Zebras receive basketball championship rings

Greg Walker, longtime Pine Bluff High School No. 1 fan, received a championship ring from Coach Billy Dixon during the boys basketball team's 5A state title banquet Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, at the Pine Bluff Country Club. Pictured in the background are Pine Bluff School District assistant superintendent Kelvin Gragg and Superintendent Jennifer Barbaree. See story inside. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)

As a new basketball season dawns, Pine Bluff High School supporters were still celebrating the championship season that was Sunday night.

The Zebras received their championship rings during a banquet at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, eight months after they won the 5A state final over Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs.

Senior Courtney Crutchfield was among the players who received multiple awards. The All-Arkansas Preps Male Athlete of the Year was also the 5A tournament most valuable player, the 5A-South Conference Player of the Year for the second year in a row and named All-State.

Yet as the onetime University of Arkansas football recruit received each award at the podium, Crutchfield maintained a look of determination, knowing there's more than just a repeat of last season to chase.

Crutchfield and teammate Austyn Dendy are just two Zebras also going for a state championship in football. Pine Bluff will host Shiloh Christian of Springdale on Friday in the 5A semifinals at Jordan Stadium.

"It's all a business game," Crutchfield said. "You've got to take care of business on the field. I haven't made it to the basketball court yet, but they know what time it is when I get there, too."

Among the many awards presented, Jordon Harris and Crutchfield were honored as 5A All-State players, and those two, along with X'Zaevion Barnett received All-State tournament accolades.

Sophomore Deriyon Graydon was named the Most Improved Player. Graydon is one of several players who maintains a 4.0 grade-point average.

Harris, now on the University of Missouri football team, was named team MVP and Pine Bluff School District Male Athlete of the Year. Caitlyn Darrough was honored as the Female Athlete of the Year.

The Rev. Lamont Davis delivered the keynote on a last-minute notice for baseball great Torii Hunter and brought a Sunday message to a full ballroom. Davis challenged the Zebras to take charge of their lives, brands and names; to accept the challenge and resist the temptation to change for the culture of society; and remember that they are the change agent they desire.

"You were born for this season," Davis said. "You were born an original. Don't you dare copy anyone else."

Relyance Bank provided the rings. Funding for the banquet came from private donations via Go Forward Pine Bluff (no tax dollars were used).

  photo  Pine Bluff High School senior Courtney Crutchfield receives Player of the Year awards for Arkansas and the 5A-South Conference. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  The Rev. Lamont Davis delivers a keynote address. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  The crust of Pine Bluff High School's 5A boys basketball state championship ring. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)
  photo  Jabbar Spellman and Davonte West are acknowledged among basketball lettermen. (Pine Bluff Commercial/I.C. Murrell)