ALMA — The much-needed lift Watson Chapel got in the middle of the first quarter lasted only a few minutes.
Little Rock McClellan blew an early nine-point lead and fell behind by as much as 34-26, but capitalized off numerous turnovers in the second half and ended the Wildcats’ season with a 73-60 victory Friday night in the late 5A state boys basketball first-round game.
McClellan (16-9), the third seed from the 5A-Central, pulled to within 34-31 at halftime and extended its run to take a 49-38 lead after three quarters. The Crimson Lions forced six turnovers with its full-court press, keeping the Wildcats (19-7) from establishing any offense in the frontcourt. The Lions led by as much as 62-44.
Datreon Lindsey gave Watson Chapel, the 5A-South runner-up, a much needed spark off the bench with his team down 13-4, and Ben Marcus helped the Wildcats keep up a fast pace throughout the first half.
Lindsey had eight of his 16 points in the first quarter to help the Wildcats dig out of the big hole. Marcus, a 6-foot-3 senior post who led the Wildcats with 18 points, showed his ability to push the ball the full court and also gave the Lions fits inside. He had two baskets off the dribble, including one after a steal, that gave the Wildcats a 29-26 lead with 4:53 left in the first half. They worked that margin up to 34-26 after Tevin Brown converted a bank shot and two free throws, but McClellan crept to within 34-31 at halftime after a putback by Qwaun Marshall just before the buzzer.
McClellan was led by Keith Hayes with 17 points, Andre Jones with 14 and Greg Hollis and Marshall with 11 each. The Lions now have a date with 5A-Central champion Forrest City, led by Arkansas signee Trey Thompson, in a Monday quarterfinal.
Jacksonville 68, White Hall 57
ALMA — Jacksonville senior Markela Bryles put on the most impressive performance of the day, scoring 34 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to lead the defending 5A state champion past the 5A-South runner-up Lady Bulldogs in the first round.
“Really, really a nice player,” first-year Jacksonville coach William Roundtree said of the 5-foot-10 forward. “Not overly tall, but she has the quick first step and real active hands on the offensive glass.”
Seven of Bryles’ rebounds game on offense.
Bryles scored 11 points in the second quarter to help pull the Red Devils (16-9) — who finished third in the 5A-Central with an 11-3 mark — out of a 16-10 first-quarter hole and tie the game at 28 at halftime. The forward had 20 points at the break.
White Hall (19-6) established control early, thanks in large part to six baskets off offensive rebounds in the first half and the inside performance of senior post JaeLisa Allen, who had 10 of her team-high 17 points before the break. But the Red Devils took the Lady Bulldogs out of their rhythm and attacked the glass in building a 42-35 lead after three quarters.
White Hall trailed by as much as 53-41 with 6:53 left in the game, but Hailey Wilkins willed the team back in contention with eight of her 14 points in the period. The Lady Bulldogs were within 62-57 before Jacksonville converted 6 of 8 free throws to win.
Antrice McCoy hadded 11 points for Jacksonville.
LR Christian 47, Watson Chapel 36
ALMA — Central second seed Little Rock Christian took a 13-0 run into the second half after trailing 18-13, and South third seed Lady Wildcats (15-12) could not pull within six points the rest of the way in a 5A state first-round game Friday.
Watson Chapel, led by freshman Peyton Martin’s 19 points, led for most of the first 12 minutes while running a half-court game. But Christian’s Annalee Rhodes sparked the big rally with five unanswered points, and the Warriors went into halftime with a 21-18 lead. Chapel was ahead by as much as 13-6.
“What changed in the first half was when Kierra (Cox) had three fouls and came out,” Lady Cats coach Leslie Henderson said. Cox, the Lady Cats’ senior point guard, finished with eight points and four fouls.
“We had a nice lead and we go in down three, which is OK,” Henderson said. “I’m thinking, we can make this up. … If we make some free throws, we’re still in this without her.”
But the Lady Cats struggled at the line, converting 3 of 11 (27.3 percent). The Warriors (19-6) were 12 for 17 for 70.6 percent.
Martin kept Watson Chapel in the game with 14 second-half points, but Christian’s Claire Newton and Rhodes combined for 10 third-quarter points and helped the Warriors maintain separation with a 36-27 lead going into the fourth. Newton had 13 points.
With seven freshmen and five sophomores on the squad, the experience of the Lady Cats’ youth is what Henderson takes away from this season, a year after taking her team to the 5A semifinals.
“At the beginning of the year, it was tough. We took some lumps, some bad ones,” Henderson said. “I told some of these kids, in a normal year (with more experience), they would not be playing. But they took advantage of that opportunity. They had to go out there. At the end of the year, I’m proud of them. They really got a year of experience they would not have had, had it been any other team I had.”