Van Buren clinched the top seed from the conference in the Class 7A state tournament with Friday’s 58-52 win at Bryant.
The Pointers remained undefeated against Class 7A foes in the conference at 5-0 and maintained their two-game overall in the conference at 9-1.
Mitchell Smith, Jordan Barlow, Hayden Salisbury, Jaylynn Dye, and Jason Harms all hit free throws in the final 1:30 to ice the victory. Harms’ two free throws with 8.4 seconds left was the final dagger.
"Bryant made a run at us, and we were foul trouble all night, and Barlow and Salisbury came in and played well," Van Buren head coach Randy Loyd said. "We’ve had some battles this year. We played a tough nonconference schedule. I think what happened, and what I had hope would happen, is that has helped."
Van Buren was a solid 16 of 21 from the foul line and committed just 12 turnovers.
Dye led Van Buren with 18 points, including a conventional three-point play that cracked a 40-40 tie midway of the last quarter. Smith added 10 points and five rebounds despite foul trouble, getting called twice on player control fouls on offense. Salisbury added nine points.
Rustin Hawkins had a solid game with six points, hitting 3 of 5 from the floor, and a team-high eight rebounds.
Van Buren’s defense limited Bryant to just 13 field goals, but eight of them were 3-pointers which allowed the Hornets to stay all night.
Greenwood At Alma
Greenwood begins a crucial week against Class 6A foes Alma on Tuesday and Siloam Springs on Friday.
They need to win both to have a chance at the state tournament.
Alma has a one-game lead over Russellville for the top seed in the Class 6A state tournament but maintain the lead since Russellville owns the head-to-head tie-breaker in case of a tie.
Alma scored 52 points in the second half on Friday to beat Class 7A Little Rock Catholic, 73-57, serving as a confident builder for Greenwood.
"We feel a little better about ourselves," Alma head coach Stan Flenor said. "We can relax and get ready for Greenwood on Tuesday night. We’ve got two big games coming up, but obviously Tuesday is the most important."
Lady Pointers Wrap No. 2
Jamilyn Kinney scored all nine of Van Buren’s fourth quarter points, including two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to wrap up a 49-46 win at Bryant.
The Pointerettes earned the second seed from the conference in next month’s Class 7A state tournament at Springdale Har-Ber. They will play at 7 p.m. on March 4 against the fifth seed from the 7A-West, which will likely be either Heritage or Southside.
"I expected to walk into the locker room and see chaos and celebration," Van Buren head coach Chris Bryant said. "They were sitting in the lockers, their hair was all messed up, and their faces were blotchy. It looked they’d been in a brawl. It was good for us."
Friday, Van Buren trailed 44-43 but Kinney hit a tough shot inside and four free throws in the final two minutes.
"We feel very fortunate to get out of there with a win," coach Bryant said. "It was hard fought."
Van Buren was 20-of-40 shooting for the game, but only 3-of-15 from 3-point range.
"It was a credit to them defensively," the Van Buren coach said. "They did not allow us to get very many looks from the perimeter. We had to attack the basket and find ways to get the ball inside. That had a big, big part of the percentage was getting the ball to the basket."
Kinney and Halie Jennen, who was 6-for-10 from the field, each scored 13 points. Jennen had a team-high six rebounds. Danae Goodwin added 11 points and five rebounds.
"As teams have started game-planning and scheming to take away you leading scorers, it’s given Halie and Danae more opportunities," coach Bryant said. "People are camping on our shooters and not coming off so it’s opened up driving lanes and given those girls a chance to impact us offensively. There are certainly capable. We’re blessed we had them Friday night."
Airedalettes Need Two
Alma has two home games remaining, this past Tuesday and on Feb. 24, and the Airedalettes have to win both of them.
"We have to win two to get in, and that’s hard. We’ve got Greenwood in Tuesday," Alma head coach Madelyn Flenor said. "I’ve been in this game a long time and anything can happen."
The Airedalettes put together their most complete 7A/6A-Central game of the season on Friday with a 66-45 win against Mount Saint Mary Academy.
Alma committed no turnovers in the first quarter and just two in the second quarter.
"That’s something we’ve worked on, eliminating turnovers," Flenor said. "The kids played well."
The Airedales scored 19 points in the first quarter, all in the last six minutes of the frame after falling behind 7-0. They added 20 points in the second quarter and 20 more in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
"We had a little bit of a slow start, but we shoot the ball well most of the time," Flenor said. "We need to catch it in rhythm to get going, but the kids did well and executed. The second half of conference we’ve run some more sets and tried to get distinctive looks, and they did a good of that."
The were 18-of-42 shooting with Lania Wright, Abby Ostrander, Hailey Ostrander, Bailey Jones, Kailey Fagan, and Sydney Dunbar combining to hit nine 3-pointers in the game.
"That’s when we’re at our best," Flenor said. "When we shoot the ball well, we’re really contenders with just about anybody. When we don’t shoot the ball because of our size, we don’t dominate the boards and we don’t dominate a lot of things. A lot of our game is shooting. When we shoot like we did (Friday), it’s really fun to coach them."
It will take another complete game to upset Greenwood.
"If our kids shoot like they did (Friday) and we control the turnovers like we did (Friday), we’ll be in the ball game with Greenwood," Flenor said. "It’s a great game to go into that one. The keys for (Friday’s) game are the same keys for the Greenwood game. We’re going to have to shoot the ball well, that has to happen. We have to limit turnovers. If we do those two things, we’re on our home court, in our home arena, we always have a chance. I like our chances in the fourth quarter if we’re doing those things."