Another 7A/6A-Central and another gutsy performance in a close game by the Alma Airedales.

Alma dug deep again on Friday night, beating Conway, 53-50, and closing out the opening half of conference play on a high note.

Alma (17-2, 6-1) moved into a first-place tie in the conference with Van Buren, which lost at Russellville on Friday.

The biggest lead by either team was five points, 25-20 by Conway (11-7, 3-4) midway of the first quarter and 35-30 by Alma late in the third quarter.

"I thought our press changed that somewhat especially in the first quarter," Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. "We probably should have stayed with it a little longer. Our pressure really hurt them. It sped them up and kept them from getting in their half-court sets."

Alma had a 40-37 lead after three quarters and led 43-40 on Jake Folkerts’ two free throws with 6:29 left, but Conway went on a three-basket run, broken up only by a single free throw by Austin Lee, to take a 46-44 lead with 4:43 left.

Lee scored on a fast-break layup, which was Alma’s only field goal of the last quarter, with 3:45 left and added two free throws with 3:03 left for a 48-46 lead. Alex Beneux added two more foul shots with 2:30 left.

After Tyler Smith scored inside for Conway, Folkerts added a single free throw with 67 seconds left for a 51-48 lead.

John Nekonchuk drove for a bucket for Conway with 46 seconds left to trim Alma’s lead to a point and had a chance to take the lead after forcing Alma into a turnover with 27 seconds left. Conway returned the favor, turning it over with 12.7 seconds left and Lee swished a pair of free throws with 9.7 seconds left to set the final score. Conway had a final shot but wasn’t close.

Alma cinched the win from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter with 11 free throws in 14 tries.

"We have the ability to get to the foul line, and we were pretty outstanding down the stretch," Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. "Overall, it was just one of those grind-it-out games that you have to have sometimes."

Lee led Alma 18 points, including eight in the last quarter.

Javonte Ellis’ 14 points paced Conway.

Conway 85, Alma 37 (Women’s)

Conway broke the game open with a 27-0 run to open the second quarter on the way to the win.

Conway led just 17-13 after a quarter but opened the second quarter with 27 straight points, mostly off 10 turnovers by Alma, in the first 4:29 of the quarter.

The Lady Wampus Cats scored 36 points in the quarter, hitting 15 of 25 from the field, to take a 53-20 halftime advantage.

"We made an adjustment and went full-court man," Conway head coach Ashley Nance said. "Our speed and athleticism took over. When they did get a shot off, we were rebounding and really pushing the ball up the court."

Jordan Danberry scored 17 points to lead Conway (16-5, 6-1) with Alexis Tolefree adding 15 and Savannah Lowe chipping in 10.

Bailey Jones hit four 3-pointers and led Alma (9-10, 1-6) with 14 points. Lania Wright had nine points.