The North Little Rock girls basketball team needed a win Friday night -- as much as any team ranked second in the state could need one.
"Going 0-2 this week would have been tough," North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said.
The Lady Charging Wildcats (14-3, 2-1 6A-Central) earned a split for the week, a hard-earned one, with 60-58 victory over defending state champion Fort Smith Northside at Charging Wildcat Arena.
Fimple said a victory over Fort Smith Northside (16-1, 3-1) was important because of Tuesday night's 76-63 home loss to top-ranked Conway.
"Losing two would have made it real difficult to stay in the conference race," Fimple said. "It was huge, huge, huge."
It was not easy.
The Charging Wildcats made four three-pointers in the first quarter, hitting 7 of 12 from the field overall, to take a 21-16 lead.
North Little Rock led 27-19 with 5:01 to play in the first half, but the Lady Grizzlies came back behind the three-point shooting of senior guard Ashlyn Harris, who scored 15 of her 16 points in the first half.
North Little Rock led 34-32 at the half, and increased the lead to 46-38 after three quarters as Northside shot 2 of 11 from the field.
The Charging Wildcats' lead was 49-38 with 7:28 to play, but Northside cut the deficit to 59-56 with 19.5 seconds to play.
North Little Rock got a free throw from Amauri Williams (11 points) to make it a four-point game with 11.3 seconds to play.
"We just found a way to scrap it together there at the end," Fimple said. "A win against Northside anytime is an unbelievable job. You've got a Hall of Fame coach over there. You've got kids that have grown up in that program. ... It's just a really good win for us."
Northside Coach Rickey Smith said he was pleased with the way his team, which lost four starters from last season's state championship team, battled back in the fourth quarter.
"When we got down, I thought we might not compete until the final buzzer," Smith said. "Kids continued to fight. We'll learn from it."
Harris led Northside in scoring, and freshman point guard Erianna Gooden added 14 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.
Khassidy Warr (10) and Haitiana Releford (8) were the other points contributors for the Lady Grizzlies.
Both teams made six three-pointers.
Smith said he knew North Little Rock would be difficult to handle coming off its loss to Conway on Tuesday night.
"You practice a lot harder after a loss," Smith said. "You're at home. You're playing a team that beat you in the state semifinals last year.
"We need some games like this. It will help us down the stretch. They're good."
NORTH LITTLE ROCK 86,
FS NORTHSIDE 56
North Little Rock, playing without University of Arkansas signee Nick Smith who sat out with a turf toe injury, got 33 points from 7-0 center Kelel Ware, and 21 from junior guard Tyler Frederick to beat Northside.
North Little Rock (14-3, 4-0) led 21-11 after one quarter and 36-25 at halftime.
The Charging Wildcats, who outscored the Grizzlies 50-31 in the second half, also got 13 points from Corey Washington.
Sam Roper led Northside (9-2, 2-2) with 26 points, including eight three-point baskets.
The Grizzlies made 13 three-pointers, accounting for 39 of their 56 points.