Conway girls playing Sidwell Friends Friday on ESPNU


One of the Arkansas’ best girls basketball programs will get some national television time Friday afternoon in the GEICO Invitational in Washington D.C.

Conway (18-4), ranked 14th nationally in USA Today’s girl rankings, will take on No. 3 and host Sidwell Friends (12-2) at 4 p.m. CST on ESPNU.

The other two teams involved are No. 4 Le Jolla (Calif.) Country Day and unranked Bell Buckle (Tenn.) Webb School, who will face off at 6 p.m. on Friday on ESPN +.

“It’s a tournament with winner playing winner and loser playing loser,” Comway coach Ashley Hutchcraft said. “We are playing two games with our first game being with Sidwell Friends, which has been the number one team in the nation the last few years. We are excited.”

Conway’s two senior stars are Stanford signee Chloe Clardy (5-9) and Auburn signee Savannah Scott (6-4).

“They have been with us since they were freshmen,” Hutchcraft said. “Chloe is, of course, going to be going to Stanford and and she has been our leader on and off the floor. She just has the talent and the work ethic and the genuine care for her teammates and her coaches. I think that combination is the reason she is going to Stanford.”

Staford was a school that appealed to Clardy, regraded as he state’s top 2023 prospect that had offers from Arkansas and numerous other elite programs.

“You obviously have to be a great basketball player and Stanford won a national championship two years ago and were in the national championship game this past year and I think they are number two in the nation right now this year,” Hutchcraft said. “Chloe has over a 4.0 gpa and that takes a lot of sacrifice to be so good on the floor and in the classroom.

“To me, that scholarship along with Savannah’s are both life-changing and would broaden their horizons. I know Chloe’s goal is to play in the WNBA and I think that puts her in a good spot to have that chance.” 

Hutchcraft acknowledges that Scott has developed a lot since the ninth grade.

“Savannah, a girl her size, when she was a freshman, she was totally different than she is now as a senior,” Hutchcraft said. “Half the battle is the mental part of it and being a young female and being 6-4. Just building her confidence and watching her grow on and off the floor has just been special.

“Next year, she is going to be playing at Auburn and I am just super happy for her being able to play in the SEC and super proud of all she accomplished.”

Conway has a mix of veterans and youth this season.

“We have four seniors and my other team – Kamille Brown and Kaidyn Beckwith – are also great players and have started for me the last couple of years,” Hutchcraft said.

“Beckwith has taken over at point guard and we have sone really good sophomores – Alexis Cox, Emerie Bohannon and Samyah Jordan, who all have Division I offers. Chloe and Sav are great, but the definitely have a lot of help.”  

Conway has been the Class 6A favorite the past two seasons, but fell to Fayetteville 57-56 in the Class 6A state tournament semifinals in 2021 and to Little Rock Central the quarterfinals in 2022.

Conway (29-2) had beaten Central twice by a combined 99 points in the 2022 regular season, but Central stunned Conway 66-60 in the state tournament.

“It is just one of those things and you have to learn from it,” Hutchcraft said. “I think the biggest thing that we have all learned from it is that peaking at the right time is important. The last two years we have been playing our best basketball in mid-to-late December. 

“Then we get into conference play and we are good enough to basically outlast teams. This year we have really tried to press the brakes  early. We did not go to one camp. 

“We just got into the gym and just tried to take it easy. That’s hard to do when you are ranked number one most of the year and nationally ranked. We really felt that pressure and it was constant. Because of that, we slipped up at the wrong time. So that has kind of been our focus this year.”

Hutchcraft said the focus is on finishing this season.

“Kind of our motto this year is one step forward and no steps back,” Hutchcraft said. “We want to be playing our best basletball in that mid-February time and the last two years, we just haven’t.”

Conway gets everyone’s best effort has evidenced by Little Rock Central’s 61-59 upset of the Wampus Cats on Tuesday night in its only loss to an in-state team this season.

“That is one of the hardest parts,” Hutchcraft said. “…We constantly are everyone’ state championship game. If they can beat us, that’s an accomplishment for them.  It’s a respectful thing and it makes us respect our opponents no matter who we are playing.”