The Alma Airedales have the early lead in the 5A-West.
The Airedales gutted out a 62-57 win over Little Rock Christian in the battle of the only two early unbeatens in the conference on Jan. 11 at Charles B. Dyer Arena.
Alma (12-1, 3-0) led for most of the evening until Little Rock Christian took a 49-48 lead with 4:39 left on a 3-pointer by Luke Grawer.
After Austin Cluck scored for Alma, the Warriors increased their lead to 53-50 on consecutive buckets by Kendall Givens and Cortez Finley.
“Our guys did a great job,” Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. “I’m proud of them. They handled the adversity real well.”
Cejay Mann grabbed an offensive rebound and knifed for a bucket with 2:34 left to draw the Airedales within, 53-52.
Little Rock Christian (7-8, 2-1) failed to add to its lead, missing two free throws and Taelon Peter put Alma up with a bucket inside off a dish from Tanner Shelton with 1:24 left.
After a miss by the Warriors, Mann canned two free throws. Finley scored inside for the Warriors, but Bobby Winfrey hit two free throws with 28 seconds left, Mann added two more with 19 seconds left and Peter hit a pair with 10 seconds left to stave off the Warriors.
“It was a difficult win,” Flenor said. “We weren’t shooting our best, and we just kept hanging in there and hanging in there. We found a way to get a couple of stops and penetrate, and got a couple of looks down inside. We got some key baskets and got a couple of stops. Then we got to the foul line and made our free throws.”
Mann scored 23 points for lead the Airedales with Winfrey chipped in 13.
Grawer’s 21 paced Little Rock Christian. Finley added 11.
Little Rock Christian 74, Alma 41
The Lady Warriors, the top-ranked girls team in Class 5A, scored at least 20 points in each of the first three quarters to remain unbeaten in the 5A-West.
The Lady Airedales (6-7, 0-3) tried to keep pace, but Little Rock Christian (15-1, 3-0) slowly pulled away and applied the Arkansas Activities Association’s Sportsmanship Rule going into the fourth quarter.
The Lady Warriors used an 8-0 run to start the game and then a 9-0 run later in the first quarter to jump to a 23-10 lead before scoring 21 points in the first quarter for a 44-24 lead at the half.
“We had a great start,” Little Rock Christian head coach Ronald Rogers said. “We came out focused. I like the way we’re paying attention to detail, and executing on defense and offense.”
Unlike the first quarter, Little Rock Christian did little of its damage on the interior. Amber Brown drove for a bucket to open the second quarter and Wynter Rogers put back a miss for the Lady Warrior’s only two buckets inside.
“We got a lot more aggressive,” Alma head coach Codey Mann said. “We fouled a lot, and that’s a sign of a young team. I’m proud of them. It’s hard to say when you get beat by 33, but I thought we played hard and did some good things out there.”
They scored nine points from the free throw line, though, and Elise Hicks hit two 3-pointers.
“Hat’s off to them,” Rogers said. “They made us play. They made us work. We need that.”
Alma made runs at Little Rock Christian, also hitting 3-pointers.
“We worked hard, we battled hard all night,” Mann said. “We just got beat by a better team. They have four Divison-I girls on their team, going big places. They’re big and athletic, and there were times they overwhelmed us with athleticism.”
Jasmine Higgins, Cassidy Cooper and Ariel Towns-Robinson hit treys for the Lady Airedales in the second quarter and Towns-Robinson and Cooper added 3-pointers in the third quarter.
“They had a comfortable lead most of the game, but we made some shots to keep us in the game a little bit,” Mann said. “They’re just so good.”
Rogers score 23 points for Little Rock Christian, Bradley added 15, Hicks 13 and Brown 11.
Cooper scored 13 points for Alma. Towns-Robinson added 12.