After playing rugged regular season schedules and advancing through their sides of the 5A South tournament, playoff matchups are finally set for the Watson Chapel Wildcats (20-7, 7-2) and the White Hall Bulldogs (24-6, 8-2).
White Hall will enter as the No. 1 seed out of the South after defeating the Wildcats 3-1 on Wednesday in the conference championship game. Watson Chapel will garner the No. 2 seed out of the South and end up playing the Farmington Cardinals out the 5A West. The Bulldogs will draw the Vilonia Eagles of the West after they lost to Farmington 7-6 in their conference tournament.
Watson Chapel Head Coach Chad Cope would have loved to beat their rival for that 5A South championship, but now they've turned their attention towards the state tournament. After that devastating loss on Wednesday, Cope gave his guys the day off before it was time to prep for their next opponent.
"We need a couple good days of practice, and then just go be as good as we can be we'll see how it goes," Cope said.
Both teams have played a number of formidable opponents to make up a quality schedule, and White Hall Head Coach Shane Harp points to that as one of the advantages for the Bulldogs going forward.
"You play the season and you play quality teams to get better for this opportunity," Harp said. "I think we've played the right opponents. I think we should be confident that we can get the job done."
Going into last season's state tournament, the Wildcats were in the same position as far as being a No. 2 seed. Cope felt that team was good enough to make a run. However, they had a bad day, and at this point, it's win or go home. The Wildcats have a number of key guys on this ball club who vividly remember that feeling, and they don't want it to happen again.
"There's no tomorrow," Cope said. "If you win you advance, and if you lose you go home. Last year we went in and I thought we had a good enough team that could win a championship. We didn't hit the ball well and we got beat. It's a one-game season, and if you're not ready you'll go home. That's what makes it so special in a time like this."
White Hall has had several guys from their 11-man senior class step up in critical moments all season long, and Harp credits them for their leadership. The Bulldogs will play at 10 a.m., but having guys that have done it all before will make the process easier.
"We have a big senior class that's been together a long time and hopefully that will help us," Harp said. "I'm proud of them and I couldn't ask for a better group. I just hope we keep on going and it's all business as usual. We'll get our belly's full, go to bed early, go hit somewhere, and take care of business from there."
Watson Chapel will play Farmington at 5:30 p.m., and White Hall will play Vilonia at 10 a.m. All games through the semi-finals of the 5A state tournament will be played in Harrison.