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NORTH LITTLE ROCK BOYS Wildcats eye historic title

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats have a chance to make some history. After beating the Mountain Home Bombers 69-41 on Tuesday, they head into Friday’s finale unbeaten in conference play.

Not that head coach Johnny Rice is at enamored with such a distinction — or is he?

“You can go undefeated and lose in the state tournament and nobody remembers,” Rice said last week, “or you can barely get in and win the state title and nobody remembers that either.”

It’s been since the early 70s since any North Little Rock basketball team can say they have finished the conference schedule unblemished even though there have been some very talented teams at North Little Rock, especially recently.

“We’ve had the guys to do it,” Rice said, “but it just hasn’t happened.”

North Little Rock gained attention after winning two very prestigious tournaments. Jammin’ for Jackets against Little Rock Hall, Fayetteville, and Little Rock Central plus the Coke Classic in Fort Smith have the Charging Wildcats battle tested.

“I’d put up our wins against anybody’s” Rice said.

A close loss to Missouri’s Charleston is the only blemish on the record.

What started as a quest for relevance has morphed into historical significance, and the eyebrows began rising around the state when North Little Rock went to Jonesboro and pulled out a one-point win.

But questions have still lingered.

“People questioned our chemistry,” Rice said, “our makeup and if we were tough enough.”

A double-digit win over that same Jonesboro team has set the stage for what could be an historical basketball run.

Seven seniors will play their final home game this week, but the potential of championship glory still looms ahead.

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