The defending 5A South Conference tourney champs hometown Hope Bobcats provided another strong hard fought performance in defeat to longtime school arch rivals' Magnolia Panthers 36-31 Tuesday night for conference play at Jones Field House Gymnasium.

The defending 5A South Conference tourney champs hometown Hope Bobcats provided another strong hard fought performance in defeat to longtime school arch rivals' Magnolia Panthers 36-31 Tuesday night for conference play at Jones Field House Gymnasium.

This was the first of their two game leagues series match-up with the Cats displaying another overall productive performance for the JFH Gymnasium fans, but Magnolia came out as the victors to escape victorious to execute down the stretch in the closing seconds of action.

The Cats finished first quarter leading the Panthers 6-5, but had a four point deficit at halftime, 19-15 in favor of visiting Magnolia.

Bobcats' Jay Conway led the way early for scoring against the Panthers to for four points scored with Jaloni Davis accounting the other basket from the field for Hope's first quarter points. Conway came back with two more buckets scored in the second, with Nate Carter contributing an much needed trifecta swished to tie the game at 13-13 at the 3:30 mark in the second period. Davis closed out first half scoring for Hope to cut the Cats deficit at 17-15 with 58 second to play in first half action. Magnolia extended their lead to four points at the break scoring with seven seconds in the second.

In the second half, the Cats stayed close to the Panthers to trail 27-24 at the end of third quarter action. In the fourth, Magnolia pulled away scoring nine points with the Bobcats accounting for seven in the finale period. Carter opened the fourth quarter draining his second trey to knot the game at 27-27 at the 7:36 mark. Hope's final two baskets from the field came from Conway and Lawson scoring in the paint area under a minute to play in the game.

The Cats shot 47 percent from the field, scored two points in transition and off turnovers and had nine second chance points with 22 points coming in the paint. The Cats totaled for 17 rebounds off the glass. dished out six assists, two deflections, four steals and blocks defensively.

For the game, Bobcats' Conway led scoring with a strong 14 points for double-figures. Conway had eight rebounds and one steal. Davis contributed seven points with two steals. Nate Carter drained two key 3-pointers for six points dished out two assists, one block, steal and deflection. Lawson finished with four points, two rebounds, one assist, deflection and three key blocks. Christian Moore had two assist and Antwone Casteel had two rebounds and one assist.

For Magnolia, Kadyn Roach led all scorers with 17 points and Tyler Brown had 11 points for double-figures.

For Friday night hoops, the Bobcats head on the road to face Class 6A El Dorado for their first of two game league series action in the blended 5A-6A Conference.

Then next week following the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. birthday holiday (Monday Jan.15), on Tuesday Jan. 16 the Cats travel to Camden-Fairview to face the Cardinals for conference hoops.