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Marion coach quite familiar with final opponent

by Tim Cooper | March 7, 2019 at 2:17 a.m.

If David Clark has any mixed emotions about today's Class 5A boys state championship game he's doing a good job of hiding it.

The first-year coach of the Marion Patriots is obviously pleased to be in Hot Springs to play for a state title. But across the court will be his former boss and a program he spent a decade helping reach the apex of Arkansas high school basketball.

Before taking the job at Marion last summer, Clark spent five years as an assistant under Little Rock Hall Coach Jon Coleman. The five years before that, Clark was a volunteer coach for the Warriors.

"That just shows he has a great passion for the game of basketball," Coleman said. "Coach Clark has a tremendous basketball mind and I'm happy he got the chance to display his talents."

Marion and Hall will play for the Class 5A state title at Bank OZK Arena today. Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.

"We knew we both had two tough teams," Clark said. "And we knew if we got on the opposite side of the bracket that we'd probably see each other in the championship game.

"I want to coach against him. It's going to be fun to coach against him."

Clark is familiar with Little Rock high school basketball. He played for Little Rock Parkview in 1998 and transferred to Little Rock Fair in 1999. He played collegiately for the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

After college, he returned to Pulaski County and worked as an assistant in the Little Rock School District athletic department. As either a volunteer or assistant coach at Hall, Clark was a part of four state championship teams.

And then Marion called.

"I had coached some of their kids during the summer," Clark said. "But all I really knew about the area was that Marion was across the river from Memphis."

Clark says he loves his new home and that the community, the parents and the administration have all been supportive of his efforts and the program.

"They pick their kids up on time and they expect practice to end on time too," Clark said. "It keeps them on track, on target for other parts of their lives and it gives me an extra part of my life that I didn't have when I was coaching at Hall. I spent all day and all night in the gym when I was at Hall but now I get a chance to enjoy other parts of my life."

Marion has excelled under Clark. The Patriots compiled a respectable 15-16 record during the 2017-18 season, but this year they are 24-3, ranked No. 1 and have not lost to another team from Arkansas.

"It sets up to be a good game," said Coleman, who is in his ninth year as the Warriors head coach. "Not only do our kids know Coach Clark but they know the Marion players as well. When you look at both of us, you'll see we both run the same type of things."

Clark says he learned a lot from Coleman during his time in Little Rock and that he has adopted many of his mentor's attributes.

"Coach Coleman is a workaholic," Clark said. "Everyone wants to say he wins because he has players like [NBA player] Bobby Portis, but he's actually put the work in with the kids. ... I've adopted that same mold since I've been at Marion. I'm always going to work to make the kids better. That's the one thing I think speaks volumes about Coach Coleman is that he's there for the kids."

"We've been talking about this since he got the job in a playful kind of way," Coleman said of today's game. "To see it come to fruition is amazing."

5A boys

LR HALL WARRIORS VS. MARION PATRIOTS

Time 4 p.m.

PROBABLE STARTERS

LR HALL

NO. POS. PLAYER HT. CL

1 F Kevon Cooper 6-7 Sr.

3 G Jared Smith 6-3 Sr.

5 G Greg Johnson 6-4 Sr.

12 F Jarrius Sharp 6-7 Sr.

20 G Jonathan Coleman 5-10 Sr.

KEY RESERVES Montavious Dismuke, 6-0, Sr.;

Dylon Session, 6-4, Jr.

COACH Jon Coleman

CONFERENCE 5A-Central

RECORD 23-6

POSTSEASON RESULTS def. Alma 67-53 (first round), def. Hot Springs 73-47(state quarterfinals), def. West Memphis 43-38(state semifinals).

MARION

NO. POS. PLAYER HT. CL

0 G Detrick Reeves 6-2 Jr.

1 G Makyi Boyce 6-0 Jr.

2 G Keyshawn Woods 6-1 Sr.

3 F Timothy Ceaser 6-9 Sr.

13 G Decoreio Smith 6-4 6-1

KEY RESERVES Darrius Waterford, 6-3, So.;

Tristan Haymon, 6-3, Sr.

COACH David Clark

CONFERENCE 5A-East

RECORD 24-3

POSTSEASON RESULTS def. Benton 60-39 (first round), def. Parkview 58-48(state quarterfinals), def. Lake Hamilton 60-46 (state semifinals).

NOTEWORTHY Marion is on an 18-game winning streak and has not lost to an opponent from Arkansas this season. … Hall has won 13 consecutive games. … This is the first meeting between the two teams since Feb. 25, 2017, when Hall defeated Marion 63-46 in a third-place game of the 6A-East Conference tournament. … The last time the two teams played in a state tournament was March, 6, 2010, in West Memphis. Hall won that game in the semifinals 70-64 in overtime. … Hall has won 10 state titles; Marion is seeking its first. … Marion’s lone state title appearance game came in 1993, a 43-41 loss to Dumas. … David Clark is in his first year as the Patriots head coach after spending five years as an assistant at Hall. … Jon Coleman is 194-76 in nine years at Hall.

Sports on 03/07/2019

Print Headline: Marion coach quite familiar with final opponent

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