The Conway Lady Cats turned up the pressure and turned loose Jordan Danberry on Saturday afternoon and surged into the 7A girls state semifinals at Buzz Bolding Arena.
The Lady Cats’ fullcourt defense forced Fayetteville into 22 turnovers, many of them leading to points in a 61-51 victory over Fayetteville, their ninth straight.
Conway (26-5) will play West Memphis, which scored at the buzzer Saturday to defeat Springdale, 46-44, at 4 p.m. Monday for a berth in the state title game at Hot Springs.
“We decided when we made a basket, we were going to fullcourt press,” said Conway coach Ashley Nance. “When we beat them earlier in the season, we pressed every step. You can’t do that in our conference. We went back to our roots. At the half (32-32 tie), we decided we had to do something to get going.”
Danberry, who scored 23 points and added seven rebounds and eight steals, was the ignition for both the Conway offense and defense. Her steal and three-point play off a spin move along the baseline gave Conway a 46-37 lead going into the final period. Christin Rogers turned back a mild run by the Lady Bulldogs with a 3-pointer with 4:03 left.
“Jordan is just an unbelievable athlete,” said Nance. “She didn’t play much in our first game (against Rogers) because she got into foul trouble. Before the game today I told her, ‘it’s your turn; your teammates pulled the last one out for you. You’re fresh.’ ”
“You can tell when Jordan is going to have a great game. And it seems when she has a great game, everybody has a great game.”
Rogers added 11 points for the Lady Cats. Willard and Tolefree had eight each and Savannah Lowe seven. Rogers also did a good job keeping 6-foot-1 Lauren Schuldt, who had eight points and 10 rebounds, from becoming a significant factor inside.
Sydney Crockett led Fayetteville with 13 points. Pink Jones had 10 and nine rebounds.
The game was a coaching matchup of former Guy-Perkins all-stars. Fayetteville coach Victor Rimmer played for John Hutchcraft, Nance’s father.
“Victor is not only a great coach but a great person,” Nance said. “He goes to my father’s auctions and he and Dad are good friends. If you cut both of us open, I’m sure we would both bleed a little Guy Blue and Gold. But in this situation, it’s all about the game. It’s about the players we coach.”