North Little Rock moves on to finals

In their third matchup of the season, North Little Rock prevailed and defeated Fort Smith Northside, 87-63, in the semifinals of the Class 6A boys state tournament at Fayetteville High School on Saturday night.

The win was North Little Rock’s third against Northside this season as the Cats are now 19-2 on the season.

About those two losses though, both were to 6A-Central rival Little Rock Central and guess who North Little Rock plays for the state title at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 18 in Hot Springs?

Central, obviously.

North Little Rock will be playing for its 15 title state title, while Central will be playing for its 19th title, but that doesn’t include last season when the Tigers were declared the co-champions with Conway after the state championship game was cancelled because of Covid-19 concerns.

North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice pulled his starters midway through the fourth quarter as did Northside’s Eric Burnett.

Ke’lel Ware, North Little Rock’s 6-foot-11 junior center, who may have grown to 7-foot during the tournament, led all scorers with 28 points as the Cats attacked the rim with aplomb as dunks and alley-oops were common, along with a healthy amount of 3-pointers.

With it being Central and North Little Rock for the title it continues central Arkansas’s stranglehold on basketball state titles in the largest classification. Fayetteville is the only northwest Arkansas school to claim a title, and that last happened in 2009. Fayetteville also won a title in 1987. Those are the only two titles for northwest Arkansas in the last 50 years.

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