With guard Alexis Tolefree taking the wheel in the first half and her cohort, Jordan Danberry, taking control the second half, the Conway High girls cruised into the 7A state championship game Monday afternoon.
On their home court at Buzz Bolding Arena, the Lady Cats (27-5) won their 10th straight game with a wire-to-wire, 71-55 victory over West Memphis.
The Conway girls will play 7A Central rival Fort Smith Northside for the state title. Northside was equally as dominating in a 58-40 victory over Bentonville in the other semifinal. The two teams split during the regular season with each winning on its homecourt.
Game times for the all the championship games at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena, which be Thursday through Saturday, will be set Wednsday after the tournaments are completed in all seven classifications by Tuesday night.
Danberry scored 23 points and added nine rebounds, 17 points in the second half. Tolefree scored 15 points the first half on the way to 20.
“When those two are going, we are hard to beat,” said Conway coach Ashley Nance, whose team entered the tournament as the conference’s fourth seed. “The thing about both is they are very unselfish players.”
Asia Willard and Hailey Estes both added 11 points with Estes hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
West Memphis had no answer for Conway’s transition game, which sparked the Lady Cats to a 16-7 lead after a quarter. The Lady Blue Devils were only four of 26 from the field the first half but kept the deficit at 33-23 with 13 free throws.
“Defensively, we played well in our zone and made them think about what they were going to do,” Nance said. “But we had to make an adjustment to the officiating. Against Fayetteville on Saturday, it was physical. It was called tighter today.
“In the first half, we didn’t play with consistency. I told the girls at halftime, we were playing like this was the first game of the Wampus Cat Invitational. This was for a trip to the state championship and we had to pick up the intensity.”
Danberry began the second half with a backhanded layup after a steal and followed that with a scoop shot in the lane. Estes scored inside, Tolefree broke for another layup after a steal. Estes popped a 3-pointer to build the lead to 44-26 and the Lady Cats kept mostly a 19- to 21-point lead the rest of the game.
Alexis Hamlet had 22 of West Memphis’ 55 points, including all four field goals the first half.
It was be Nance’s sixth trip to a state champiionship game as a player or a coach. She went three times as a player for Guy-Perkins and once as an assistant coach at Guy for her father, John Hutchcraft. She made another appearance as head coach of Conway Christian, leading the Lady Eagles to a Class AA title.