Bitter Ending

Heralded Conway freshman Adrian Moore (6-3, 170) - who already has offers from Arkansas and Baylor - had a banner rookie high school season, but it ended on a bitter note and a tough call on Wednesday when Van Buren downed his Wampus Cats 52-49 at the Class 7A state tournament in Fayetteville.

With just a few seconds left in Wednesday afternoon's Class 7A state tournament game in Fayetteville, heralded Conway freshman guard Adrian Moore set a pick for his senior teammate Tim Boyd.

It was a crushing one, one that sent the defender to the floor and left Boyd wide open for what could have been a game-winning – or at least game-tying shot.

Instead the referee ruled it an illegal screen on Moore (6-3, 170) that essentially ended the Wampus Cats' season and allowed Van Buren to win 52-49 in an opening round game.

It is a play that Conway head coach James Bates knows that will drive Moore in the off-season.

"He is a competitor and this (call) is going to make him improve his all-around game," Conway head coach James Bates said. "He'll continue to work to get better. He's going to start adding some strength now because he is getting to the point to where his body will accept the weight training and he'll continue to develop. He is totally dedicated."

Van Buren's Mitchell Smith – a 6-8 ninth grader who had 13 points and 12 rebounds – immediately converted an old-fashion three-point play on the other end and Boyd missed a three-pointer to end the contest.

That ended the season for the Wampus Cats, who had rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter after Van Buren's Nick Pagel had put on a shooting clinic with seven three-pointers and 21 of his game-high 26 points in the opening half.

"I'm proud of my team and it was a team effort (coming back)," Moore said. "We lost, but we still has a pretty good season from where we were supposed to be."

Van Buren moves on to face host Fayetteville at 5:30 on Thursday while Conway ends the season at 12-11.

Moore, who per Bates averaged 10 points, five rebounds and three assists this season in his first season playing high school basketball, already has offers from Arkansas and Baylor.

He also has interest from Florida, Alabama, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri.

"I am still a young kid and still have to work hard," Moore said.

He does have great interest in the Razorbacks.

"Fast," Moore said. "It's 40 minutes of the H word. They really are fast and I like playing fast."

It was not a typical game from Moore, who had just three points on 1-of-2 from both the field and the free throw line in the contest and seemed reluctant to shoot at times in his first state tournament game.

"This is my first year and I have got a lot to learn still," Moore said. "What I have learned so far is that every night you have to be ready. Anybody can beat you because it's high school level and everybody is older than I am. You have got to be ready and you have got to come out with 100 percent."

Conway had trailed by as many as 15 in the third quarter before a stirring comeback that gave the Wampus Cats the lead 59-58 with just over a minute left.

"We had been able to take them out of a lot of stuff in the second half and the kids did a really good job of not giving up," Bates said.

Bates is understandably excited about Moore's future.

"He gives us some length at 6-2, 6-3 on the perimeter that we haven't had in two to three years," Bates said. "As a player he has been able to penetrate with the offense we run – which is good - and he is a good passer. He just does everything really well. He didn't get to the offensive class as much today as he has been doing because down the stretch that has been one of our strengths. He has been our leader on the boards.

"When he develops the pull-up jump shot and added strength, he is going to be tremendous," Bates added.

Conway is losing three seniors off this year's team so Moore knows that his role for the Wampus Cats will greatly expand next season.

"Every role that they had, I am going to have to step up and do more of what they did," Moore said. "I chipped in a little bit this year, but I have got to pick it up a whole lot more next year. Those three seniors were a big help to us and I have to pick it up along with my teammates."

He will play in some Showcase events this spring and summer as well as a few tournaments with the Dunk Dawgs AAU squad that he has led to back-to-back national titles.

"I am actually going to play up and play 16 and 17 this summer," Moore said. "We are going to a couple of showcases. I am going to get ready for that. I just have to start preparing for AAU ball. I will play a little with them (the Dunk Dogs), but the majority of my time will be spent playing in showcases. It will be top juniors and sophomores and they will put a team together and go play AAU."

Adrian Moore

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