Since the 2016 state championship game that finished with Little Rock Parkview beating the Pine Bluff Zebras 69-64, the two haven't met on the hardwood.
Now that the Zebras (8-8, 6-0) and Patriots (10-6, 4-2) are both members of the 5A Central, this season, they're scheduled to meet twice in conference play. Tonight, the first of those two matchups will get underway at Parkview as the Zebras take their unbeaten conference record on the road.
Last Friday, Pine Bluff went across town to take on the White Hall Bulldogs and came out of the contest with a 68-48 win. During that week, Pine Bluff Head Coach Billy Dixon pushed his team to get back to who they are as a program on the defensive side of the ball, and he said he is confident that they have.
"I thought they responded extremely well," Dixon said. "Sylvan Hills was not a very good game for us. I asked the guys to be who we are. That's to sit down, play great defense and apply ball pressure. We came out and set the tone. It couldn't have started any better for us."
Pine Bluff senior forward Berkarian Black is finding his way in the Zebra system as he has only been at Pine Bluff High since the fall after transferring over from Watson Chapel. Against White Hall, Black scored 22 points to go along with his classmate Kaleb Higgins' 24-point performance. Dixon expressed how the Zebras must have multiple scoring threats on the court for their system to work, and he has seen Black assert himself as one of those options.
"We simplified a lot of things because we had a lot of guys playing catch up, including Black," Dixon said. "Him and I had a one-on-one talk, and I asked him to step up his scoring. We had to get him some reps and build his confidence through drills in practice. He responded and came out and shot the ball well and finished in transition against White Hall. We have to have at least three scorers on the court at all times. Black is certainly accepting that role. Balanced scoring is what we need, and it was good to see him shoot the ball."
As far as winning programs, Pine Bluff is right there with Parkview in the history books. Dixon is familiar with Parkview Head Coach Alfred Flanigan, and he expects nothing but a tough outing from the Patriots, especially since it's once again a conference affair between the two.
"There's no other team in the state of Arkansas than Parkview that has more state titles than Pine Bluff High," Dixon said. "Now we're back in the same conference, and I'm sure they're expecting a hard-fought ball game like we are. In our conference it's what you see game-to-game, and in the playoffs that's what we'll see. We just try to take one game at a time, and now, for us, it's Parkview. We have to stay focused on what we do. We know who we are and we know what we do best."
Parkview is led on the court by senior wing Allen Flanigan, who is committed play at Auburn University. Dixon and the Zebras know what they're facing when it comes to Parkview's personnel.
"We've broken down personnel, and it's always about how we handle our business," Dixon said.
Parkview is coming off of a 69-65 loss to their crosstown rivals the Little Rock Hall Warriors. According to maxpreps.com, the Patriots haven't suffered back-to-back losses all season long.
Sitting atop the 5A Central, Dixon says his Zebras are in stage three of a three-step process of learning how to win on a consistent basis.
"You have to figure out how to play the game, figure out how to compete, and then learn how to win,” Dixon said. “We know how to play, we know how to compete, and now these guys are learning how to win. Parkview is just another test of that. We're at stage three."
Tonight, the Zebras and the Patriots are set for a 7 p.m. tip-off time on the campus of Little Rock Parkview High School.
The Dollarway Cardinals (7-15, 2-8) look to get back in the win column tonight at home against the McGehee Owls (4-9, 2-6).
The Cardinals, led by Head Coach James Jones, are in the midst of a four-game losing streak. In their last outing, the Cardinals got trounced by the Dumas Bobcats by a final of 75-43 in what was the second meeting between the two this season.
With four games left to play, Jones sees them all as winnable, and he expects nothing but a winning effort from his guys going forward.
In their last outing against the Owls this season on Dec. 14, the Cardinals came up short by five points, 67-62. Now they'll look to avoid a regular-season sweep by McGehee by protecting home court just as the Owls did.
With the Cardinals a-game-and-a-half behind the Owls in the 8-3A standings, this game is pivotal when it comes to gaining a spot in the 3A state playoffs. Jones and the Cardinals are aware that every game from this point going forward is meaningful when it comes to their shot a playing in the postseason.
Tonight, Dollarway will play host to the McGehee Owls, and they're set for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
The Watson Chapel Wildcats will round up the first half of their conference play on Tuesday night traveling to Maumelle to face the Hornets.
Still seeking their first win in conference play, the Wildcats have been in a slump and have been looking for answers to get back on track
An 85-50 loss to Sylvan Hills in their most recent game gives them a 0-6 record in conference play.
The Hornets have a 3-3 record in conference and have lost their last two contests to Jacksonville 70-63 and Hall 64-50.
The tipoff will begin at 7 p.m. at Maumelle.