Unlike last year in the 7A state title game, North Little Rock wasted no time setting the tone in the 7A girls’ state championship game last Thursday.

Jumping out to an 11-point lead, the Lady Wildcats defeated Conway, 66-49, and won their second state title in three years. North Little Rock (26-4) only trailed once at 3-2 then went on a spurt and lead by 16-5 and 19-8 during the first period.

Getting off to a quick start was important. Last year in the championship contest against Fayetteville, the Lady Wildcats fell behind in the first quarter and had to play catchup the rest of the game and lost 59-49.

“We didn’t really talk about that but knew we wanted to play fast from the get-go,” North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple said. “We wanted to get up and down the floor because we knew they weren’t that deep.”

Besides this year and in 2016 when the Lady Wildcats also defeated Conway, North Little Rock won the state titles in 2010 and 2006. Fimple said this year was different because the Lady Wildcats did play their best at the end of the season.

“They literally played their best basketball at the end of the year, and the others peaked earlier in the year,” he said. “I thought we were bored the whole year because we won the conference championship before and different tournaments. At the end of the year, we shared the basketball really well and played well defensively as a team. We did a good job of playing with the lead.”

The other difference in this year’s title game is the margin of victory. Against Conway, two years ago the contest went into overtime, and the other state title victories were decided by close margins including a five-point advantage in 2010.

“This was very unusual for me,” Fimple said. “The others were either overtime or in dramatic fashion down to the end.”

Junior guard De’myla Brown was named the MVP of the state tournament and had 17 points in the victory over Conway. Senior Amber Hawkison led the Lady Wildcats with 18 points while senior Yo’Myris Morris contributed 17.

“We lose our leading rebounder and scorer next year but have everyone else back,” Fimple said. “It’s gotten to the point where the other kids are challenged by the past, and I look for that to happen.”