Twenty-four of the state's top Class 4A teams will filter in and out of Pine Bluff for the next four days, attempting to keep their seasons alive and advance to next week's title games in Hot Springs.
Twenty-four of the state’s top Class 4A teams will filter in and out of Pine Bluff for the next four days, attempting to keep their seasons alive and advance to next week’s title games in Hot Springs.
A dozen boys teams, including locals Dollarway and McGehee, and 12 girls teams, including Star City and Dumas, begin play at 1 p.m. today at the Pine Bluff Convention Center as the road to a state title makes its stop in Bluff City. Tournament director Bob Purvis said the PBCC, as well as the community, are prepared to welcome the visiting teams, coaching staffs, administrators and fans.
“This will be fairly significant for Pine Bluff,” Purvis said. “We have worked hard over the years to cultivate a good relationship with the AAA (Arkansas Activities Association). They know when we host an event, it’s going to be done right.”
Purvis said the economic impact could reach triple figures, or posssibly top the $100,000 plateau, depending on who wins and advances to the next round.
“We like to root for our home teams,” Purvis said. “And we will be doing that. But the longer we have these teams here from out of town, the more money they are spending.”
Purvis submitted the bid for the Class 5A and Class 4A tournaments on behalf of Watson Chapel and White Hall, respectively. Greene County Tech in Paragould was awarded the 5A host site at its new $43-million facility. PBCC was selected as host site for the 4A event, which will be sponsored by White Hall High School.
“Last year at this event, there were about five or six thousand people there (at Heber Springs),” Purvis said. “Most places do it at the high school. But we have a great facility here. It’s an arena, so it’s good for the fans and the teams. The players seem to really enjoy playing in this type of environment.”
Dollarway enters the tournament with a 23-7 overall record and will be a No. 3 seed from the South Region. The Cardinals tip off today at 2:30 against Gravette, the No. 3 seed from the North.
Dollarway coach Ellis “Chief” Berry said the Cardinals feel like they area playing a home game.
“This means a lot for the community and for our kids,” Berry said. “They are excited about playing in front of their hometown fans.”
Coming off a third-place finish in the 4A South Regional in Dumas, Dollarway will be looking to avenge a second-round loss to Maumelle that cost them a shot at the regional title.
“We are geared up,” Berry said. “We want to get that first one out of the way. We feel like we drew a good side of the bracket.”
The third seed from the East, Osceola, and Waldron, No. 4 from the North, will square off at 5:30 in other boys action within the same bracket. With a win, Dollarway would advance to play last season’s runner-up, Jonesboro Westside, on Thursday.
Berry said the Cardinals, with leading scorer Jamal Burton (16 points per game), are preparing for the game as if it were any other scheduled date. And that means an attention to defense.
“That’s what we do,” Berry said. “We know we can score points. We have to be able to stop people.”
After being relegated to the consolation game in Dumas, the Cardinals have had to refocus.
“That loss (to Maumelle) opened our eyes a little,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we are up 10 or down 10, we have to keep playing. These kids are not going to give up. We are going to stay focused and do the little things right. We are working on making the extra pass, making key free throws and not giving up the open jump shots.”
Star City girls
Star City may not be the favorite to win the 4A girls title. But the Lady Dogs have to be considered as a favorite.
Riding a 20-game winning streak, the Lady Dogs open play at 7 p.m. Thursday against the winner of today’s first-round Pocahontas/Pottsville game. The Lady Dogs earned a first-round bye after winning the 4A South Regional in Dumas last week.
That gives Star City coach Becky Brown an opportunity to scout her next opponent, an advantage she is looking forward to having.
“We are going to go see the teams we are going to play,” Brown said. “Up to this point, we have been preparing for both teams. After (today) we can concentrate on whoever wins. And we get to see the arena. We feel good about where we are.”
After winning its fourth consecutive regional crown (ninth overall), the Lady Dogs are still in search of the program’s first state title. After losing seven seniors from last year’s squad, Brown said the Lady Dogs have been the underdogs all year.
“I would rather go in as an underdog,” Brown said. “It’s been that way all year and we like it. The girls feed off that. They have been told all year they weren’t going to do anything. It has given them the motivation to prove them wrong.”
Brown said having the event close to home allows her team to maintain some sense of normalcy.
“We get to have the same routine,” she said. “Routine is very important, especially for our kids. Just being able to slep in our beds. It’s also good for our fanbase to be able to get off work and come see the games.”
McGehee (17-7) will open its tournament run at 2:30 p.m. Thursday against the No. 2 from the North, Berryville.
McGehee coach Jerome Pace said he has talked to a handful of coaches that have all given the same basic scouting report.
“They are a good team that is very aggressive on defense,” Pace said. “That’s about all we know for now.”
Playing at the PBCC is close to being a home game for the Owls as well, something Pace believes will benefit the Owls.
“There’s no doubt that travel is always something you look at,” he said. “We are happy to be playing here. It feels comfortable and is good for our fans.”
McGehee will look to bounce back after suffeing back-to-back losses in last week’s 4A South Regional. After opening with a 59-50 win over Malvern, the Owls dropped a 64-43 outing to eventual champion Pulaski Academy and lost a 58-52 decision to Dollarway in the consolation round.
“We went back and looked at game film and we just didn’t play very well,” Pace said of the two regional setbacks. “We played well at times and the games could have gone either way. I wasn’t disappointed in our play, but we do want to play better this week. Every year we try to be better, to get farther.”
The Owls advanced to the semifinal round of the 4A state tournament last year before bowing out to Jonesboro Westside.
McGehee claimed the conference championship last year and has reached the regional event the last four years in a row.
Dumas will begin its quest for a state title at 1 p.m. Thursday against Farmington as the Lady Bobcats enter the state tournament as the No. 4 seed from the South. Farmington is a No. 2 seed from the North.
The Lady Cats are coming off two consecutive losses in the regionals as Pulaski Academy bounced them from the championship bracket and Malvern upended them in the consolation game.
“We have to execute and limit our turnovers,” said Dumas coach Glory Slater. “We have not done very well protecting the ball all year. And there are teams you can get away with that. Every possession is very important. At this juncture turnovers will get you more this time of year. This is not a game we can have turnovers and miss free throws.”
Slater said her scouting reports cite Farmington as having a 6-foot-2 post player that the Lady Cats will have to contend with.
“We have to have good help-side defense on her,” Slater stated.
The Lady Cats are 18-10 this season and looking to repeat last year’s opening-round win against Heber Springs.
“We played some of our best games in the regional tournament,” Slater said. “If we can play with them, we should be able to play with anyone. Ther is no life after Thursday. It’s win or go home.”