Saturday, March 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> NLR ladies stun Tigers

Leader sports editor

The Charging Lady Wild-cats pulled off the upset of the class 7A tournament in Thursday’s quarterfinals, knocking off No. 1 seed Bentonville 63-54 to advance to today’s semifinal against Fort Smith Northside.

The game pitted North Little Rock’s pressure defense against Bentonville’s dominant inside game, and the pressure won out. Bentonville struggled with the pressure early, but came back to take the lead by two points at halftime.

The continuous relentless pressure eventually wore down the 7A West champions and the Lady Wildcats assumed control of the game midway through the third quarter.

North Little Rock, the four seed from the Central conference, hasn’t been ranked all season and lost its season finale heading into state, but head coach Daryl Fimple still felt like his team would be one that would be a difficult out.

“We have been playing really well,” Fimple said. “We made some hard decisions – went younger. Sometimes when you do that the seniors don’t like it and it’ll fracture a team a little bit. But these seniors have bought into that and we’re just having a lot of fun. There’s no pressure on us whatsoever. This is the first year that we haven’t been the team that’s just fighting to stay alive.”

Bentonville led 26-19 with 1:34 left in the second quarter when North Little Rock made its first big charge, scoring six straight before going into halftime down 27-25. The Lady Wildcats came out of the intermission with five points in the first 20 seconds of the third quarter. After forcing a turnover on the half’s opening possession, senior Sasha Giles hit a 15-foot jumper. Freshman Kyra Collier then got a steal and layup and was fouled.

Bentonville came back to take the lead again at 34-33, and that was the last time the Lady Tigers led in the game.

North Little Rock went on a 6-0 run before Bentonville scored to make it 39-36 with three minutes left in the third quarter, but it was never any closer the rest of the way.

With the score 41-38, sophomore Malica Monk scooped up a loose ball after a missed shot and scored. Junior Dajha Hardamon then got a steal and layup to make it 45-38 with 1:09 on the clock, and that’s how it stayed until the fourth quarter.

The Lady Wildcats missed two layups in the early going of the fourth, and Bentonville cut the lead to 45-40, but another quick five points, a three pointer by sophomore Halley Hill and two free throws by Hardamon, made it 50-40.

The Lady Tigers answered with a couple of 5-0 runs, but North Little Rock answered in kind each time. Bentonville scored five consecutive points on a three pointer and putback by center Julia Garrad, that made it 50-45 with 5:16 to play.

North Little Rock scored the next five points to again make it a 10-point game with 3:38 remaining. Bentonville scored the next five to make it 55-50 with 1:40 left, but that was its last gasp.

“We’re playing really, really fast right now,” Fimple said of his team. “Malica Monk, I swear sometimes it’s like having a double team on people when she’s guarding them. She is a holy terror out there. She scares me. In practice I worry about my kids when we’re really working on guarding them.”

Collier led North Little Rock with 18 points while Monk added 12. Monk also finished with six steals while Collier had four.

Bentonville’s two 6-foot-2 post players led the Lady Tigers. Garrad finished with 15 points while Jasmine Secrest had 12.