Column: 'The Sports Trail': Area teams ranked high in state, but 1-game season now

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It amazes me to see how many basketball teams from our area of the state are ranked as one of the top five or six in their classifications.

And not just our area, but from the conferences our county high schools play in. I would hate to coach girls in the 1-4A Conference unless my team was Shiloh Christian or Huntsville.

The Lady Saints are 28-1 and ranked No. 1 by just about everybody. And down there just a little farther are the Huntsville Lady Eagles, 24-5, at No. 5. That's what Berryville Lady Bobcat coach Kristin Smith faces four times a year during the regular season.

Dardanelle to the south is 27-0 and No. 1 in Class 4A. Yep, at the regionals this week, if the Berryville Bobcats win their first game with Clarksville, guess who's next? Dardanelle.

The trend continues in Class 3A, with the Valley Springs Lady Tigers No. 2 at 30-5, while the Valley boys are sixth at 26-7. While not in the same conference, the Green Forest teams usually find a date to play Valley at least once.

In Class 2A, Eureka Springs' new 4-2A conference, the Lady Rebels of Johnson County West Side are ranked No. 5 with a 26-1 record. That one loss? To Eureka Springs. But the Lady Rebels did win 2 of 3, including the district tournament championship last Saturday.

On the boys side, the Hackett Hornets are No. 4 with a 29-2 mark. Eureka played them twice and didn't get close. Neither has anyone else.

Our neighbor to the east, Alpena, has the girls at 29-6 and ranked No. 4, with the boys 24-4 and ranked No. 5.

While rankings don't guarantee a team a single win, they do show who has been successful over the course of a season. The troubling thing is the number of games these teams are playing.

When you combine regular season schedules with pre-season tournaments, two, or three tournaments during the season, and district and regional games, some teams reach their state tournaments with 40 games under their belts.

That's a lot of leaving early and getting back late on school days. Amazingly, most players on teams around here keep their grades high somehow, maybe because they have to.

There is a marked difference between football schools and non-football schools as the non's can start a month earlier. Take the Fayetteville High School teams. The 7A boys are 25-0, while the girls are 27-0. Then look at No. 2 Scranton in Class 1A. The Rockets are 32-2, but that's still behind the Valley and Alpena girls with 35 games already and Bergman boys with 35.

The only school with less than 20 games is Class 4A's Lake Village boys with 19 at 16-3.

This week is regional tournament time, with both Green Forest teams, both Eureka Springs teams, and the Berryville Bobcats all playing on Wednesday or Thursday.

And guess what? Any of those five teams has a chance to move on to state if they win just one game, their first one.

You know what they say. Any team can get hot on you. Some kid can come off the bench and play unconscious and set a new scoring mark. An injury to a key player in the warmup might devastate one team while pumping up another.

Yeah, it's tournament time. Underdogs prepare while top dogs beware. It's a one-game season now no matter what your record is.

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