Joshua Liddell and Dollarway seek to protect their home court today against Pine Bluff. (Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam)
Interim coach Carl Smith’s Pine Bluff team will play its first game in 10 days today at Dollarway.
The Pine Bluff-Dollarway basketball rivalry has taken on different settings in Ellis Berry’s 22 seasons as Dollarway coach: McFadden Gymnasium, Pine Bluff Convention Center, H.O. Clemmons Arena, even Altheimer’s Asive Thomas Gymnasium.
Never his own place. Not until today.
Berry’s Cardinals will try to end the Zebras’ stranglehold on the city rivalry with a win at the Dollarway Fieldhouse. Pine Bluff (4-3) has won four straight in the series, dating back to the 2010-11 season.
The tipoff for the junior varsity boys game has been moved up to 4:30 p.m., with the varsity game to follow.
Asked if the Cardinals are ready, Berry seemed to take his team’s word for it.
“They say they’re ready,” Berry said. “They’re excited about it.”
Dollarway (7-1) is putting a winning streak of its own on the line. The Cards have won seven straight since losing the season-opener at Dumas with a team minus football players.
Since, Berry’s been looking for those players to fully get into “basketball mode,” although he’s seen plenty of good things during the streak.
“I see the mental toughness in them,” he said. “We’ve got the physical ability. They’ve got good work habits. They’re confident in themselves.”
Some of Pine Bluff’s basketball team members aren’t even a full month removed from playing in the 6A football championship game. Zebras interim head coach Carl Smith said those guys, including the quarterback-wide receiver duo of Rickey Clements and Tyrone Payne, aren’t fully into basketball mode, but they’ve made some progress.
“They’re further than where I thought they’d be,” Smith said. “They’ll get there.”
Pine Bluff (4-3) hasn’t played a game in 10 days, when it beat Watson Chapel 63-49 at home. In that game, Clements led the Zebras with 21 points and Payne had eight.
Smith called the layoff a blessing.
“Some of the football players come in banged up with nagging injuries,” he said. “We’ve been treating that and trying to put in the system. Some of the guys know the system, but once you get in and you get on the floor, you try to pick it up, see where you got to go and all that.”
Dollarway has counted on stingy defense during its winning streak. In its previous game Tuesday at home, Dollarway held Dumas to one basket in the second quarter while pulling away in a 63-39 win. Joshua Liddell scored a game-high 15 points in the win.
Berry knows his Cards will have a challenge on their hands trying to slow Pine Bluff standouts Darrian Kee, Clements and Payne.
“It’s going to take four quarters of good, hard defense on each end,” Berry said. “Those three guys can explode and score points.”