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Northside figures out NLR solution

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Photographs by Stephen B. Thornton

Kwashea Taylor (middle) and Isaiah Joe of Fort Smith Northside battle with North Little Rock’s Des Duckworth (2) for a rebound during Saturday’s Class 7A boys state championship game.

HOT SPRINGS -- Fort Smith Northside's Tevin Brewer and Isaiah Joe were one point too many for North Little Rock on Saturday afternoon.

North Little Rock’s BJ Walker (left) consoles teammate Collin Moore after a narrow 50-49 loss to Fort Smith Northside on Saturday in the Class 7A boys...

Fort Smith Northside Coach Eric Burnett and the Grizzlies celebrate at the final horn of their 50-49 victory over North Little Rock in the Class 7A bo...

Brewer and Joe combined for 38 points and 11 rebounds as the Grizzlies slipped by the Charging Wildcats 50-49 in front of 6,509 fans at Bank of the Ozarks Arena for the Class 7A boys state championship.

Brewer, a 5-8 senior, came up with a game-deciding steal in the final five seconds to allow Northside (23-7) to escape with the victory after having dropped two three-point decisions to the Charging Wildcats earlier in the year.

"North Little Rock beat us twice in two really, really good games," Northside Coach Eric Burnett said. "They just made more plays than us down the stretch, especially in that triple-overtime game we had at their place. But today, I felt like my guys made the plays, especially on the defensive end."

Northside forced North Little Rock (25-5) into 18 turnovers, and the Grizzlies turned those mistakes into 20 points.

While Saturday's game was as thrilling as the first two meetings between the teams, there was far less scoring.

The Charging Wildcats hit 11 of 12 free-throw attempts and held a 38-30 advantage on the boards, but the Cats hit only 17 of 50 shots from the floor and were 4 of 12 on three-point attempts. Sophomore Collin Moore tossed in 19 points for North Little Rock, but senior Deion Dobbins was the second-leading scorer with just eight points.

"When you get into this atmosphere and it being the type of game that it is in a big arena with the stakes as high as they are, you're not going to shoot it as well," said North Little Rock Coach Johnny Rice, whose team had a 15-game winning streak snapped. "We hit some big shots and they hit some too, but I figured the score wouldn't be in the 80s or 90s. But it was a little lower scoring than what I thought."

Joe led all scorers with 20 points, scoring all 11 of his team's third-quarter points.

"He's done that all season," Burnett said. "You can look back at last Saturday in the [Springdale] Har-Ber game. He sparked us like that [in the semifinals]. And really, when Isaiah does that, it allows Tevin to relax a little bit. While Tevin is getting his second wind, Isaiah can take over. When he gets going like that, we've got to feed him."

Brewer hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the third quarter to give Northside a 41-34 advantage, its biggest lead of the second half.

"He can rack up some points in a hurry," Burnett said.

Joe was 3-of-8 shooting in the first half and 3 of 5 in the third quarter.

"I knew eventually my shots would begin to fall," said Joe, who also had a team-high three steals. "It's all about being patient. It was going to come, and even if didn't, we still had Tevin."

Brewer added 18 points and handed out three assists. He scored four of his points and had his only steal in the fourth quarter.

Moore scored six consecutive points midway through the fourth quarter to turn Northside's 45-41 lead into a 47-45 North Little Rock advantage with 4:23 remaining.

But free throws by Brewer and Tyrell Perry tied the game, and the Grizzlies retook the lead at the 1:04 mark when Tre Norwood grabbed a rebound and hit a putback with 1:04 left.

North Little Rock tied the game at 49-49 with 47.1 seconds left on a layup by senior Jarvis Ricks.

Northside attempted to hold the ball for a final shot. North Little Rock appeared to have made a steal with 19 seconds left, but Moore was called for being out of bounds when the steal was made.

Seven seconds later, Brewer drove into the middle of the lane to draw a foul.

Brewer was long on his first free-throw attempt, but he drained the second for the game winner.

Joe and Brewer combined to score 15 of Northside's 20 second-half points.

"I feel very comfortable with either of them having the ball in their hands to finish the game out," Burnett said. "These two guys live for moments like that. They're not scared to take the big shot. As a matter of fact, they want it. I was just real pleased they were on my side to finish the game out."

MVP

TEVIN BREWER

FORT SMITH NORTHSIDE

Tevin Brewer scored 18 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, handed out 3 assists and made a game-saving steal at the end of the game to allow Fort Smith Northside to earn a 50-49 victory over North Little Rock. Brewer hit 5 of 20 field-goal attempts and was 6 of 8 from the freethrow line. His free throw with 12.8 seconds remaining was the game’s final point.

And ones

Northside’s victory is the Grizzlies’ ninth state title, but it’s the program’s first since 2007 and only their second since 1974. … North Little Rock is now 3-1 in state championship games under Coach Johnny Rice. … There were seven lead changes in the first quarter, but the lead did not change hands again until the fourth quarter. The final count was nine. … The game was tied six times. … North Little Rock outscored Northside inside the paint 26-18 and held a 15-12 advantage on offensive rebounds.

— Tim Cooper

Quotable

“Anyone who thinks Tevin [Brewer] is not a good player is just stupid. Tevin runs our team. Without Tevin, we wouldn’t even be close to winning this championship. And it’s not just Tevin; the whole team helped carry the load.”

— Fort Smith Northside junior Isaiah Joe

Sports on 03/12/2017

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