Kennady Tucker faced her share of ups and downs Friday night, but after 2 hours and 10 minutes of grueling action, her night ended on a high note.
Tucker came up with a key steal and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:21 of the fifth overtime in helping No. 2 North Little Rock turn back No. 3 Fort Smith Northside 80-74 in an action-packed 7A-Central game at the Charging Wildcats' arena.
North Little Rock (14-3, 3-1) overcame a 34-23 third-quarter deficit and a 55-27 rebounding disadvantage to hand the Lady Bears their first conference loss.
"We're 1-0 in five-overtime games," North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said.
After a long-running junior varsity girls contest, the game tipped off at 6:35 p.m. It came to an end at 8:45 p.m.
Northside (15-2, 3-1) held a lead in every overtime period except the last one. The Lady Bears led by four points in the second OT and held leads of three points in both the third and fourth OTs.
The game featured 22 three-pointers and only one player -- Northside's 6-0 junior Sara Bershers (27 points, 7 rebounds) -- fouled out.
"I saw a lot of bright things, but I also saw a lot of youth and inexperience," Northside Coach Rickey Smith said. "We had a lot of critical turnovers late. We had every opportunity to win it two or three times. They had every opportunity to win it three or four times.
"You just saw when it went into that fifth overtime that both teams were exhausted. And I was really concerned who would get that first basket."
North Little Rock never got a basket in the fifth overtime, as all 11 of the Lady Charging Wildcats' points came from the free-throw line.
Senior post player Yo'Myris Morris hit 1 of 2 free throws with 2:22 to play to put the Lady Charging Wildcats up for good at 72-71. Tucker scored the game's next four points, and Northside was never any closer than three points the rest of the way.
"I think of myself as a pretty clutch free-throw shooter," said Tucker, a 5-11 junior. "I went up there and shot like I knew how to shoot."
Tucker, along with teammates Amber Hawkison and Demyla Brown, scored 18 points. Tucker scored 12 of her points in the overtimes. She started the first overtime with a three-pointer but missed two other long-range shots later in the first overtime that could have sealed North Little Rock's victory.
"She's coming off an injury, and she's not in the greatest shape of her life," Fimple said. "She's struggled from a mental standpoint more than anything else. But I think the switch finally came on for her."
"It's good getting back into it since I've been out for so long," Tucker said.
Northside freshman guard Jersey Wolfenbarger sent the game into a third overtime with a 22-footer with 3.5 seconds left.
"We ran a play against a state championship-caliber team using a freshman," Smith said. "I asked her, 'If we run it, can you hit it?' She just looked at me and said, 'Yes, sir.' "
The final points in regulation came with 1:49 to play when Northside's Jazzlyn Coleman put in a shot from point-blank range to tie the game at 48-48.
Bershers, who hit her first seven free-throw attempts, hit two free throws with 1:02 left to end the first overtime's scoring. Both teams hit one three-pointer in the third overtime. Brown's layup with 19.8 seconds left ended the fourth overtime in a 69-69 tie.
Wolfenbarger, who finished with 16 points, did have two three-point looks in the fifth overtime that would have tied the contest, the last of which came with 18 seconds to play.
"Our kids showed why they are a pretty good basketball team," Fimple said. "We figured out some way to win."
Wolfenbarger 6 1-2 16, Carey 3 4-6 11, Green 0 0-0 0, S. Bershers 9 7-8 27, T. Bershers 4 0-0 11, Coleman 2 0-0 4, Mays 1 0-0 3, Evans 1 0-0 2, Cooksey 0 0-0 0. Totals 26 12-16 74.
NORTH LITTLE ROCK (80)
Neal 0 2-2 2, Hawkison 7 0-2 18, Brown 6 3-6 18, Ott 1 0-0 3, Morris 3 6-8 12, Mackey 2 0-0 5, Tucker 4 7-8 18, Pettus 2 0-0 4. Totals 25 18-24 80.
Northside (15-2);8;11;20;9;6;7;4;5;5 -- 74
NLR (14-3);14;3;18;13;6;7;4;5;11 -- 80
Three-point goals -- Northside 10 (Wolfenbarger 3, T. Bershers 3, S. Bershers 2, Carey, Mays); NLR 12 (Hawkison 4, Brown 3, Tucker 3, Ott, Mackey). Team fouls -- Northside 20, NLR 16. Fouled out -- S. Bershers.
Sports on 01/20/2018
Print Headline: Fifth OT pays off for No. 2 NLR girls