LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The 6A girls basketball state final tips off Friday at noon between a pair of familiar foes in Central Arkansas. Top-ranked Conway is set to meet with second-ranked North Little Rock in Hot Springs with a banner ready to be hung.
The Wampus Cats punched their ticket to Bank OZK Arena for the first time in six years and aim for their first chip since 2014. The defending champion Charging Wildcats will shoot for a repeat after beating Fort Smith Northside in last year’s final.
“It’s two really good programs that have been good for a really long time and we’ll battle it out like we usually do,” said North Little Rock head coach Daryl Fimple, who anticipates record viewership. “You’ll have ten college players going at each other on some level or another.”
“I don’t think anything we do will surprise them and we won’t be surprised by them,” said Conway head coach Ashley Hutchcraft, who coaches her fifth state final with the team. “It’ll be a battle of wills. Just about who wants it the most, who comes to play. I think the game can go down to the wire.”
Headlining Conway’s lineup are Auburn signee Savannah Scott and Stanford signee Chloe Clardy. On Wednesday Clardy was recognized for the second straight year as Gatorade Player of the Year in Arkansas girls basketball. After losing in the state final for three straight years from 2015-17, the Wampus Cats will be on a mission Friday.
“We really love each other so for us to do it with this group means a lot to us,” Clardy said. “We got one more and we’re not done.”
“Coming in everybody’s really doubting us and not thinking we can beat Conway,” NLR’s Pittsburgh signee Ja’miya Brown said. “We’re just hyped up ready to prove everybody wrong.”
“Conway has deserved it all year long,” Fimple said. “As a competitor and as a coach, this is what you want. You want to play the best and let’s see where you can line up.”
The lady Wampus Cats came on top of the Charging Wildcats in both of their games this season, only falling once in league play. Conway also beat North Little Rock twice last year before having their run to state surprisingly cut short by Central in the quarterfinals.
One of two scenarios will play out Friday afternoon. Either Conway completes a sweep or the third time proves to be the charm for NLR.
“They’re obviously a great team, defending state champs,” Hutchcraft said. “It’s really hard to beat a team three times in a row but we’re going to give it our best.”
“You actually go into this game with nothing to lose,” Fimple said. “We got a lot of kids returning from last year’s bunch. We just got that maturity about us where I think we’ll be ready to play.”
“We got to play Conway basketball,” Clardy said. “If we all play like we’re supposed to, it’s hard to beat us. We got do what what we got to do.”
Hear more from the teams in Nick’s full game preview and catch highlights of the 6A girls state final on FOX16 Friday night.