Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SPORTS >> Bears set to make another run at No. 1

Leader sportswriter

The Sylvan Hills Bears look to earn their second consecutive trip to the Class 5A finals when they begin state tournament play against Nettleton today at 2:30 p.m. at Paragould.

Greene County Tech High School is the location for this year’s tournament with a new gymnasium, marking the first time in four years the tourney will not be held at Alma.

The Bears (23-5) wrapped up another unbeaten run through the 5A-Southeast Conference last week, marking 29 consecutive victories going back to February 2010.

The tournament will also be a final farewell for the most talented basketball team in school history at Sylvan Hills, led by future Kentucky Wildcat Archie Goodwin, who comes into the tournament averaging close to 30 points per game. Goodwin is one of five senior starters on a roster full of experience and depth.

Goodwin, a natural scorer, sometimes shares point-guard duties with Dion Patton. Goodwin is considered by many to be one of the top shooters in the country, but guard Trey Smith sometimes gives the five-star recruit a run for his money when it comes to outside shooting, including a game-high 16-point performance in the league finale against Crossett last week.

Larry Ziegler provides the Bears with tough defensive play and can also create opportunities in transition just as Goodwin and Patton, but it’s the gritty inside work of 6-7 senior post player Devin Pearson that Sylvan Hills head coach Kevin Davis said can go unnoticed sometimes with the Bears’ fast-paced brand of basketball.

“Always Devin’s a warrior,” Davis said. “His teammates depend on him for that, and for three years now, he’s answered the call. He is absolutely a warrior in that paint.”

Nettleton, the No. 4 seed out of the 5A East Conference, finished with a 7-7 record in a top-heavy league. The Raiders played spoiler to GCT when they upset the Eagles on Feb. 7 during a four-game win streak that made the difference between making the tournament and staying home.

The winner of that game will play again Friday, when they take on the winner between Southwest No. 2 Little Rock Christian and West No. 3 Morrilton.

Also on the Bears’ side of the bracket is East champ Forrest City and West No. 2 seed Greenwood, while the top bracket features No. 1 seeds Alma and Camden-Fairview.

Key first-round matchups in the top half of the bracket include Southeast No. 2 seed Mills against East No. 3 seed Greene County Tech and East No. 2 seed Beebe versus Southeast No. 3 Watson Chapel.

A state championship is the only thing the Bears have yet to achieve, but Davis said the trait that sets his team apart even above talent is resiliency.

“Let’s give credit to the kids,” Davis said. “These guys have been so resilient. They went in and battled.”