It’s an exciting time for Star City girls basketball.
The Lady Dogs have just wrapped up their fifth consecutive conference championship and are heading into this postseason as the defending state champions in 4A. Not only that, they’ve won 73 straight in the 8-4A Conference dating back to February 2008 (it was previously reported 75 straight).
“The kids are excited,” coach Becky Brown said. “They’re playing well right now. We’re facing a tough conference right now in the 7-4A.”
And that’s where the Lady Dogs get back to business.
While they are a favorite to win the 4A South Regional Tournament at Ouachita Baptist University, Brown speaks highly of the talented 7-4A Conference, mentioning the returning starters for Malvern from last year’s state semifinal team, the addition of Central Arkansas Christian — a 5A semifinalist a year ago — to the conference and Bauxite’s Mary Crow, a Central Arkansas recruit. Malvern is the 7-4A District champion.
“That’s the toughest I’ve seen that conference in a long time,” Brown said.
But the Lady Dogs’ next opponent — fourth-seeded Ashdown — is “a scary, tough team,” she added.
“We’re not overlooking Ashdown,” she said. “They’ve got some height and a little speed. That matches well with us.”
Star City and Ashdown will play at 7 tonight. The winner of each regional quarterfinal advances to state.
“We’ve got to bounce in and be ready to play,” Brown said.
Star City (23-4, 14-0 in 8-4A) has gotten most of its points from senior forward Tyeshia Harris (19 points per game) and sophomore two-guard Jaida Harden (about 12 ppg). The latter has stepped up her offense after the Lady Dogs lost Octavian Reedy to an ACL injury in December, Brown said.
“Jaida is a strong player, an aggressive player who has no fear whatsoever,” Brown said. “She does well with shots in the lane and jump shots.”
Brown also cited the play of junior Tekeila Walker, who’s taken over the point guard role a season after now-Delta State freshman Juquecia Chaney earned MVP honors in the state championship game, and the defensive efforts of senior guard Alexis Bullard.
Lady Jacks barely in
It took a big performance by a freshman to help Warren get into the 4A South Region Tournament.
Freshman power forward Shamiqua Pickett scored a season-high 35 points in the 64-51 victory over Crossett on Friday. The win, along with Hamburg’s loss to DeWitt that night, earned the Lady Jacks the fourth seed from the 8-4A and a date with Malvern at 4 p.m. today to open the tournament.
“We had our best performance we had in the fourth quarter all season,” Warren coach Sandra Hatley said. “We got down 10 points in the third quarter. We had to regroup and reiterate what fate we held in our hands. They took on their talents and played hard.”
They’ll need another solid game to upset the 7-4A champion Lady Leopards, a state semifinalist last season. A win will put the Lady Jacks in their first state tournament since 2002.
“They are super athletic,” Hatley said. “They rely on their athleticism on their half-court sets. We can’t turn the ball over in excess, and every opportunity we get to score, we’ve got to score. We’ve got to block out.”
Pickett and senior center Chakendra Roberson have been scoring leaders for the Lady Jacks this season, although their statistics weren’t immediately available. Hatley has been pleased with Roberson’s development this season.
“I wanted her to be a leader on the floor, and she has accepted that role,” Hatley said.
Lady Owls grow during district title season
McGehee defeated Drew Central for the 8-3A District championship, a great accomplishment for a team that played the first half of the season with only five players.
“We had to regroup as a team and learn how to play as a team because we had some more players become eligible after the semester,” second-year McGehee coach Karen Broughton said.
McGehee (12-7, 5-3 in 8-3A) finished second in conference play to Drew Central, playing the second part of the season with 10 players. Tonight will be the first time that any of the Lady Owls have competed in a regional tournament game, and it’s also a chance for them to make history.
If they win their 7 p.m. game against Horatio in the 3A Region 4 Tournament at Prescott, they will give McGehee its first state tournament berth in 20 years.
“The way they’ve played, I feel confident,” Broughton said. “But they haven’t seen regionals, so I feel nervous. They take it one game at a time. I tell them every team is good from now on.”
A major reason for the Lady Owls’ success has been freshman Shakyla Begnaud, a 5-foot-9 post who averages about 16-18 pointsand 7-8 rebounds per game, according to Broughton. Her mother Brenda Jones-Begnaud was a standout at Arkansas-Monticello in the mid-1990s.
“She is so coachable,” Broughton said of Shakyla. “She’s so consistent. She plays at a level where I don’t think of her as a freshman.”