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Wildcats making progress


Conference games only





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Springdale Har-Ber coach Scott Bowlin likes the direction his team is headed as the second half of conference play kicks into high gear this week.

The Wildcats (8-11, 4-5 6A-West) returned only one player that saw varsity time at Har-Ber a year ago, and the inexperience showed early as they started just 2-6. But Har-Ber has showed more consistency lately, particularly on the defensive end, Bowlin said.

"We've been playing pretty well with nothing to show for it, playing Bentonville and Fayetteville," Bowlin said. "I think we're a team on the rise."

Har-Ber got over the hump with a big road win at Rogers Heritage on Tuesday night. Juniors Nick Buchanan and Lawson Jenkins enjoyed big nights offensively with 22 and 15, respectively. But senior Cole Bishop's 15 points on five 3-pointers was that third scoring option his team needed, Bowlin said.

"Lawson and Nick, everybody expects them to produce," Bowlin said. "But we've had more guys become consistent scoring threats. Cole's one of those guys. They have gotten more confident, and that's been our biggest thing is team confidence. Guys like Garrett Pieroni, Charlie Bockelman and Errington McRae are starting to settle in, too.

"I'm proud of what this team's accomplished to this point. I think Buchanan's one of the better players in the league, but Nick's a very good defensive player, too. He's taken 17 charges this year."

Har-Ber also finished with 11 assists to just 10 turnovers in the win over Heritage.

Bowlin has tried to remain patient with his young, inexperienced group.

"It's a cliche, but it's true," Bowlin said. "It's a process. You can't push it. You can't rush it. Be patient and hope somewhere down the line it clicks. I have to be patient because it takes time to mature."

The Wildcats host crosstown rival Springdale High on Friday, and they will be looking for revenge. The Red Bulldogs edged Har-Ber 39-36 in the first meeting.

-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB


Bearcats keep on winning

Not even injury or illness has managed to slow down Booneville.

The Bearcats (24-1, 14-0 3A-4) completed a perfect run through the 3A-4 Conference with a 55-35 win over Perryville on Tuesday evening even though they were without a starter and their sixth man.

Booneville also notched their 23rd consecutive victory, despite the fact that guard Camryn Lawson and post Noah Reyes were both sidelined with the flu.

The Bearcats have dealt with a variety of injuries and other issues this season that have sidelined players, but that hasn't stopped them.

"It's just been a combination of experience and the team staying hungry," Booneville coach Ronnie Denton said. "We had a guy who hadn't played quality minutes all season come in and score eight points and another get a basket.

"These guys just continue to impress me. Everything that's been thrown at us, these guys have handled it."

Blakley Cobb, a 6-5 senior swingman, leads the Bearcats in scoring and rebounds. He's averaging 17 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, but he has help. Logan Bradley, a 6-8 senior who also missed some games, adds 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocked shots. Grant Goers also pitches in 10.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

Booneville claimed its first conference basketball title in school history, Denton said. It clinched a spot in the regional tournament in Perryville and plays Wednesday in the semifinals of the 3A-4 District tournament on Wednesday at Two Rivers.

But first, the Bearcats will close out the regular season tonight at County Line to tune-up for postseason play.

-- Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB


Reserves spur Fayetteville to victory

Sasha Goforth and Coriah Beck are the stars, but Fayetteville is a team with many contributors.

That was evident again Tuesday after Fayetteville fell behind 12-9 in the first quarter to Rogers. Beck missed some early shots, and Goforth was on the bench with two fouls for much of the second quarter.

But guards Allison Byars and Emmie Bailey and freshman center Haitiana Releford took over to turn an early deficit into a 27-22 lead at halftime for Fayetteville. Byars made two 3-pointers, Bailey hit one, and Releford dominated inside on the offensive and defensive ends.

Beck and Gorforth got going in the third quarter when Fayetteville outscored Rogers 21-6 to turn away an upset bid by the Lady Mounties.

Ten players contributed points for Fayetteville (16-2, 9-0), including 10 from Byars and six from Bailey. Beck managed eight, and Goforth had 10.

"Emmie Bailey and Allison Byars came off the bench and played really well," Fayetteville coach Vic Rimmer said. "They were putting the ball in the basket for us. They shoot that way all the time. It's not a fluke. They just don't get that many minutes. Georgia Templeton was also terrific off the bench."

Releford led Fayetteville with 12 points and nine rebounds after missing three games because of a concussion.

"(Releford) averages 10 and 5 for us, and she's so creative with the basketball," Rimmer said. "Her energy level was terrific, and she attacked well."

Fayetteville plays at Van Buren tonight before returning home Tuesday to face Bentonville in a showdown of the top two teams in the 6A-West. Fayetteville won the first game 41-40 on a Beck basket with 1.9 seconds left.

-- Rick Fires • @NWARick


Lady Highlanders clinch league title

Eureka Springs was eager for another shot at Cotter after losing 57-52 in the first game between the leaders in the 2A-1 Conference.

"It was at their place, and we had 19 turnovers and missed 18 free throws," Eureka Springs coach Ryan Sanchez said.

Eureka Springs dominated the rematch Monday and won 55-32 to clinch the regular season championship in the 2A-1 Conference.

"We pounded the ball inside to our big girls and took care of the basketball," Sanchez said. "I always tell our girls 'give me attitude and a great effort and we'll be alright' and that's what they've done."

Shelby Little (13.2 ppg) and Megan Holloway (11.3) are the leading scorers for Eureka Springs, which improved to 22-12 overall and 8-2 in league play after a victory over Haas Hall on Tuesday. That's quite a turnaround from the three previous years when the Lady Highlanders were 7-77, including 6-23 last season.

"We haven't been to the state tournament since 2009," said Sanchez, who graduated from Eureka Springs in 2014 and was hired last June to take over the girls program. "We hope to change that this year."

Eureka Springs received a first-round bye for the district tournament at Yellville-Summit. The regional tournament is at Danville, and the Class 2A state tournament will be played at Carlisle.

-- Rick Fires • @NWARick


Smith seeks 'complete game' from Lady Bears

Fort Smith Northside still has an unblemished record at this point as the Lady Bears improved to 21-0 overall and 9-0 in 6A-Central Conference with a 54-24 victory over Little Rock Central.

But Northside coach Rickey Smith said he has yet to see his team play a complete game this season, and it's something he would like to see the Lady Bears accomplish.

"I want to see them play a full four quarters, and we're still chasing that," Smith said. "We jumped out to a 19-2 lead against Central, but we lost some momentum when we started subbing. In the third quarter, we picked things up again.

"I want to see the girls strive to put together consecutive possessions and grow those. We will have two or three good possessions, then had a bad one. We need to keep focused, and sometimes it is hard to do once you get a double-digit lead. The only thing we've accomplished so far is qualify for the state tournament, but the seeding still isn't set."

Smith said his team's top four players -- Jersey Wolfenbarger, Sara Bershers, Tracey Bershers and Tiya Douglas -- continue to do good things, but junior forward Jazz Coleman has become a "very pleasant surprise" with her play. Coleman, the daughter of former Northside standout Redd Coleman, has become the team's leading rebounder with an average of 7.2 per game and pulled down nine against Central.

"Jazz is the type of player that wants to go out there and please her coaches and teammates," Smith said. "She wants to go out there all the time and give us quality minutes."

-- Henry Apple • @NWAHenry


Eagles looking to lock down top seed

Huntsville can secure the 4A-1 Conference East division title and a No. 1 seed with a road win tonight at Berryville. Along with that top seed, the Eagles would also secure a berth in the 4A-North Regional Tournament in Morrilton in two weeks.

"We have a lot to play for Friday night," Huntsville first-year coach Grant Myrick said. "One of our goals this season was to get into regionals, and we can do that if we take care of business Friday night."

Huntsville (16-9, 8-2) had a chance to lock down the No. 1 seed on Tuesday but lost to Pea Ridge 58-53.

The Eagles have relied on the 1-2 scoring punch of seniors Beau Welchel and Sean McCone.

"Those guys have played together since middle school," Myrick said. "Beau is a good post player. He's undersized at about 6-1, but he can step outside and shoot it. And Sean, he's the motor on our team. When he's going well, we're going well."

Senior Marpin Bokbwij has been a nice boost for the Eagles, Myrick said.

"He came over from Springdale when he was a sophomore," Myrick said. "When I took the job, the previous coaches said he had problems showing up for practice. We sat down and talked about being accountable, and he's been great. He's real quick and can do things with the basketball nobody else on the team can do."

Harrison could still slide into that top spot in the east with a Huntsville loss and a Harrison win over Farmington in tonight's regular-season finale.

-- Chip Souza • @nwachip


Thomason making most of return to sideline

Jerry Thomason was working his farm and checking cattle in retirement when the call came to coach the girls' basketball team at Valley Springs.

"I really don't know how it happened to tell you the truth," Thomason said. "When Coach (Kim) Jenkins left to go to Springdale Har-Ber, they had a few people apply. This was in July. Then they called me and asked me if I'd coach the girls for a year, so here I am."

The Lady Tigers were a state powerhouse under Jenkins, and they've picked up right where she left it. Valley Springs is 26-7 and the No. 2 seed in the 3A-1 East behind Mountain View. The Lady Tigers will take on Green Forest in the first round of the conference tournament on Monday.

Thomason coached for more than 40 years at Valley Springs and NorthArk College before retiring to work on his farm. Or so he thought. When the Valley Springs administration called him, they had a couple of aces up their sleeve to coax him off the tractor.

"I have two granddaughters on the team, and they said, 'How can you not coach your granddaughters?'" Thomason said. "So they had me."

Alyssa Carr, a senior forward, and sophomore Chloe Avery are Thomason's granddaughters.

Thomason has always lived in Valley Springs and was involved in the pee-wee basketball program, so he already knew most of the players. This is also his first foray into coaching girls basketball.

"I think I might have coached a couple of girls games way back when," he said.

He is quick to credit Jenkins for leaving him a veteran team that he's made just a few tweaks with.

Thomason is not sure if he'll continue to coach after this season, but he has his team primed for a deep playoff run.

"I just want the girls to play hard and bring glory to this school," he said.

-- Chip Souza • @nwachip


Lady Goblins earn division's top seed

Harrison's girls clinched the East Division's top seed for next week's 4A-1 Conference tournament when the Lady Goblins earned a 55-34 victory over Shiloh Christian.

The win means Harrison (20-4, 9-1), which closes out its regular-season tonight at Farmington, will have a bye to the tournament semifinals and automatically qualify for the Class 4A North Region Tournament, which takes place the following week at Morrilton.

"This is new territory for us -- play a conference tournament, then a regional tournament," Harrison coach Doug Young said. "I can't remember how long it's been since we've played in a regional.

"At least we had this opportunity to secure a regional tournament berth. That helps take the pressure off this game. Going to Farmington is tough, and it will be their senior night. It should be a heck of a game."

Tonight's game could become a preview of a possible matchup in next week's tournament. A Harrison win could drop Farmington into the West Division's No. 2 seed if Pea Ridge defeats Gravette, meaning Harrison could possibly play Farmington again in the semifinal round.

A Farmington victory would give the Lady Cardinals the West Division's top seed, and Harrison wouldn't face Farmington until possibly the championship game.

"We don't know who we will face in the conference tournament right now," Young said. "We'll just have to get ready for whoever we play because there are no givens, for sure.

"This is still a huge game for us because we want to be consistent. We struggled with our shooting some against Shiloh, so we need to clean that up and try to shoot the ball better."

Henry Apple • @NWAHenry

Preps Sports on 02/08/2019



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