NORTH LITTLE ROCK BOYS — Cats claim Coke Classic crown

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<p>Northside&amp;#8217;s Stephon Barron puts up a shot while guarded by North Little Rock&amp;#8217;s Cameron Williams during their semifinal game in the Coca-Cola Christmas Classic on Dec. 28 at the Stubblefield Center. (BRIAN D. SANDERFORD &amp;#8226; TIMES RECORD)</p>

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats have been downright offensive lately, and their performance in last weekend’s Coca-Cola Christmas Classic was no different, especially in the tournament’s championship game.

After a 103-77 blowout win over Springdale, the Charging Wildcats are well on there way to becoming relevant in another high school sport, and that’s how head coach Johnny Rice wants it.

The Charging Wildcats have worked quickly to build a reputation and it’s all been earned on the court.

Winning 12 of 13 games against the likes of Jacksonville and Little Rock Hall and Little Rock Central was impressive enough.

But beating Fort Smith Northside and Springdale so convincingly and a win over Texas High, the Charging Wildcats are quickly turning the states attention toward the north side of the river.

North Little Rock is accustomed to getting attention in sports.

North Little Rock girls coach Daryl Fimple has enjoyed a run where his teams have not only been in the state’s conversation, but has garnered some national attention as well, being ranked in the nation’s top 20 at some point in each of the last three years.

While Fimple’s teams are not as highly regarded, his girls have only lost three games this season after dropping an eight-point impromptu contest to the state’s 5A runner-up.

In football, the Charging Wildcats have been on the cusp of a state championship for the last three years. In the process, head football coach Brad Bolding has sent several players to the next level and has coached the state’s top recruit in Altee Tenpenny, who is pledged to play for the Alabama Crimson Tide next season.

North Little Rock basketball has the talent to not only be relevant, but to be feared.

Kevaughn Allen, Thomas Alexander and Dayshawn Watkins form what can be considered as the Big Three. They scored nearly 70 percent of North Little Rock’s total in Saturday night’s championship game..

Add a lockdown defender in Gary Vines, whom Rice calls his best defensive player and reliable ball handler in pressure situations.

League play starts this week and the Charging Wildcats get into the second season. They get into the second season with a new reputation. Game one of that second season starts at Cabot on Friday night.

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