his guards after the game.

“They make us go,” Rice said. “I played for North Little Rock, and I’ve been here and coached here for 22 years, and the collection of guards that we have now is probably the best we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Allen scored the first points of the game on a three pointer, and NLR (6-1) never relinquished its lead from there. Hall (6-3) was able to keep the score close early as it trailed 12-10 with 10:38 to play in the first half. But the Charging Wildcats steadily increased their lead, and led 38-27 at halftime.

North Little Rock was 5 for 11 shooting beyond the arc in the opening half, and capitalized off of eight Warrior turnovers. The Wildcats committed just two turnovers in the half. Watkins scored 15 points, had five assists and two steals in that time. Allen scored 12 points and snagged three rebounds.

The Warriors, led by University of Arkansas signee Bobby Portis, a 6-foot-9 senior, did what they could to make a comeback in the final 16:00. Hall made its first five shots from the floor in the second half, but never got within nine points of the Wildcats’ lead.

NLR outscored Hall 45-32 in the second half, and the final margin was set on a rebound and put-back by Wildcats senior forward Matthew Terry with one second to play. NLR couldn’t be matched on the offensive end throughout Saturday’s game, especially at the perimeter.

The Wildcats drained seven three pointers in the second half. Allen made four of them. For the game, NLR made 54.3 percent of its shots from the field on 57 attempts, and made 48 percent of its shots from the three-point line.

Rice said afterwards that he’d normally be surprised at how well his team shot against Hall, but he saw a lot of the same success in wins over perennial basketball powerhouses Little Rock Parkview (5-1) in the first round of the tournament, and Fayetteville (9-2) in the semifinals.

“I keep saying that, but they’ve done it for three or four games,” Rice said when asked if he was surprised by how well his team’s been shooting. “I’m not going to live and breathe on whether or not we’re hitting at a high percentage like this. We only took maybe one or two shots off the dribble.

“If you would have told me we were going to play Parkview, Fayetteville and Hall, and win like we did, I probably would’ve said ‘well, I don’t know about all that.’ So I’m extremely proud of our boys.”

North Little Rock out-rebounded Hall 23-16, and committed four fewer turnovers. However, a good chunk of NLR’s eight second-half turnovers came late with the game already out of reach.

Allen, who made six threes in the game, led all scorers with 28 points. Watkins scored 20 points, had three steals, and finished an assist shy of a double-double. Thomas Alexander added 16 points, and Gary Vines led the Wildcats with six rebounds.

Portis led the Warriors with 26 points, and added five boards and two blocks. Javon Perry and Anfernee Floyd each scored 10 points.

North Little Rock played Jacksonville in a nonconference game yesterday at the Devil’s Den. Look for details of that game in Saturday’s edition of The Leader. They will play Shiloh Christian in the Arkansas Hoops Challenge tournament at Maumelle High School on Saturday.