Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> North girls drop title to Conway

Leader sportswriter

After a quarter of play, it looked as if the Cabot North Lady Panthers were on their way to the school’s first postseason tournament championship since 2006, but Conway Blue outplayed the host team from the second quarter on to win 48-38 and capture the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship Saturday at Panther Arena.

Lily Sinclair and Maddie Rice combined to score the first seven points of the game to give the North ladies a quick 7-0 lead. Futra Banks answered with five points for Conway Blue (19-3) to cut the North lead to two, but the Lady Panthers closed the quarter with a 5-0 run to lead 12-5 after a quarter of play.

The second quarter was a different story all together. A three pointer by Alexis Tolefree with 1:53 to play in the half gave Conway Blue its first lead with the score 15-14. Tolefree’s three capped off a 10-2 start for the Lady Wampus Cats.

MaKenzie Sexton, who scored all five of North’s points in the second quarter, scored her final points of the period on an and-one play with 1:29 to go, which gave the host Lady Panthers a 17-15 lead. But another three from Tolefree on Conway Blue’s ensuing possession gave the visiting team an 18-17 lead at halftime.

“We had a great start, but we didn’t close the second quarter like we wanted to,” said North coach Jeremy Halbrook. “We played them right after Christmas at home, and actually beat them by 10. So they got that back on us. CoCo Calhoun had 21 points the first time we played them. We rely on her to score the majority of our points, and she didn’t have that kind of game today.

“I was really proud of MaKenzie Sexton who came in off the bench. She got some good baskets for us. The effort was there. We just weren’t smart on some possessions and we needed to get her involved a little bit more, CoCo that is.”

Calhoun scored all seven of her points in the second half, two of which came in the third quarter.

Sinclair scored seven of North’s 10 third quarter points, but Tolefree and Banks combined to score 16 for Conway Blue in that time to give the Lady Wampus Cats a 34-27 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Conway Blue increased its lead at the start of the fourth with a 4-0 scoring run. The Lady Panthers did all they could to make a run late, but could never put a serious dent in the Lady Wampus Cats’ lead.

Near the 2:00 mark, Calhoun scored her final basket on a three pointer from the corner that cut Conway Blue’s lead to 43-36, but the Lady Wampus Cats outscored the Lady Panthers 5-2 down the stretch to set the final score.

“Their two players brought it today,” Halbrook said of Tolefree and Banks. “You could see (No.) 5 and (No.) 32 were their go-to girls. They brought it today. But I’m proud of them (North girls). They’ve all done good and they’ve worked hard this whole season. From their stretch from seventh grade to now, I think they lost three games in seventh grade, eighth grade lost one, and we lost six this year.

“So we can’t complain. Our goal was to win our conference, which we did. Of course we’d like to finish off winning the tournament, but we fell one game short. It was a good year. We can’t be ashamed. We finished 18-6 as our final record. This has been one of the better groups we’ve had at North.”

Sexton led the North ladies with 13 points. Sinclair scored 12 and grabbed six rebounds. Calhoun also had six rebounds to go with her seven points. Tolefree scored a game-high 25 points and had six steals. Banks had a great all-around game as she totaled 21 points, 10 rebounds, six steals and three blocks.