Tim Cooper has been a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports department since October 1988 and began reporting on high school sports full time in 1993. Cooper, a native of Malvern, attended Henderson State University and worked three years as a sports writer at the Paris News in Paris, Texas, from 1985 to 1988.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL STATE TOURNAMENTS:
‘2-headed monster’ leads NLR into final
Anton Beard led North Little Rock to a win over Bentonville on Monday.
CONWAY - Anton Beard and KeVaughn Allen turned Monday’s matinee against Bentonville into an unbeatable prime-time performance.
Beard, a University of Arkansas signee, and Allen, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Sophomore of the Year last season, scored 28 points each as North Little Rock rode their two star guards to a 77-64 victory over the Tigers in the semifinals of the Class 7A state tournament at Buzz Bolding Arena.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd announced at 3,500, Beard and Allen combined to hit 19 of 33 shots and 9 of 10 free throws.
“When you’ve got a two-headed monster, it’s pretty hard to defend,” North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice said.
Beard and Allen hit monster shots throughout Monday’s contest.
Just seconds after Bentonville sophomore Malik Monk (30 points, nine rebounds)hit a 25-footer to pull the Tigers to within 34-31 with 12 seconds left before halftime, Beard responded with an even deeper three-pointer before the half ended.
“That was a big shot for Anton, and I knew he was going to make it,” Allen said. “I’ve seen that three or four times before.”
Allen completed a fourpoint play with 6:30 remaining in the game, which gave the Charging Wildcats a 64-44 lead and all but ended any thoughts Bentonville had of a comeback.
Allen completed a threepoint play a few minutes later and finished the fourth quarter with 11 points.
Beard was 11 of 17 from the floor, including 5 of 6 on threepoint attempts. He had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
Allen was 8 of 16 shooting, including 4 of 9 on three-pointers, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. K.J. Hill added eight points, 3 assists and 2 steals.
North Little Rock never trailed. Beard hit a three-pointer on the Charging Wildcats’ opening possession. Monk answered with a three, but senior Chibu Ekeh’s putback at the 6:58 mark started a string of seven consecutive points by the Charging Wildcats.
North Little Rock scored on six of its first seven possession, hit seven of its first eight shots from the floor and led 18-6 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
North Little Rock hit its first four three-point attempts and finished the game 11 of 20 from beyond the three-point line.
“You have to pick your battles against them,” Bentonville Coach Jason McMahan said. “We wanted them to shoot from beyond the three-point line. To their credit, they hit the shots.
“You know their athleticism is going to be tough at the basket, and we didn’t want our guys in foul trouble.”
Monk was limited to eight points in the first half. He attempted only eight field goals in the first 16 minutes.
“Before the game, I asked ‘Who wants him?’ ” Rice said. “Anton said he wanted him. KeVaughn said he wanted him. K.J. wanted him. Adrian [Moore] wanted him. We started Anton on him, but we knew all four would guard him at one point. I thought they all did a good job.”
With Monk’s offense limited in the first half, Tyrik Dixon responded with 12 points and five rebounds in the first half. The 6-1 sophomore finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Monk scored 14 points in the game’s final 6:24, but Bentonville was never any closer than the final 13-point margin in the fourth quarter.
SPRINGDALE 59, FORT SMITH NORTHSIDE 56
Held to two points in the first 3½ quarters, junior guard Tereke Eckwood was perfect from the line in the game’s final 3:44 as Springdale held off Fort Smith Northside in the semifinals.
Eckwood hit all 10 of his free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs (22-5) overcame a frantic finish by Joe Dye and the Grizzlies (20-9).
Dye scored 13 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. including nine in the game’s final 2:35, as the Grizzlies attempted to overcome a nine-point deficit in the game’s final 3:44.
Dye hit a three-pointer at 2:35 to pull Northside to within 48-42. He hit three free throws with 15.2 seconds left to cut Springdale’s lead to 55-53, and he hit his last three-pointer with 7.4 seconds left to get the Grizzlies to within 57-56.
But Eckwood was equal to the task, hitting eight free throws in the final 48.1 seconds, including his final two with 6.1 remaining. He finished with a team-high 14 points.
Northside had a possession to cause a tie, but a loose ball wound up in Eckwood’s hands as the final horn sounded, sending Springdale to the championship game for the first time since 1998.
Dye also had six rebounds and three assists to go along with his 20 points. Jace Richardson added 14 points, six of which came in the final quarter.
D.J. Evans added 13 points and five assists for Springdale, while Brendan Cook added 11 points and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds.
BOYS CLASS 6A
Benton vs. Jonesboro, 2:30 p.m.
LR Parkview vs. LR Hall, 5:30 p.m.
CLASS 5A Pulaski Academy vs. Forrest City, 2:30 p.m. Harrison vs. Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m.
CLASS 3A Episcopal vs. McGehee, 2:30 p.m.
Benton HG vs. Charleston, 5:30 p.m.
CLASS 2A Cedar Ridge vs. England, 2:30 p.m.
Clarendon vs. Junction City, 5:30 p.m.
Scranton vs. Concord, 2:30 p.m.
Wonderview vs. County Line, 5:30 p.m.
GIRLS CLASS 6A
El Dorado vs. LR Hall, 1 p.m.
Greenwood vs. Searcy, 4 p.m.
Vilonia vs. Paragould, 1 p.m.
Hot Springs vs. Huntsville, 4 p.m.
Riverview vs. Harding Academy, 1 p.m.
eStem vs. Paris, 4 p.m.
Marmaduke vs. Spring Hills, 1 p.m.
Brinkley vs. Mountainburg, 4 p.m.
Kirby vs. Nemo Vista, 1 p.m.
Acorn vs. Wonderview, 4 p.m.
Sports, Pages 17 on 03/11/2014