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Northside gets boost from bench

FORT SMITH -- Rickey Smith has used his bench mainly to wear other teams down or mop up after a blowout victory in his 24 years coaching Fort Smith Northside.

Against Little Rock Central, however, Northside's reserves were the key reason the Lady Bears captured a 62-51 7A-Central victory Tuesday at Kaundart Fieldhouse.

Trailing 16-5 with 1:20 left in the first quarter, the Northside bench began to assert itself offensively, scoring 20 of the next 26 points to give the Lady Bears a 31-28 halftime lead. Though the bench only scored five second-half points, it was the nine-minute stretch in the first half that Smith said saved the game for his team.

"Their play was the key to the win," Smith said. "Sometimes when you go to the bench it can help you or it can hurt you. Central got after us early and we played scared. We don't win the game tonight without their efforts."

Northside outscored the Lady Tigers 26-7 in an eight-minute stretch to open up a 31-23 advantage. A three-pointer by Elyse Smith and a steal and drive by Erynn Barnum trimmed the Northside lead to 31-28 at halftime, but the momentum had changed.

"You look out there and you have two juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen on the floor," Smith said. "Alexis Evans came off the bench and was [dominant] like we know she can. Deairah Mays played well and Jazz Coleman was everywhere for us tonight. They were the difference."

In the second half, Northside got the lead to double digits for the first time on two free throws by freshman Tracey Bershers for a 45-34 lead with 1:21 left in the third quarter. The lead was as big as 56-41 with 3:42 left after two more Bershers free throws. The Lady Tigers got to within 58-50 on a layup by Barnum, but there were just 48 seconds left.

"In the second half, we played much better," Smith added. "Tonight, it was a team effort -- our starters and the players coming off the bench."

Bershers scored 16 points to lead Northside, while Coleman came off the bench to add 15.

Barnum's game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds paced the Lady Tigers while Ariyanna Hall added 11.

LR CENTRAL (51)

Barnum 8 7-9 23, Hall 5 0-0 11, Smith 3 0-0 7, Cole 2 1-1 5, Peyton 1 0-0 3, Lewis 1 0-0 2. Totals 20 8-10 51.

FS NORTHSIDE (62)

T. Bershers 2 10-12 16, Coleman 6 2-2 15, Wolfenbarger 3 0-0 6, Mays 2 1-1 6, Carey 2 0-0 5, Green 0 4-8 4, Evans 2 0-1 4, S. Bershers 2 0-0 4, Cooksey 0 2-2 2, Tillery 0 0-2 0. Totals 19 19-26 62.

LR Central (9-5);16;12;8;15 -- 51

FS Northside (14-1);11;20;14;17; -- 62

Three-point goals -- Central 3 (Hall, Smith, Peyton). Northside 5 (T. Bershers 2, Carey, Coleman, Mays). Team fouls -- Central 19, Northside 11. Fouled out -- Cole. Technical foul -- Hall.

Sports on 01/10/2018

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