Tuesday, February 28, 2012

SPORTS >> Beebe teams begin quest for state title

Leader sportswriter

Beebe teams go to the 5A state tournament together for the first time since 2009, and for the Badgers boys team, it will also mark the first time in school history the team has been to state in back-to-back seasons.

A successful 10-3 run in the 5A-East Conference earned the No. 2 seed for the Badgers, under second-year coach Ryan Marshall. That pits them against Southeast No. 3 seed Watson Chapel in the first round today at 8:30 p.m. on the campus of Greene County Tech High School.

The Wildcats struggled at times and finished 7-7 in a conference dominated by Sylvan Hills and runner up Mills, whose only two conference losses were at the hands of the Bears.

But they had their necessary triumphs, including a three-game stretch at the end of January and into February when they downed North Pulaski, Crossett and Helena-West Helena Central.

They also split games with No. 4 seed Monticello but held the tiebreaker points needed to take the higher seed.

Beebe comes into the tournament with momentum after winning its last six conference games, including a 64-49 upset over Forrest City at home on Feb. 14. The Badgers last defeat goes back to Feb. 3 when they lost on the road at Blytheville against a team they dominated during the first meeting.

Experience will not be a factor for the Badgers with four senior starters including post player Dayton Scott, guards Brandon Fuller and Zach May, as well as forward Braden Jones. The final starting spot has been a rotation since junior starter Austin Burroughs has been out with illness. Sophomore point guard Tanner Chapman has taken up much of the slack, while junior guard Jake Schlenker has also put in several minutes.

Scott has been the rebounding leader for the Badgers while May provides the biggest outside-shooting threat. Fuller has become more of an offensive threat in recent games, while Jones’ specialty has remained tough inside defense.

The winner between Beebe and Watson Chapel will most likely face Alma, who is expected to easily surpass Southwest No. 4 seed Magnolia in the first round, in the quarterfinal round on Friday afternoon.

The Beebe Lady Badgers will face a scrappy team in Southeast No. 3 seed White Hall during the first round today at 7 p.m.

The Lady Badgers finished second to Paragould in the 5A East Conference chase after nearly knocking off the unbeaten Lady Rams in the league finale last week.

Beebe’s well-rounded arsenal of players includes 6-4 sophomore post player Angelina Williams, who gives virtually every opponent fits inside with her dominant-size advantage.

The college recruiting process is in full force with Williams, as well as junior guard Jamie Jackson, who is the most versatile of the group with inside/outside scoring ability.

Sophomore Kalela Miller has been Beebe’s leading scorer in many of the games during the final half of the regular season and can generate defensive plays at key times while senior guards Sarah White and Alexis Miguel give the Lady Badgers leadership in their final stint.

It is the first time back to the state tournament for the Lady Badgers since a trip to the semifinals back in 2009. Under first-year coach Greg Richey, Beebe fought to a 20-7 regular season record that included a championship at the Battle of the Brier invitational holiday tournament in December.

The winner between Beebe and White Hall will face the winner of Greenwood and Little Rock Christian at 1 p.m. on Friday.