Count the first test of the conference season a pass for the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats.
North Little Rock hit eight foul shots in the final minutes to escape West Memphis with a 59-57 win in what coach Johnny Rice called “an important win” in the 7A/6A-East.
“It’s hard to say that a game this early is this important,” Rice said, “but a win against them is big, especially on the road.”
Kevaughn Allen led North Little Rock with 20 points while Anton Beard added 17.
K.J. Hill’s foul shots and steal in the final minutes preserved the win.
Rice said the game was tough from the outset as the Blue Devils’ experience allowed them to handle whatever the Charging Wildcats threw at them.
“We pressured them in the beginning,” Rice said, “and they got easy baskets. We backed off and they forced us into more of a half court game and used their size and experience.”
But NLR was able to keep it close.
Rice said his team had better get used to opponents like the Blue Devils.
“We have the bull’s-eye on our backs,” Rice said. “Everybody is going to be ready for us.”
Test number two comes at home on Friday when Jonesboro comes to the arena with a little bit of revenge on their mind.
The Hurricanes had two league losses last season, both to North Little Rock. Last year’s first game at Jonesboro was close while the second game was a bit of a blowout
“I think this league is better top to bottom than last year,” Rice said.
Plus the Charging Wildcats are not the league’s surprise anymore.
North Little Rock will likely have to win more games from the foul line as they did on Tuesday hitting 22 out of their 34 attempts.
The Hurricanes beat Little Rock Central on Tuesday behind Kahron Ross’ 17 points. The Charging Wildcats also have the likes of Marquis Porter and Aaron Washington.
“They haven’t lost since Christmas,” Rice said. “They are tough team, and it’s going to be a tough game.”
The Cats’ by the same token haven’t lost since Jammin’ for Jackets. Someone will be looking to start a new winning streak after the final buzzer on Friday.