The Alma Airedales hold their fate in their own hands in the final home game of the year.
They can clinch the top seed from the 7A/6A-Central in next weeks’ Class 6A state tournament with a win on Tuesday against Siloam Springs, the host school for next week’s state tournament.
"Siloam had a 13-point lead against Conway on Friday," Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. "We have to go out and do what we do. We have to get after them full court, pressure some and attack their zone. We just have to relax and play. That’s what we work for."
If Alma wins, the Airedales will be the top seed with a first-round bye, Russellville will be the second seed, and Siloam Springs will be the third seed.
If Siloam Springs can pull off the road win on Tuesday, Russellville and Alma will tie for the top spot. Russellville holds a one-point tie-breaker advantage over the Airedales and would be the top seed. Alma would drop to the second seed, leaving Siloam Springs as the third seed in both scenarios.
The Alma Airedales warmed up for their biggest game of the season with a solid performance on the road on Friday night, winning, 70-54, at Bryant.
Bryant’s Calvin Allen banked in a 28-footer at the first quarter to give the Hornets a 16-11 lead.
Alma outscored Bryant, 59-38, the last three quarters to notch its 2oth win of the season in the Airedales’ first season after being elevated from Class 5A.
"It’s a real tribute to our guys," Flenor said. "They got a lot of game experience a year ago. They dedicated themselves and paid the price through practice, in pre-season and the off-season. I’m proud they’ve been able to show people what they can do. They’ve done a great job as leaders. It’s been a great and fun year."
Austin Lee grabbed an offensive rebound after a missed free throw and scored with 26 seconds left in the half, giving the Airedales the lead for good at 26-25.
Alma followed with a pair of 22-point quarters in the second half to pull away.
"We played real well," Flenor said. "Both teams played up and down. It was a fast-paced game. The third quarter, we got a couple of easy baskets and hurt their pressure. We went down inside and worked inside-out. We forced turnovers."
Jake Folkerts had a double-double with team highs of 19 points and 10 boards.
Lee, the conference’s leading conference, followed with 15 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Heath Friddle was 6-of-9 shooting with a pair of treys and added 14 points.
Alma was a solid 24 of 54 from the field, for 44 percent, with seven 3-pointers.
"It was a total offensive output for us," Flenor said. "We had three guys in double-figures. We were hitting on all cylinders. It was good to see."
The Airedales iced the game away with nine free throws in the final four minutes in 13 attempts.
Big Game, Too
The girls game on Tuesday night at Alma will also decide seedings for next week’s Class 6A state tournament.
Siloam Springs can earn the second seed from the conference in the girls state tournament with a win at Alma on Tuesday night.
A win would forge a tie with Russellville for the second seed with Siloam Springs holding the tie-breaker advantage after its 57-44 win against the Lady Cyclones last week. Russellville only beat Siloam Springs, 44-38, in January.
While Alma has been eliminated from state tournament play, the Airedalettes put together a solid performance on the road before losing 52-47 at Bryant on Friday.
Alma went on a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to take a 42-41 lead with 5:01 left.
Lauren Carroll’s three-point play put Bryant up, 44-42, but Kaitlyn Jackson scored inside to tie the game. The basket with 2:34 left, though, was Alma’s final basket of the game.
Bailey Jones led Alma with a season-high 17 points.
Bryant’s Jakeria Otey had the biggest scoring night in girls’ conference play this season with 31 points. She was 8-for-18 shooting from the floor with three 3-pointers and added 12 of 14 free throws.
Not Big Week
This week is a busy week for Van Buren, just not a big week.
Despite playing three games this week, Van Buren already knows where it stands in next week’s Class 7A state tournament.
The Pointers wrapped up the top seed last week and then finished off a perfect 6-0 mark against Class 7A teams in the conference with a 49-30 win at home against Little Rock Catholic on Friday.
Friday, the Pointers held Catholic scoreless the entire first quarter and for the first 10:22 in all while building a 13-0 lead.
The Pointerettes clinched the second seed in the state tournament last week and then polished off its 7A schedule with a 4-2 mark with a 50-23 win against Mount Saint Mary Academy on Friday.
They took command early, outscoring the Belles, 22-8, in the first quarter.
This week, Van Buren closes the season at Class 6A Greenwood on Tuesday, at Siloam Springs on Thursday and back home against Russellville on Friday.
It makes for a rather unusual situation with all three games having no bearing on the state tournament.
"When something like that happens and they know we got where we wanted to get and getting that No. 1 seed, it’s tough," Loyd said. "The conference is weird. It’s different. We’re playing 6A teams and getting ready for the 7A state tournament."
The Pointers, though, are still focused on winning the overall conference championship. Currently, they hold a game-and-a-half lead over Alma.
"It’s a goal we set at the beginning of the year," Loyd said. "It’s definitely on our mind. We know we still have some games to take care of. Winning the conference championship is definitely something we’d like to do."