The Airedales seem to like their backs against the wall.
Alma rallied in the final half of the fourth quarter to knock off 5A-West leader Morrilton 66-63 on Friday.
"That was a great win for the Airedales," Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. "We found a way tonight."
The Airedales (14-7, 6-4) reeled off a 9-0 run in a two-minute span late in the game to wipe out a 55-52 deficit.
Austin Lee’s three-point play tied the game at 55 with 3:56 left. After Morrilton’s first turnover of the half, Mason Wight drove the baseline for a bucket.
Then after Morrilton’s second straight turnover, Lee added two free throws with 3:18 left. With 2:32 left, Lee added two more free throws for a 61-55 cushion.
"We were up in the fourth quarter and I thought we kind of going to push it on up," Morrilton head coach Trent Tipton said. "We had a couple of turnovers and they turned it around."
Alma jumped on Morrilton early with a 20-point first quarter and took a 38-27 lead at the half.
"That was probably the best we’ve played in the first half, offensively and defensively," Flenor said. "We were focused and really ready to play. I’m extremely proud of them."
Alma hit 12-of-22 from the floor in the first half while opening the lead and staggering the conference leaders.
"They just played much better than we did in the first half," Tipton said. "We didn’t do a very good job of keeping them out of the lane and not fouling them. They played better than we did the majority of the game."
Morrilton (18-2, 9-1) trimmed away at Alma’s lead in the third quarter and was within four at 49-45 heading into the final quarter. The Devil Dogs opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to take a 53-49 lead with 5:09 left before Alex Beneux buried a 3-pointer.
"We struggled in the third quarter handling the basketball and overall," Flenor said. "That can be attributed the opponent some, but in the middle of the fourth quarter we found a way to get ahead and then we did a good job at the free-throw line down the stretch.
"We made some big plays defensively and got some big stops."
Lee scored 20 points to lead Alma. Jake Folkerts added 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Braylon Parker added 11 points.
Juwan Calvin scored 18 points for Morrilton.
Alma 58, Morrilton 43 (Women’s)
With the victory firmly in hand, veteran head coach Madelyn Flenor was off the bench and telling her Airedalettes every point still mattered.
Alma won its sixth 5A-West game of the season, all by the maximum tie-breaking points, including Friday’s against Morrilton.
"Sometimes at the end of a game, you forget what you’re doing," Flenor said. "Those points are big. We’ve been in those situations where a coin toss gets you in the state tournament or a three-way tie where one point gets you in the state tournament.
"They do count. Sometimes, the fans and the officials forget about that and the kids, too. They’re huge."
Alma (13-8, 6-4) is locked in a three-way tie for third place with Greenbrier and Harrison — which beat Greenbrier on Friday — with four games left. The top four in the conference advance to the 5A State Tournament at Alma in March.
Friday, Alma and Morrilton (9-13, 3-7) were locked in a duel for three quarters.
Alma led 11-10 after a quarter and 18-17 at the half before Morrilton took a 29-28 lead with 1:52 left in third quarter on a three-point play by Katelynn Price. Robin Stewart swished a 3-pointer for Alma and Tori Jackson tied it at 31 with a turnaround jumper inside.
Hailey Ostrander buried a hurried 3-pointer from the top of the key just before the third quarter buzzer, sparking the Airedalettes. Alma opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. Ostrander drove for a bucket and Lania Wright added two free throws and a driving bucket.
Then Stewart added another driving bucket for a 42-31 lead with 5:28 left.
"That was at a critical point," Flenor said. "You could feel it that somebody was going to take charge."
Wright’s bucket with 5:03 left was Alma’s final basket from the field, but the Airedalettes put the game away and secured from the free-throw line.
Alma was 28-of-39 from the free-throw line, accounting for almost half of the Airedalettes points. The Airedalettes were only 14-of-39 from the floor with 3-pointers by Ostrander and Stewart, both late in the third quarter for key baskets.
Stewart led all scorers with 25 points, cashing in 14-of-17 free throws. Ostrander chipped in 13 and Wright 10.
Danielle Wright had 17 points for Morrilton.