The problem with being a mostly young team is lacking the experience and know-how to put a team away down the stretch.
Even though the Zebras led the entire way, things got dicey in the fourth quarter, as Pine Bluff held off a scrappy Little Rock Fair team for a 67-59 win Tuesday night at McFadden Gymnasium.
“We got some seniors but we are still fairly young,” Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith said. “My sophomore got just as much experience as anybody on the team.
“… We played well in spurts, but I don’t think it’s going to be any time soon till we learn how to take care of the game and put it away.”
The Zebras (7-7, 2-2 7A/6A South) led by 14 points at halftime but the Eagles (7-8, 1-3) were able to cut it down to eight with 3:06 left in the game.
“We kept the lead at 10 points probably throughout the game, but (Fair) is a scrappy group,” Smith said. “They’ve got some shooters and with the three-point line, you are never really out of it.”
Pine Bluff made just three baskets from the floor in the fourth quarter and Fair scored 22 points in the final period including 11 of 15 from the free-throw line.
“We are still trying to be aggressive out there and moving their feet,” Smith said. “With young guys you are going to get that and you got to put up with some of that.
“Once we get some maturity — hopefully before this season is over — mentality we are all going to have to grow.”
With 3:06 left in the game, Pine Bluff had a 60-52 lead after Fair’s Jerrick Cole made two of three from the free-throw line.
Pine Bluff sophomore Ladarius Skelton answered with a pair of free throws with 2:56 left and it pushed the lead back up to 10 points.
“It was a big win,” Smith said. “All these conference games are big wins now.
“… You want to establish yourself at the top of the ladder. We got our eye on the No. 1 seed.”
The Eagles began the third quarter with an 8-0 run before the Zebras called a timeout with 5:25 left.
Fair senior Antonio Pointer hit a bucket from the baseline and senior Deshaun Gray scored to get within 10 points. A bucket by junior Josh Moore cut the deficit to single digits.
Following the timeout, Marcus Thomas hit a bucket inside to give Pine Bluff a 10-point lead with 5:10 left in the third.
Roosevelt Murray scored and Skelton made a pair of free throws to give the Zebras a 44-32 lead with 3:40 left in the third.
By the end of the third quarter, Pine Bluff led 53-37.
Murray scored a game-high 18 points and Thomas contributed 16 points for Pine Bluff. For Fair, Cole led the way with 17 and Gray chipped in with 16.
Pine Bluff will play at El Dorado on Friday.
Pine Bluff 67, LR Fair 24
The Pine Bluff Fillies cruised to an easy 43-point victory over a winless Little Rock Fair team Tuesday night at McFadden Gymnasium.
Pine Bluff (13-4, 3-1 7A/6A South) led Fair (0-10, 0-4) 35-10 at halftime. Junior Jada Taylor led the Fillies with 12 points and senior Ajia Richardson contributed with nine points.
Kimora Turner led the Lady Eagles with 14 points.