Third time could be charm for Star City


NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Star City has won 23 straight girls basketball games, captured its fourth consecutive regional championship and made it to its third state title game.

Coach Becky Brown has led the Lady Dogs to all three championship game appearances (1993, 2010, 2012), but she has yet to win her first state title.

“Well, it’s not about me, it’s about those kids,” Brown said Sunday. “I want it for those kids. You can only hope for a chance to get to this point. I want it for them.”

Her 30-1 Lady Dogs will get that shot at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hot Springs’ Summit Arena against Farmington. The times for all state championship games were announced Sunday at the Arkansas Activities Association’s headquarters, a day after all semifinal games were played.

Star City and Farmington get to lead off a schedule of six straight title games culminating in the 4A boys battle between Pulaski Academy and Clarksville. Little Rock TV station KARZ (channel 42) will broadcast all of Saturday’s finals.

“I think it’s a good time for our fans for a Saturday,” Brown said. “It’s a great time for them.”

The Lady Dogs accomplished a lot with the loss of seven seniors from last year’s state semifinal team. They beat Pocahontas 41-33 and Malvern 45-37 in the 4A state tournament at the Pine Bluff Convention Center to make it to Hot Springs.

“I don’t think anyone expected this,” Brown said. “It’s great for the kids. It shows the work ethic they’ve had to get here.”

Star City earned a first-round bye in the tournament, while Farmington had to win three times — 50-27 over Dumas, 43-31 over Batesville Southside and 49-46 over Pulaski Academy — reach Summit Arena. Brown said the Lady Cardinals (26-7) are a tough team with good size, but Farmington coach Brad Johnson believes he’ll have a challenge on his hands.

“We do like to throw the basketball inside,” Johnson said. “Our front line’s pretty strong. We know it’s going to be a challenge defensively, and Star City’s going to pose some problems for us.”

All 5A-Southeast final

Little Rock Mills boys coach Raymond Cooper said his conference was underrated this season. But the league has the last laugh in 5A.

Pulaski County rivals Sylvan Hills and Mills will battle at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. Sylvan Hills finished the 5A-Southeast Conference 14-0, two games ahead of Mills.

Watson Chapel and Monticello were the other two state qualifiers from the conference, but both got knocked out in the first round. The Southeast Arkansas schools are going to different conferences starting next season; Watson Chapel and White Hall will shift to the 5A-Southwest, while Monticello drops to the 8-4A.

“All four teams fared well at the tournament,” said Cooper, who in 2009 led North Pulaski to a runner-up finish. “Watson Chapel was a very, very good team. Watson Chapel could have won 25 games this year. All the games they lost were two-, three-point games. With a new coach coming (Matt Busch), he did a good job.

“Monticello’s got a lot of young kids. They’ve played a lot of sophomores, even freshmen. That team fought all the way to the end.”

Can England repeat?

Thirty-five miles north of Pine Bluff, a team is preparing for a shot at repeating as 2A girls champion.

England dodged Parkers Chapel 31-29 last year to win it all. This year, the Lady Lions (30-5) have East Poinsett County — whose boys team also is playing for a title — to worry about.

“We’re just fortunate to win it (over Parkers Chapel), so we just decided to be back in this situation this year,” England coach David Mackey said.

It took a lot for the Lady Lions to make the decision. They beat PC 59-31, Danville 79-64 and Bigelow 51-40 at Cedar Ridge High in Newark to advance.

Mackey said the Lady Lions’ team unity and championship experience have guided them back to Hot Springs. They’re led by twins Janeka and Jameka Watkins and Aria Dunbar, all guards.

AAA state basketball championship schedule

All games at Summit Arena, Hot Springs

Thursday (all games on Bounce TV)

3:30 p.m.: 2A girls, England vs. East Poinsett County

5:15 p.m.: 2A boys, Junction City vs. East Poinsett County

7 p.m.: 5A girls, Greenwood vs. Paragould

8:45 p.m.: 3A boys, Earle vs. Charleston

Friday (all games on Bounce TV)

3:30 p.m.: 6A boys, Jonesboro vs. Little Rock Parkview

5:15 p.m.: 6A girls, Russellville vs. Little Rock Parkview

7 p.m.: 7A boys, Little Rock Hall vs. Fayetteville

8:45 p.m.: 1A girls, Wonderview vs. Kingston

Saturday (all games on KARZ-42)

11 a.m.: 4A girls, Star City vs. Farmington

12:45 p.m.: 1A boys, Mammoth Spring vs. Sacred Heart

2:30 p.m.: 7A girls, Cabot vs. Fort Smith Northside

4:15 p.m.: 5A boys, Little Rock Mills vs. Sylvan Hills

6 p.m.: 3A girls, Greenland vs. Green Forest

7:45 p.m.: 4A boys, Pulaski Academy vs. Clarksville