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Smith works late magic for North Little Rock

by JEFF KRUPSAW SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE | February 2, 2022 at 2:55 a.m.

Five-star recruit Nick Smith shined brightest when North Little Rock needed him most Tuesday night at Charging Wildcat Arena against Class 6A-Central Conference rival Little Rock Central.

Smith, a University of Arkansas signee, hit a floater at the end of regulation to force overtime, then won the game with a twisting layup on a drive to the basket as time expired.

Smith scored 21 of his game-high 29 points in the second half to help the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's top-ranked team rally to a 76-74 victory over a determined Central team in front of a large and vocal crowd.

Smith struggled with his shot early, missing five of his first seven, but he knew what he had to do late.

"I was trying to win the game there," Smith said of the overtime situation. "I knew for a fact they were going to send two at me. I was either going to pass or going to shoot, and obviously I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to win the game. I'll bet on myself every time. I made the shot."

Smith also made a shot at the end of regulation with Central leading 69-67 and the clock running down.

"I was just trying to get a bucket," said Smith, who had one three-pointer, six two-point baskets and was 14 of 15 from the free-throw line. "My shot wasn't falling tonight, but I knew for a fact that my floater was going in."

Smith's late baskets won the game for North Little Rock (18-3, 7-0), but Central Coach Brian Ross said he believes the Tigers (9-9, 2-3) are a team to be reckoned with the remainder of the season.

"Huge game from our guys," Ross said. "We just played with heart and soul. I told them, 'If you play with your heart, and you practice like that every day, we're not going to lose again.' "

Ross said he was confident before the game.

"You can tell when you're team is locked in in practice," he said. "You know what you're about to get. The last two days were maybe the best two practices that we've ever had. I knew coming over here we're going to give them everything they can handle."

Central rode six three-pointers to a 31-26 halftime lead, and hit seven more in the fourth quarter and overtime after falling behind by 11 points midway through the final quarter.

Annor Boateng led the way with 19 points, but the Tigers got double-digit production from Daijon McDaniel (12 points), Luke Moore (12) and Cody Robinson (10).

Three Charging Wildcats -- Smith, Ty Frederick (20) and 7-0 center Kelel Ware (20) accounted for 69 of North Little Rock's 74 points.

North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice was impressed with Central's effort.

"They played great," Rice said. "They're good. They are young. They've got 5-6-7 guys who can give you 10 to 15 points.

"That's hard to deal with sometimes."




North Little Rock (18-3, 6-1 6A Central) led from start to finish against Little Rock Central (15-5, 4-3).

Destine Duckworth scored 15 of her game-high 19 points in the first half, and North Little Rock led 15-5 after one quarter and 28-20 at the half.

It was 39-31 after three quarters, and Central scored first in the fourth quarter on a basket by Ashlyn Kimble to pull within 39-33 at the 7:16 mark.

Lillian Jackson led Central with 18 points, and Jordan Marshall scored 14.

North Little scored the next five points -- on a three-pointer by Amauri Williams (13 points) and a driving layup to Gavin Freeman to rebuild the advantage to 46-35 with 6:10 to play.

Central never got closer than eight points.

Jasirae Vick scored 9 of her 11 points for North Little Rock in the second half.

CORRECTION: Little Rock Central’s Luke Moore scored 12 points Tuesday night in the Tigers’ loss to North Little Rock. His first name was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

Print Headline: Smith works late magic for NLR


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