Pine Bluff hadn't played in 15 days since beating Dollarway 58-42, but Tuesday's rematch went a little different — with the same outcome.

Pine Bluff hadn’t played in 15 days since beating Dollarway 58-42, but Tuesday’s rematch went a little different — with the same outcome.

Dollarway nearly erased a 50-40 deficit in the final 3 minutes, 43 seconds, as the Zebras escaped with a 52-50 victory Tuesday to make the championship game of their own Zebra Invitational Tournament. Pine Bluff (5-3) will take on defending champion North Little Rock at 7:30 tonight.

Pine Bluff coach Ronald Moragne wasn’t surprised at a closer game with Dollarway (10-3).

“I think we took them a little light because we beat them the first time,” he said. “They (Dollarway) believed all along they could beat us. They probably watched film and saw some things, and the bottom line, we were off for about three (actually two) weeks, trying to get the rust off and trying to get out there and play.”

Tyrone Payne, who led Pine Bluff with 16 points and eight rebounds said: “We definitely were hungry to play.”

The Cardinals climbed back in the game late by driving to the basket and getting free throw opportunities. Lawrence Allen knocked down a 3-point basket with 2 seconds to pull the Cardinals within 52-50, but the Zebras’ Marcus Barnes took the ensuing inbounds pass and was not fouled before the final buzzer.

“We just let it slip away from us,” Dollarway coach Ellis Berry said. “We had a golden opportunity to win it.”

Even as the game got closer, much of the near-capacity crowd at McFadden Gymnasium started to file out. Pine Bluff hadn’t made a shot from the floor in the final 3:43, and Jonathan Liddell scored five of Dollarway’s last 10 points in the comeback attempt.

Darrian Kee added 14 points and four rebounds for the Zebras. Jamal Burton had 11 points and nine rebounds to lead the Cards, followed by Allen’s 10 points, Jonathan Liddell’s nine and Josh Liddell’s eight.

Trailing 26-22 at halftime, the Zebras took control of the game in the third quarter, scoring off four Cardinals turnovers in their transition game and going ahead 37-30. They stuck with Moragne’s plan of making the first 3 minutes after halftime the most important stretch of the game.

“The kids made up their minds in the locker room they were going to come out with a little more intensity,” Moragne said. “We knew we could press them, but it was a matter of when we would press them.”

Pine Bluff led 40-35 after the period and expanded it to 47-37 after a 3-pointer by Rickey Clements Jr. with 5:51 left in the game. Ten points was Pine Bluff’s largest lead of the game.

Dollarway, which was 20 for 36 shooting from the floor, was ahead by as much as 28-22. Pine Bluff shot 20 for 31.

The consolation prize for the Cardinals isn’t bad: A meeting with crosstown rival Watson Chapel for third place tonight at 6. It’s the first time this season the two teams will have met.