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NORTH LITTLE ROCK BOYS Smalltel gets big crowd

<p>The crowd at North Little Rock&amp;#8217;s Smalltel before the game against Jonesboro last Friday.</p><p>Daryl Fimple</p>

The crowd at North Little Rock&#8217;s Smalltel before the game against Jonesboro last Friday.

Daryl Fimple

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats cleared a major hurdle this week in securing a 7A/6A conference championship when they defeated Jonesboro 75-63 on Friday.

The win effectively put their closest challenger to the regular season crown away and completed a season series sweep against a team that has been widely considered to be the Charging Wildcats’ equal, or at least close to their equal.

North Little Rock followed up Friday’s win with a 68-40 win over Searcy.

What is in front of North Little Rock is a state tournament bid and the expectation of a state title.

“We’ve talked about it some,” North Little Rock head coach Johnny Rice said. “I’m sort of running out of clichés to use.”

But first there’s the matter of finishing unbeaten in conference, a feat that is very much in reach for the Charging Wildcats. But Rice also said that not going undefeated in league wouldn’t’ be the worst thing to happen.

“We haven’t gone unbeaten in the conference in a long time,” Rice said, “but we haven’t won a state title since 1971.”

The state championship is where the focus truly lies.

“You can go unbeaten in conference and not win the state championship and nobody remembers what you did,” Rice said. “By the same token, you can lose in the regular season and win a state title, and again nobody remembers.”

All the Charging Wildcats do is win, and even though they are hearing off the court how good they are, Rice said his kids are using the positive feedback the right way and handling their business in the right way.

“We want to make history,” Rice said. “We’ve said that all year.”

They have two more regular season games in front of them before their state title run actually begins.

History in the making.

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