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ATKINS RED DEVILS

By The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

This article was published October 25, 2009 at 7:12 a.m.

— RED DEVILS SCHEDULENov. 10 .......................................@ Danville Nov. 17 .................................. @ Dardanelle Nov. 20 ...........................................Bigelow Nov. 23 ....................................Wonderview Nov. 24 ...................................... @ Pottsville Dec. 8 .................................................. Paris Dec. 11 .............................................Bauxite Dec. 15 ..................................... @ Mansfield Dec. 18 ................................... Abundant Life Jan. 5 ......................................... @ PerryvilleJan. 8 ................................................. Lamar Jan. 12 ..............................................Lavaca Jan. 19 .....................................@ Charleston Jan. 22 ............................................. @ Paris Jan. 26 ..........................................Mansfield Jan. 28 ........................................... Perryville Feb. 2 .............................................@ Lamar Feb. 5 ........................................... @ Lavaca Feb. 9 ............................................@ Hector Feb. 12 ........................................Charleston

BOYS

Conference: 3A-4

Coach: Craig Pinion, 93-115 overall, 57-60

in ninth season

Assistant coach: Keith Tanner

Last year’s record: 2-18 overall, 1-11, seventh

in conference

Returning starters: Stephen Fletcher, 6-1

senior guard/forward (eight points, seven re

bounds per game); Trey Bennett, 5-8 sopho

more guard (18 ppg); Brandon Cummins, 6-1

senior forward; 5-10 senior guard/forward

Preston Hernandez. “Brandon has the poten

tial to have an outstanding year. He is long,

left-handed and jumps extremely well.” He

said Hernandez had been hampered by injury

in the preseason. “But he is one of our toughest

players,” Pinion said. “He is strong and physi

cal and does a quality job of defending.”

Best inside players: Fletcher. “Stephen is

a two-time all-conference player who tore

his ACL in July ‘08 and returned to action

in December,” Pinion said. “He played last

year on pure guts and determination. He is

just now getting back to playing at 100 per

cent. He is the heart and soul of our team

and is an outstanding leader both on andoff the court. You will not find many kids with his type of character.” Best outside players: Bennett and Zack Griffin, a 5-9, junior guard. Bennett started every game last year as a freshman.

Pinion said he scored 20 points or better in seven games and 30 in two. “Trey had a great summer and we look for great things from him this year,” Pinion said.

“Zack is a gym rat and our best shooter.

We lacked the ability to stretch the floor last year, and hopefully Zack can help us to do that this year.” Strengths of team: Depth and experience.

Weaknesses of team: Size.

Games to watch: Pinion said he thought the early games would determine the Red Devils’ success.

In a nutshell: “We need to get off to a good start, and we need Bennett to come out of football healthy,” Pinion said. “If our kids can gain some confidence early, we could have a good year. Our nonconference schedule is tough with Wonderview, Dardanelle, Abundant Life, Pottsville and Dover, and if we handle them the right way, we should gain the needed confidence to make us stronger for the conference race.”GIRLS Conference: 3A-4 Coach: Lanny Allen, 102-60 in 11 seasons overall; third season Assistant coach: Josh Bjorgum Last year’s record: 10-14, sixth in conference, won play-in to district tournament, fourth seed to regional Returning starters: Courtney Loveless, 5-7 senior guard, 12 points per game; Haley Meeks, 5-5 senior guard, nine points, four steals; Shelby Thomas, 5-8 junior post, eight points, eight rebounds.

Best inside players: Allen said Thomas would be helped by transfer Kim Garrett, a 5-7 junior forward; and Molly Gibson, another 5-7 junior.

Best outside players: Loveless and Meeks, a pair of three-year starters, will lead the Lady Devil guards. Allen expects Shelby Statler, a 5-4 senior, and Ashley Harris, a 5-6 sophomore, should also contribute.

How will you match/exceed/fall short of your success from last year? Allen said the conference would not be as strong as it was last year, with Charleston, Lamar and Mansfield graduating key players. “SoI think we’ll be better,” he said. “We played everybody tough at the end of the year. If we play like we’re capable of playing, we should exceed what we did last year.” Strengths of team: Bad luck two years ago could pay dividends this season, as a Loveless and Meeks, pressed into starting jobs as sophomores because of injuries, return as third-year starters. That experience and defense, Allen said, would be team strengths.

Atkins held Arkadelphia to eight points in a half during a summer team camp.

Weaknesses of team: Allen said his team needed to improve its offense - especially shooting.

Toughest opponent: The Lady Devils will face at least two defending state champions in Charleston and Danville (Class 2A). Lamar, too, is always tough. “We’ve got a tough little schedule,” Allen said. “If we don’t get down on ourselves, that should help us.” In a nutshell: “If we can come on and shoot the ball a little better, which we have been doing recently, I think we’ll be tough in our conference,” Allen said. “It depends on a lot of things, but we’re flipping tires and pulling sleds, so the kids are working. We’re trying to get better. It takes a while to get your philosophy instilled.”

River Valley Ozark, Pages 235 on 10/25/2009

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