It was close, then not so close, and then close in the end.

The North Little Rock Charging Wildcats beat the Jonesboro Hurricanes on Friday in what could be considered a marquee heavyweight fight.

Jonesboro nearly came back from an 11-4 North Little Rock run to open the fourth quarter, but the Charging Wildcats managed to hang on for a 74-73 win in what head coach Johnny Rice calls the biggest win of the season so far.

What makes the win so big?

"It’s a league win," Rice said, "and it was huge to get the win on the road."

The match-up was as anticipated as any all season with a pair of teams that are near mirror images and are very close in statewide rankings and in the league standings.

"We are all trying to vie for seeding in the state tournament," Rice said. "That game was a big step for us."

The Charging Wildcats’ schedule, as of late, has been very murderous with games against West Memphis and the Hurricanes, which they have survived.

Rice’s evaluation of Friday’s game, in light of a rematch in North Little Rock later in the season, was that both teams are as good as advertised. Rice seemed verbally impressed with his Friday night opponent.

"They are a very good team," Rice said.

Rice also said that the strength of both teams is their guard play and said that they are matched up evenly in that department.

Where North Little Rock may have an advantage according to Rice is in their size.

"We’ve got some very athletic big men," Rice said. "We can basically play two ways and be effective."

The Charging Wildcats had a couple more days to enjoy Friday’s win. A scheduled trip to Searcy was moved to Jan. 29 thanks to a winter storm that hit Arkansas on Tuesday.

The reality is that while Friday’s win was big, the conference season is still very young.

Rice did say that his team is back to business despite the circumstances surrounding Friday’s win.

"Our guys came back Monday and got to work," Rice said. "There is still a lot of season left."