Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Tim Cooper’s didn’t expect history to be made when he covered the first round of a Little Rock prep basketball tournament on Monday night. In the midst of back-to-back games, he headed to the locker room to interview coaches from the first game. He ended up waiting a few minutes longer than expected.
Little did Cooper know that by the time he returned to the floor, three and a half minutes into the second game, the home team L.R. Hall High would be up 28-0. It didn’t promise to get much better. Little Rock Fair, which hasn’t won since the 2008-09 season, dressed out only six players for Monday’s season opener. None of the girls on its normal 11-person roster are taller than 5-8. Hall, meanwhile, has one of the state’s strongest teams boasting possibly the nation’s top prep point guard in Tyler Scaife. What’s more, Hall had built its early lead without even employing a full-court defense.
With such a talent, size and depth disparity, “this game should have never been played,” Cooper said in a Tuesday interview with 103.7 FM’s “The Zone.” So, with any question of the eventual victor all but answered, the only remaining drama applied to when Fair would first score.
That drama lasted. And lasted.
Fair’s players had their shots, but more of their attempts hit the shot clock above the backboard than the rim, Cooper recalled on 103.7 FM.
“I told our girls to ‘play soft,’ and that’s something I don’t like to do,” Hall Coach Selita Farr told Cooper for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “I don’t like to ask kids to turn their game on and off like that.” Minutes into the game, Farr told her players to defend only the area inside the three-point line.
If you’ve played adult-league kickball or visited the state fair, you likely know this downtown Little Rock neighborhood. Picture the busy intersection of W. Roosevelt Road and Martin Luther King Drive. If you venture a few blocks south, you’ll find the home of Daisy Bates, which in the late ’50s was a headquarters for Arkansas’ African-American civil rights movement. There, Bates etched her name into world history by mentoring the nine African-American students who integrated Central High School in 1957. That is but one of many reasons her home at 1207 W. 28th Street became a National Historic Landmark in 2001.
Just north of Gates’ home is a 3-block radius which may have the most connections to great athletes per capita than anywhere else in the state. Gates helped pave the way for blacks to have the same access to state resources as whites, and the following student-athletes used integrated Little Rock high schools to launch careers that took them to top Division I college programs and beyond.
Less than a block from Gates’ home is the home of Leslie O’Neal’s mother, I was told by a childhood friend of O’Neal. O’Neal is a former Little Rock Hall football star who would become the best NFL defensive end from Arkansas until Kevin Williams. My neighborhood guide, Chris Porter, said as children he and O’Neal (also known as “Big Red”) worked during the summer for local businessman Robert “Say” McIntosh.
Across MLK (formerly called High Street), Porter pointed out an early childhood home of Keith Jackson, the former Parkview High star-turned-NFL All-Pro tight end. Just a block to the west lives the father of former All-SEC Razorback Joe Adams, who’s now starting his rookie season with the Carolina Panthers. His father Joseph Adams, a Little Rock fireman, told me that he grew up playing neighborhood football with Keith Jackson.
Finally, caddy-corner to Adams’ home, is the home of Darren McFadden’s mother Mini Muhammad. McFadden owns a few homes on that block, which helps when the fam throws block parties during his off-season.
If there is an Arkansas neighborhood with more star sports power in terms of family connections, I want to see it. Bates’ home may already be designated as a national landmark, but I think the surrounding area also deserves some recognition. Maybe a mention in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame or the black Arkansas sports hall of fame that former Razorback football player Muskie Harris is trying to start.
UPDATE: Hall won 42-31
I made it out to Cabot last weekend to watch Fayetteville take on Fort Smith Southside in the Class 7A state semifinals. Like many CenArk fans I was eager to see the team which has held the #1 ranking in the Democrat-Gazette most of the year. I wasn’t disappointed with the FHS Bulldogs. They were especially impressive in the third quarter, when they used a 28-13 run to fuel their eventual 76-54 win.
For starters, Fayetteville is big. Really big. And in this sport, that certainly matters. No team in the state can match FHS’ “triple towers” lineup of 6-10 Tyler McCullough, 6-8 Caleb Waitsman and 6-6 Malik Fields. Against Southside this lineup – whose bigs were in the 6-4 range – was absolutely devastating.
Exhibits A, B, C, D and E:
McCullough would finish this game with 13 rebounds, 18 points and 21 instances of Little Rock sportswriters instinctively typing “Todd” as his first name.
Hall won 47-43, after not leading until 1:15 into the third quarter. Aaron Walton, little brother to Baylor point guard A.J. Walton, scored 11 of 13 points in the second half. If the score wasn’t enough of an indication, the stats back it up: defenses dominated this game. Neither shot more than 40% FG, and they combined for 3-of-16 on 3-pointers.
Read more at ARPreps.com.
Every week, it seems Little Rock Hall High is one half of the equation in the latest game of the week.
That’s what happens when the last time you lost was December 6th. Since that loss against North Little Rock, though, Hall has not played a hotter team in a more hostile environment than Jacksonville. True, the Warriors already beat the Red Devils by 13 points, but don’t let silly Maxpreps fool ya’ – that Jan. 5 game was very much in Little Rock. Since that loss, Jacksonville has been on a tear all its own – walloping the likes of Parkview, Jonesboro and West Memphis. Get a preview of this game and others at the latest ARPreps.com prepscast.
In the last few weeks, Hall has become the favorite in these CenArk Top-5 clashes as it surges to the top of the 7A/6A East. But tonight in Lonoke County, Jacksonville has its best shot at stealing momentum from the defending champs.
Here are some clips to get you ready:
Physically, nobody in state can deal with Bobby Portis. But can the Red Devils’ home court crazies unnerve Hall’s star center?
It should be fun watching Jacksonville’s Justin McCleary match up with Hall perimeter players such as Dauda Berete:
Let’s not forget about the girls game, which also promises to be an intense match up with plenty of talent on the floor:
There’s a lot of stuff online about central Arkansas high school basketball. I’m one of the few people eager to actually wade through it all. I did so, and give you essential previews of Friday’s big games in 6A and 7A:
Hall @ Parkview
As good as it gets in Arkansas hoops. Detailed breakdown at ARPreps.com Prepscast. Also, Buzz 103.7 FM will broadcast the game as its featured matchup of the week.
[UPDATE – Hall won 63-56. For Hall, Bobby Portis had 14 points, five rebounds and five blocks. Javan Perry (13 pts), Jobe Dillard (11 pts) and Aaron Walton (10 points) make up the other high scorers. Anton Beard led Parkview with 20 points. I.J. Ready started slowly (was defended by Quan Jones) but heated up toward the end, finishing with 17 points. Emanuel Adoyi scored seven points before fouling out]
On Tuesday, Hall (11-3, 2-0) beat Marion 60-49. Arkansas commit Bobby Portis scored 17 points, and Jobe Dillard added 12 points.
Parkview (13-1, 1-1) lost at home 74-63 to Jacksonville.
The 74 points are the most the Patriots have allowed this season. No other Arkansas team has scored more than 60 on Parkview (13-1, 1-1) this season.
Jacksonville (11-3, 1-1) led 18-9 after one quarter and 40-23 at halftime.
“I can’t remember when someone jumped on us like that, especially at home,” Parkview Coach Al Flanigan said. “We didn’t play any defense, but I give Coach Joyner’s crew a lot of credit. They played well… Parkview sophomore Anton Beard led all scorers with 27 points and he also made six steals. Junior guard I.J. Ready was held to 14 points and Emmanuel Adoyi added 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. ” – Tim Cooper, via ARPreps.com
Here’s KATV video of Parkview’s I.J. Ready against Jacksonville.
Cabot @ North Little Rock
Cabot boys (9-2, 0-2) lost 55-52 to Catholic. Fox 16 video highlights from that game here (look at upper right corner)
North Little Rock boys (10-4, 1-1) beat Conway 72-53
Tyree Hollister, who had five 3-pointers, led a balanced North Little Rock attack with 21 points. Thomas Alexander added 12, Cody Ware 11 and Gary Vines 10 … via Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat
Cabot girls (13-4, 2-0) –
[Arkansas signee] Melissa Wolff and the Cabot Lady Panthers warmed up for Friday’s showdown with North Little Rock by winning at Mount St. Mary 66-38 on Tuesday in Little Rock. Wolff scored a game-high 17 points and came up with five steals and four assists for the No. 5 Lady Panthers – Tim Cooper, ArPreps.com basketball
North Little Rock girls (14-2, 2-0) beat Conway 60-40:
A key for NLR was the defensive play of LaShaun Brooks, who shut down Chambers the second half.
“That was big for us,” said NLR coach Daryl Fimple. “She’s capable of playing that kind of defense.”
Chambers led Conway with 13 points and Foster added 11. Xena King led NLR with 13 points. Lexus Williams had 10 and Kaprecia Slocum nine.” via Conway’s Log Cabin Democrat.
And here’s a KATV video feature on Lexus Williams, the Lady Charging Wildcats’ 6-1 senior who’s committed to Southern Methodist University.