A match-up with the Vilonia Golden Eagles (17-11 ) looms for the Pine Bluff Zebras (14-10) in the first round of the 2019 5A Boys State Tournament.
The Zebras earned a two seed out of the 5A Central conference after posting a (12-2) record. Pine Bluff Head Coach Billy Dixon has seen his team buy into the Zebras' system, and it had a direct effect on their season.
Pine Bluff experienced two four-game losing streaks in non-conference play. At that point, the Zebras weren't fully manned personnel-wise, and most of the guys that were playing hadn't fully grasped the concept of what they were doing.
The one constant that the Zebras have had since the beginning of the season is the solid play of senior guard Kaleb Higgins. Higgins leads the Zebras from his point guard position, and he is a playmaking threat from anywhere on the basketball court. Higgins has the ability to score in high volume and to get his teammates involved. Dixon elaborated on what Higgins has meant to this group and what it means to have him leading this team on the court.
Over the year, the Zebras made key additions to their roster that made them better. For example, senior forward Colby Davis and junior center Xavier Turner have given Pine Bluff a post presence that they didn't have at all during their non-conference slate.
Confidence plays a big part in what the Zebras have been able to do this season. According to Dixon, his guys have fully bought into the Zebras' way, and they believe in themselves. Rightfully so, a win over the number one seed Little Rock Hall, a win over Little Rock Parkview, two wins over the Jacksonville Titans, and four combined wins over Watson Chapel and White Hall has helped boost the confidence of the Zebras.
Pine Bluff now has the challenge of putting together a tournament run that starts with Vilonia. The Golden Eagles are entering the tournament hot as they're on an eight-game win streak. Against 5A Central teams, Vilonia is 1-2 this year with a five-point win over Watson Chapel, and two losses to Maumelle.
The Zebras and the Golden Eagles are set for an 8:30 p.m. tip-off tonight at Lake Hamilton High School.