Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SPORTS >> Bears set bar, break records

Leader sportswriter

It was a record-setting weekend for the state finals with more than 40,000 people showing up at Summit Arena during the three-day span. The stands were half full at the start of the Cabot-Fort Smith Northside girls 7A final, but by the third quarter, the stands were almost full in anticipation of the Bears-versus-Comets game that followed.

Sylvan Hills and Mills drew the biggest crowd of any of the 14 games with 5,639 in attendance. The only other game to draw a crowd larger than 5,000 people was the 7A boys final where 5,311 people watched MVP David Berrete lead the Warriors to their second-consecutive state championship with a 41-31 victory over Fayetteville on Friday night.

Archie’s last stand

Goodwin and his teammates faced criticism following last year’s state title game loss to Alma for failing to shake hands after the game, but he left Summit Arena this year with the Most Valuable Player award and Sylvan Hills’ first ever basketball state championship.

The difference was night and day in terms of performance on the court and his demeanor after the game.

Instead of walking off the court with a towel draped over his head, Goodwin stayed at the exit for a number of minutes to sign autographs for youngsters who had converged on the southeast corner of the Summit Arena floor.

Goodwin finally got to the rim for a dunk with 3:17 left to play to give the Bears a 55-42 lead, and kept his cool moments later when Mills guard Jerale Lovelace tackled him from behind to prevent another one.

His percentage behind the three-point line was an even 40 percent (4 of 10) while he went 7 of 17 from the floor total. His free-throw numbers were the weakest of the totals at 9 of 16. He also pulled down four defensive rebounds and three offensive boards, while committing five turnovers.

Ziegler in the zone

Larry Ziegler was one of only three players to play more than 30 minutes along with Goodwin and Mills guard Braylon Spicer. The senior made himself a factor early with a lay up at the 4:41 mark of the first quarter and another transition shot with 2:16 remaining. Ziegler had nine points total along with seven rebounds. He has been the team’s steady Eddie all season, bringing consistent play and calm nerves to an intense and emotional team.

Here we go again…

The familiarity between the two 5A Southeast Conference teams added to the hype of the final. The championship game was the first at a neutral site this season, but the game progressed much like the two regular-season games with the Bears jumping out to a lead of over 20 points before the Comets came back in the final minutes to make it close.

“These guys, they all know each other,” Mills coach Raymond Cooper said. “They’ve known each other probably since elementary school, and they’ve played summer ball against each other. It’s just two teams that are use to each other, and we get out there and go after each other.”

General Patton

Dion Patton stayed in the game 29 minutes, and played the entire second half with bleeding and significant swelling inside his upper lip after taking an elbow to the mouth while fighting for a loose ball late in the first half.

The senior point guard had eight points, three assists and three steals, and scored on a pair of transition lay ups in the pivotal third quarter for Sylvan Hills.

Leaving a legacy

The college-recruiting frenzy that encircled Goodwin was only part of the story for a senior group that set record attendance at nearly every home game over the past two seasons.

The group was successful as freshmen, winning the River City Conference championship. Their move to varsity the following year was a year of development, and the Bears just missed qualifying for the state tournament.

But their 14-0 runs in the 5A Southeast Conference the next two years along with two straight finals appearances set a high bar for future Bears teams.

“I think it’s because of these seniors,” Davis said. “Let’s give these guys credit where credit is due; 28-0 over two years of conference play, won 17 in a row two years in a row. Seventeen straight basketball games – that’s resilience.”