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  1. Can anyone get in Melbourne's way?

Anything can happen when teams get on the court, but it's going to be hard for anyone in Class 2A to keep up with the Lady Bearkatz for a full 32 minutes. Melbourne is deep, talented and experienced. The team will have some competition, with teams such as Conway Christian, Des Arc and Bigelow on the rise. But it will take an outstanding effort to dethrone the champs.

  1. Any sleepers out there?

One team that could generate some buzz is Fordyce. The Lady Bugs had a stretch last season where they won 22 of 23 games while powered by Caitlyn Bulliner. They lost their final three games but could make a push. Watch out for Flippin as well.

  1. How will the big three in the 2A-5 fare?

Conway Christian, Quitman and Bigelow are all title contenders right now, so there is no reason to believe they'll fall back. Fellow 2A-5 foe South Side Bee Branch has had moments this season as well. Marshall has dropped down to the 2A-5 after going 16-8 in the 3A-1 East last season.

Sophomore Josie Williams,

Conway Christian, Guard

The All-Arkansas Preps selection got off to a blazing start this season with a 31-point, 9-rebound, 5-assist effort against Baptist Prep. Williams averaged 21 points as a freshman and could see that total increase for a team with high expectations.

Sophomore Jenna Lawrence,

Melbourne, Center

Lawrence has committed to the University of Arkansas, but other Power 5 schools will come a callin' over the next couple of seasons to try and change her mind. The 6-2 center can score and shoot but doesn't have to do everything for the Lady Bearkatz, who have at least two or three others who can play college basketball.

Junior Kenley McCarn,

Melbourne, Guard

One third of Melbourne's trio of standouts, McCarn makes a difference in a variety of ways. The junior was the MVP of the state tournament last season. She has committed to Tennessee-Martin.

Others to keep an eye on

Junior Heidi Robinson, Marmaduke; Senior Colbi Maples, Earle; Senior Kayla Richardson, Cossatot River; Senior Leah Still, Flippin

No. 1 Melbourne

COACH Eric Teague


2019-20 RECORD 34-2

KEY RETURNERS G Kenley McCarn (5-9, Jr.), C Jenna Lawrence (6-2, Soph.), G Josie Roark (5-6, Sr.), G Kiley Webb (5-3, Sr.)

CIRCLED DATES Nov. 24/Dec. 11 Fort Smith Northside, Dec. 30 at Marion, Jan. 18 vs. Viola

NOTEWORTHY The Lady Bearkatz are in prime position to make a run at a third consecutive Class 3A state championship. ... Only one player from last season's starting five has graduated. ... Kiley Webb has signed with Williams Baptist University to run track and play basketball. ... Two scheduled games against Fort Smith Northside highlight Melbourne's slate.

No. 2 Des Arc

COACH Ryan Smith


2019-20 RECORD 23-9

KEY RETURNERS F Tristian Richards (5-11, Sr.), G Caroline Harris (5-8, Sr.), G Shyanne Bell (5-8, Soph.), G Gabi Berry (5-8, Soph.)

CIRCLED DATES Nov. 17 at White Co. Central, Dec. 17 at Stuttgart, Jan. 8/Feb. 2 vs. England

NOTEWORTHY Lady Eagles will miss Parker Smith's all-around game, but they have best friends Tristian Richards and Caroline Harris returning. ... Richards has committed to play basketball for Williams Baptist University. ... Des Arc reached the semifinals last season.

No. 3 Bigelow

COACH Jeff Gifford


2019-20 RECORD 28-4

KEY RETURNERS G Chloe Buie (5-6, Sr.), G Aubrey Evans (5-8, Soph.), G Jill Nutt (5-8, Sr.)

CIRCLED DATES Nov. 17 at Mayflower, Dec. 15/Jan. 26 vs. Conway Christian, Jan. 11/Feb. 9 vs. Quitman

NOTEWORTHY Shooters galore for the Lady Panthers, who should be in the thick of things for both the 2A-5 title as well as the state crown. ... Jill Nutt was an all-state selection as a junior. ... Bigelow has won 59 games over the past two seasons.

No. 4 Conway Christian

COACH Trey Lynch


2019-20 RECORD 17-16

KEY RETURNERS F Emily Dather (5-10, Sr.), G Josie Williams (5-9, Soph.), G Kara Keathley (5-6, Soph.)

CIRCLED DATES Nov. 17 at Flippin, Dec. 4/Jan. 14 vs. Quitman, Dec. 14/Jan. 26 vs. Bigelow

NOTEWORTHY Lady Eagles are more experienced this season, led by one of the top players in the state in Josie Williams. ... Emily Dather averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season. ... Conway Christian beat Baptist Prep by 20 in its opener.

No. 5 Quitman

COACH Tim Hooten


2019-20 RECORD 30-4

KEY RETURNERS G Taylor Jo Hooten (5-4, Jr.), F Macy Broadway (5-8 Jr.)

CIRCLED DATES Dec. 3 vs. Batesville Southside, Dec. 4/Jan. 15 Conway Christian, Jan. 11/Feb. 9 vs. Bigelow

NOTEWORTHY Eight seniors are gone from last season's runner-up team, not to mention four starters, but Tim Hooten usually just reloads. ... Quitman last won a state championship in 2017. ... The Lady Bulldogs have four huge regular-season meetings with ranked teams Bigelow and Conway Christian.

No. 6 Alpena

COACH Michael Smith


2019-20 RECORD 30-8

KEY RETURNERS G Desi Deitrich (5-7, Sr.), G Emma Johnson (5-5, Soph.), F Katherine Rhodas (5-11, Soph.)

CIRCLED DATES Nov. 16 Berryville, Dec. 15/Feb. 2 vs. Cotter, Dec. 22 Norfork

NOTEWORTHY Lady Leopards advanced to the Class 1A semifinals last season with a senior-less roster. ... Alpena moves to the 2A-1, where it'll be one of the favorites to win the conference. ... Michael Smith's team has gotten off to a slow start but did play well in a 29-point win over Eureka Springs.

On the cusp

Marmaduke, Riverside, Acorn


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