While Fayetteville is battling for a conference championship, Van Buren is just trying to win its first conference game.
The Lady Pointers, who have lost 10 consecutive games, came close to derailing the Lady Bulldogs. But Fayetteville used a fourth-quarter rally to claim a 42-37 7A/6A-West girls win Tuesday.
"You see this in college basketball about taking no one for granted," Fayetteville coach Vic Rimmer said. "Coach (Merrill) Mankin is one of the best coaches in the state and his team played hard tonight. We had to come back to win, so hopefully that shows we have to fight every night if you want to win this league."
With Har-Ber’s loss to Bentonville, the Lady Bulldogs (15-5, 8-1) regained sole possession of first-place in the 7A/6A-West with five games to play.
Van Buren controlled the pace of the game for three quarters, leading by 34-33 going into the final eight minutes.
"These kids have not quit or given up," Mankin said. "We are getting better. We got the shots we wanted (in the fourth quarter), they just didn’t fall. They will before long."
Lauren Schuldt tied the game with a putback at 35-35 with 6:40 left and Sydney Crockett’s basket with 3:35 left gave Fayetteville the lead at 37-35. That was the Lady Bulldogs’ first lead since 4-3 earlier in the game and they never relinquished it.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of poise," Rimmer said. "It got tense to where we needed buckets to get back into the lead."
Fayetteville also switched defenses to slow down the Van Buren offense.
"We literally went to ball-contain defense and that is something we do not like to do," Rimmer added. "Van Buren did a good job of causing angles, which forced help and we were leaving shooters open and they were knocking down shots. They shot it so well."
Crockett scored 10 to pace Fayetteville. Lani Snowden’s game-high 15 points paced Van Buren.
Van Buren 59, Fayetteville 55 (Men’s)
Van Buren snapped a two-game losing skid as Ryan Pearson scored 25 points to lead the Pointers to the victory.
The win also capped a season-sweep for the Pointers (16-4, 6-3) against the Bulldogs (10-12, 3-6), the first for Van Buren in the series since 2004.
Besides Pearson, 6-foot-9 center Mitchell Smith scored 14 while Jason Harms added 10.
"It was great to see Ryan plays so well on the offensive end," Pointers coach Randy Loyd said. "He’s struggled the past few games, but he was the difference tonight. We all three combined for 45 points or more, we’ve got a chance to win every game."
Like the first game, Fayetteville trailed for much of the game, including 45-33 early in the fourth quarter and never recovered.
"Van Buren shoots the ball so well," Bulldogs coach Kyle Adams said. "Pearson shoots the ball so well you cannot give him any space at all. Smith’s post moves hurt us inside. He is everything good they say about him.
The key for Van Buren was late in the third quarter as the Pointers led 32-29. The Pointers went on a 11-4 spurt to end the quarter, capped by a Harms’ three-point play which opened the lead back to 43-33. Then Brad Eversole started the final quarter with a layup and the lead was back up to 12, 45-33.
"It was not a lack of effort on our part," Adams said. "I thought for three quarters we were the more aggressive team, but they shoot it so well. We did a lot of good things tonight that I did not see against Heritage (last Friday)."
Luke Renner paced Fayetteville with 18 while C.J. O’Grady scored 13 and Payton Willis added 11.