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GUY-PERKINS LADY THUNDERBIRDS

This article was published October 28, 2012 at 6:00 a.m.

Conference: 5-1A North

Coach: John Hutchcraft, 34th year, 1,736-424 overall record coaching boys and girls

Assistant coach: Melissa Grice

2011-12 record: 23-12. Finished third in the Class 1A Region 3 Tournament, beating Blevins in the consolation game, and fell to Wonderview, the eventual state champion, in the opening round of the class 1A State Tournament.

Returning starters: Alexis Hogan (5-foot-9 junior post/forward, 18 points per game); Cari Beth Halk (senior); and Ashley Ray (5-4 junior).

Best inside players: Hogan is the leading returning scorer.

Best outside players: Ray, along with Abigail Smith (5-8 sophomore) and Alli Brown (5-8 freshman).

How will you match/exceed/fall short of your finish last year? Hutchcraft said, as usual, he expects his team to be among those contending for a state championship in 2013.

Specific strengths of team: Hutchcraft said the Lady Thunderbirds’ power guard play and strong inside game will be trademarks for his 34th Guy-Perkins girls squad. Another one, which he did not mention, is that he is focusing his attention solely on the Lady Thunderbirds, as he passed his boys duties along to Damon Teas, giving the Thunderbirds their first coaching change since 1978.

Specific weaknesses of team: None, the wily Hutchcraft said.

Games to watch: After realignment, Guy-Perkins’ conference foes will include four charter schools — Academics Plus in Maumelle, KIPP Delta, Little Rock Lisa Academy and North Little Rock Lisa Academy — along with four old foes: Mount Vernon-Enola, Nemo Vista, Sacred Heart and Wonderview. Hutchcraft said Wonderview, Mount Vernon-Enola and Sacred Heart will be among the best games to watch.

Toughest opponent: Wonderview, which won the Class 1A state championship last year and ended the Lady Thunderbirds’ season in the first round, looks to be strong again, Hutchcraft said. Mount Vernon-Enola reached the quarterfinals. Sacred Heart fell in the opening round. All will be formidable again, the coach said.

College prospects: Hogan, Smith and Brown.

In a nutshell: The Lady T-Birds have one of the strongest traditions in Arkansas high school girls basketball. They won state championships in 1972, ’84, 2001,’02, ’03 and ’05 and the Arkansas High School Overall title in ’84. All but the ’72 title came under Hutchcraft.

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