The dynamic changed quickly in the final seconds of the first half Friday night when Mitchell Smith, Van Buren’s 6-foot-10 star, took a wicked tumble after he was accidentally undercut on an alley-oop attempt.
The Pointers led 25-10 at the time.
Smith lay on his back for several minutes at Buzz Bolding Arena as athletic trainers examined his left leg and knee. He limped to the training room, leaning on the shoulders of an athletic trainer, unable to put any weight on his left leg. He did not return.
But the Pointers (16-5, 7-1), who led 27-10 at the half, maintained a 15- to 17-point lead most of the second half on the way to a 59-44 victory over the Wampus Cats (12-8, 3-5). They did it with timely 3-point shooting from Dylan Kinney and Jason Harms and some crisp ballhandling that shredded Conway’s pressure defense for easy baskets.
"I told the kids at halftime that they were going to battle without him (Smith) and I thought they did a good job of maintaining the lead and executing against their press and we got great leadership from our seniors," said Van Buren coach Randy Loyd.
The extent of Smith’s injury was not known.
"I don’t think it was a ligament, but we’ll just have to see," Loyd said. "Hopefully, it’s just a bad bruise above the knee."
The Cats made one run on shooting by Prentice Mullins, Denzel Johnson and Javonte Ellis and used a couple of Pointer turnovers to pull within 49-40 with 4:30 left. The Cats missed an inside shot and a free throw, then Harms hit two 3-pointers and Jaylyne Dye drove inside for another basket to push the Van Buren lead to 57-41 with 1:26 left.
Kinney had 16 points and Harms 14 for the Pointers, each hitting four 3-pointers. Ellis scored 11 for Conway and Mullins added 10.
Conway 68, Van Buren 39 (Women’s)
The Conway girls (17-5, 7-1) used a balanced attack and successfully rotated players on the way to a methodical victory over the Lady Pointers (11-10, 4-4).
Then, received good news for another venue as Bryant defeated Greenwood.
That pulled Conway into a first-place tie with Greenwood in 7A/6A Central with the two teams set for a showdown Friday night in Conway.
Conway was never seriously challenged after a 9-0 run late in the first quarter opened a 10-point lead. The mercy rule (a 30-point lead in the second half) wasn’t imposed until the final two minutes.
Alexis Tolefree led Conway with 13 points and Jordan Danberry added 11. Asia Willard had nine and Allie Pack and Kianna Speight, back from knee surgery, had eight each.
CHS coach Ashley Nance rotated two units freely. "We have a lot of players," she said. "Practice time is sometimes where our best competition comes from. Many days our second group beats our first group in practice. We’re playing well together and we should because these girls have played a lot of games together."