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Buzzer shots lift Springdale Har-Ber, Fort Smith Northside to Coke Classic finals

Wildcats' Jaxon Conley, Grizzlies' Dae'Marion Savoy make the big baskets to cap two tight semifinals

By George Mitchell

FORT SMITH - In a defensive battle, a buzzer shot made the difference in the game.

Trailing by one, Springdale Har-Ber sophomore Jaxon Conley fired up a last-second shot on the play clock that gave the Wildcats the lead, and Har-Ber’s defense squeezed Sylvan Hills for a turnover on the ensuing play. 

The Wildcats defeated Sylvan Hills, 40-38, in the semifinals of the Coke Classic hosted at Northside High School.

“I saw two seconds on the shot clock,” Conley said. “I was like, 'I just got to get this up.' So, I pump-faked and went around to shoot it.”

Conley hit an off-balanced fading 3-pointer that became the game-winner. Har-Ber’s defense then made the stop and came up with the turnover on the next play with four seconds left on the clock to end the game.

“Because it was a low-scoring game, I felt like both sides were playing pretty good defense,” said Conley. “The end of the game came down to who wanted it more.”

Har-Ber faces host Fort Smith Northside in the finals on Friday at 6 p.m. The Grizzlies also won their game with a last-second buzzer shot.

“We’ve already been in many dogfights this year,” said Har-Ber coach Tommy Deffenbaugh. “I tell my guys that you want the other team to have the first punch.

"They were the first-punch guys, and we stammered a little, but I have some good senior front-court guys with (Jake) Fotenopulos and Kase Chambless, who helped us.”

Sylvan Hills coach Kevin Davis said Har-Ber had more energy during the game.

“We were just struggling, and I felt we were a step behind Har-Ber,” Davis said. “We’re a young team with only two guys with experience. We made some plays, and we still had to make more plays.

"We were able to maintain the lead for nearly three quarters of the game, and those late-game situations are the kinds you talk about, so it was good to get some live experience with that.”

The Bears led, 38-35, after junior James Deloach scored after catching a pass from senior DeCarter Coleman with 2:45 remaining in the game. Har-Ber missed its shot, and the Bears brought the ball back down the court only to turn it over.

Conley pulled Har-Ber within one, 38-37, at the 1:47 mark. On the next possession, the Bears moved the ball around for the duration of the shot clock, but missed their shot as time expired.

The Wildcats couldn’t find an opening in Sylvan Hills' defense, but as the clock ticked away its final seconds, Conley put up his 3.

“Jaxon is just a different dude,” said Deffenbaugh. “He can make a play whether he’s a senior, junior or freshman. He’s just a good player.”

Sylvan Hills opened the game with an 8-0 run, but the Wildcats didn’t panic and kept finding a way to narrow the lead. Conley put Har-Ber’s first points on the board, a 3-pointer.

The Wildcats began the second quarter with a 6-0 run and were within two points, 15-13, and wouldn’t trail more than five points for the game's duration.

Conley scored five points during an 8-0 run in the third quarter that helped put the Wildcats in the lead, 27-24, at the 3:31 mark after a basket by Heyden Wood.

“We just kept chiseling away at it, and once we got within three, we kept it at that distance,” Deffenbaugh said. “I knew we would be okay, and one of our shots would make it.

"When Heyden made that wide-open three, I felt good, but we had to fight, and we just had to wait for the right break.”

Fotenopulos, who had eight points and eight rebounds the night before, finished with a game-high nine rebounds.

Conley led the game with 22 points. He shot 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from the floor with four 3-pointers.

Freshman Jonathan Van Buren paced Sylvan Hills with 10 points and six rebounds. Deloach and Coleman combined for 17 points.

Fort Smith Northside 45, North Little Rock 42

Senior Dae’Marion Savoy hit a long 3 at the buzzer to send the Grizzlies to the finals of the Coke Classic.

The Grizzlies were down, 40-39, when Jayvion Smith sank a 3 at the 1:14 mark. NLR missed the basket on its next possession, but Northside turned the ball over with 40.8 seconds left.

The Wildcats tied up the game with Robert Griffin’s basket with 14.7 seconds remaining, but that set the scene for Savoy's eventual game-winning basket.

Denarion Whitmore had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Grizzlies. Savoy finished with a game-high 18 points.

Ja’Kory Withers paced the Wildcats with 13 points, and Griffin tossed in 10.

Destiny Christian (Okla.) 62, Little Rock Hall 43

Destiny Christian outscored Hall, 23-7, in the fourth quarter to pull away in the first consolation game of the Coke Classic tournament.

Jude Hill led the game with 28 points and was 5-of-8 behind the 3-point line for Destiny Christian. Teammate Sentinel Moore added 17 points and eight rebounds.

Hall’s Kaolin Harris and Landon Hill had 10 points each, with Hill pulling down a team-high seven rebounds.

Destiny Christian took an early lead with a 10-0 run to go up 10-3. Hall came back in the second quarter with an 8-0 run to lead, 21-18, with 3:17 left in the second quarter.

Both teams traded shots until the end of the first half until Hill hit a 3 at the buzzer to tie it up, 23-23.

Bryant 55, Fort Smith Southside 23

Bryant scored 24 points off turnovers to steal the second consolation game at the Coke Classic Tournament.

Bryant built a 28-9 lead at the break and extended it to 49-18 going into the fourth quarter.

R.J. Young led with 14 points and 10 rebounds for Bryant, and teammate Trent Ford added 11.