On a night Conway needed to bring its best, its boys basketball coach Michael Hopkins wonders whether his team even produced a blip on the radar.
Blessed with an opportunity to potentially make a push for Region VI-5A’s coveted No. 2-seed, the Tigers fell flat Monday night in a 54-47 loss to West Florence.
“We came out flat, with no emotions,” Hopkins said. “I don’t know why with everything riding on this (game). We had to change up the lineup to some disciplinary things, but we have guys good enough to step up and fill the void. We just didn’t come out with any emotions, and wound up playing from behind — you can’t do that against any team, much less one as good as West Florence.”
Before those in attendance at the Conway High School Gymnasium could settle into their seats, the Knights had already built a 4-0 lead, enough to force Hopkins to call timeout.
Under most circumstances, teams tend to respond following such a hasty break in action. But the timeout would do little to stem West Florence’s momentum, ending the opening period of play with a 15-3 advantage.
Worse for the Tigers, they did not make any of its field goals attempted in the first quarter — each of the three points coming via the free thrown line.
Things would get no better in the second for Conway (14-5, 4-4 Region VI-5A). Led by the effort of forward Jalen Cameron — who scored eight of his game-high 20 points in the stanza — West Florence pushed its lead to 19 points before the Tigers gained their footing.
“We lost a tough one Thursday, and our team was very upset … I was upset,” said West Florence boys basketball coach Pete Ellis. “I think we knew we had to come out and relax a little bit, have a little fun and play. Let’s have fun and get back to what we do.
Whatever happens, happens. Let’s not play tight, go out swinging and play our style of basketball.”
Despite such a bad start, Conway only found itself down 29-16 at halftime. The Tigers would trim the West Florence (18-4, 7-1 Region VI-5A) lead even further to begin the second half, an 8-2 run pulling them to within seven.
That would be as close as Conway would get, though, a combination of bad shot selection on the offensive end and the Knights’ ability to get into the paint keeping it at bay.
“Zone did that to us some and we made adjustments, but it wasn’t like they weren’t told to try to get the ball inside or try to work the gaps,” Hopkins said. “I got to take responsibility for that, and try to get them in a better position to be successful. That was a top team in the state, and we’re talking about going to the playoffs … these are the type teams we are going to see.”
Conway had one flurry left in it, cutting West Florence’s lead to 49-40 with under two minutes remaining. But an empty three possessions — a missed 3-pointer, charging foul and traveling violation the result — ended any hope of a miraculous comeback by the Tigers.
In addition to Cameron’s 20 points, two more Knights wound up in double figures as Tray McCray had 17 points while Nick Stewart added 10 of his own.
Darren Stanley had 16 points for Conway in a losing effort.
WF (54): Jalen Cameron 20, Tray McCray 17, Sharrod Simon 3, Nick Stewart 10, Juan Perez 7.
CON (47): Darren Grainger 5, Juwan Moody 6, Darren Stanley 16, Timothy Steele 1, Jaylen Moody 3, Marcus McDonald 3, Jimmy Nichols 11, Tonka Hemingway 2.
3-pointers: WF 1 (Stewart), CON 3 (McDonald, Stanley, Nichols). Team fouls: WF 11, CON 23. Fouled out: Ja. Moody (CON), Ju. Moody (CON). Technical fouls: None.
Records: WF 18-4 (7-1 Region VI-5A), CON 14-5 (4-4 Region VI-5A).