Junior Bobcats have good first half of season

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Berryville Bobcat junior high basketball team has gotten off to a 9-2 start this season and coach Cody Curtis is pleased with the way things have been going thus far.

"The main thing has been getting those football players acclimated to the basketball conditioning and getting their shot back," Curtis said. "I have three football guys that start. The other thing has been getting the eighth grade to gel with the ninth grade."

Kennon Helmlinger, Weston Teague and Kade Davidson all start on the team as eighth-graders and Jaeden Tanksley is the sixth man off the bench. J.D. Smith and Landon Chester start and show tremendous leadership as ninth-graders, but Curtis said it's been remarkable seeing the eighth-graders mature.

"That's not something you see all the time," Curtis said. "Most times when you have that many eighth-graders starting on junior high, it's not going to be that great of a season. These three kids are ahead of their time. They are all athletic. Two of them play only basketball. They just live in the gym. The other one is just so athletic that he makes plays. The other thing is that they just love basketball."

Berryville also won the junior high Bobcat Classic, a tournament Berryville hosted for the final time this year.

"Letting those kids experience championships means so much to those kids, their families and the community," Curtis said. "I don't think we had won it in five or six years. And we aren't going to host it from now on. Eureka is taking the tournament over, so it was nice to go out on a high note."

Curtis adds that he has seen progress offensively, but defense has carried the Bobcats so far this season.

"Our defense has been really good over the first half of the year," Curtis said. "We have been mixing up our full court presses. Going from a box, to man, to diamond. That has been giving a lot of teams fits. Our kids play hard. They hustle and do all the little things right. It's paying off for them."

Curtis adds that there will be plenty of things Berryville will be working on to get better in the second half of the season.

"We aren't the biggest guys in the world," Curtis said. "It seems like every night we play we are smaller than everybody else so rebounding is going to be a huge part of being successful down the stretch. Boxing out, rebounding will be big and then just keep adding wrinkles into our offense and executing that."

Girls: The Berryville Lady Bobcats are sitting at 5-3 heading into Christmas break. Berryville has won four consecutive games after a 1-3 start and coach Aaron Hall believes his team is finally getting in a rhythm.

"It takes us a little while to find our identity," Hall said. "Every year you go into the year and you think you know what you have, but until you play some games, you aren't really sure. You have to make some adjustments and it took us a little while."

Berryville lost to Harrison in the fourth game of the year, but Hall believes that was a breakthrough for the Lady Bobcats.

"That was the game that we turned it around and started playing better," Hall said. "Harrison has a fine program and it was a one- or two-point game with four minutes to go in the game. We just had about a 30- or 40-second letdown and they scored about six or seven points to pull away from us. But all in all, we played better. Since then we have won four games in a row. We seem to be playing better and understand what we can and can't do from a player’s point of view and a coach’s point of view."

There are nine players on the team and while Hall starts five ninth-graders, he said everyone has plenty of time to play.

"The first sub off the bench is a ninth-grader and then we have three eighth-graders, but there isn't a big difference in all of them," Hall said. "A lot of times you will have five and then you won't have much else. This is a year we can go nine deep and that's a luxury to have."

Berryville opens up with a difficult schedule to start the second semester, playing Gentry, Gravette and Valley Springs all on the road.

"We are going to find out that second semester where we are at pretty quickly," Hall said. "We will find out what we need to work on and some things we can do better and some things we do pretty well."

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