As the state basketball tournaments begin this week, one thing is a constant—the North Little Rock Lady Charging Wildcats are playing for a shot at a state title.


Finishing in a three-way tie for first in the 7A-Central, the Lady Wildcats (23-4) won their 11th conference title in 13 years. North Little Rock, Conway and Fort Smith Northside all finished with two losses in the league, and all three teams lost to one another. Conway received the top seed into the state tournament hosted by North Little Rock, and the Lady Charging Wildcats are the two seed. The Lady Wildcats play at 7 p.m. Thursday and face the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Springdale and Fort Smith Southside.


“The kids are excited and are really locked in,” North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said. “They know what is coming, and this group has been in this situation before. I thought we played well in both games last week.”


North Little Rock finished the regular season last week with victories over Bryant (64-41) and Cabot (65-43). Fimple believes the Lady Wildcats are looking forward to the competition of the state tournament after going through the conference season.


“I don’t want to say we were bored but we were complacent,” he said. “After the loss to Northside, the seniors stepped up and locked into what they want to do.”


If North Little Rock wins Thursday, the Lady Wildcats play in the 12 p.m. semifinal game Saturday. The potential for a rematch of last year’s 7A state title game exists as Fayetteville is on the same side of the bracket. North Little Rock lost in the championship game, 59-49.


The Lady Bulldogs (22-3) lost a big bulk of last year’s team to graduation. They do return sophomore guard Sasha Goforth, who was the MVP last year. However, one of Fayetteville’s losses is to Little Rock Central (55-43) in early December. That could be a rematch in the quarterfinals.


“They are a different team from last year,” Fimple said. “They have three really good players, but the others are not very good, unlike last year.”


Junior De’myla Brown averages 13 points for the Wildcats with seniors Amber Hawkison and Yo’Myris Morris both averaging 12.