Prep basketball season begins in earnest

Shifting sports gears from outside to inside, Monticello and Drew Central have begun their basketball campaigns in a big way. The Lady Billies got things rolling with a victory at Marmaduke on Nov. 11—and five days later, the three other high school varsity teams joined them.
Drew Central’s senior boys got what could possibly be a year to remember started with a 77-75 win over always-tough Dermott last Thursday night at Drew Central Gymnasium. The Pirates followed that with an 84-41 humiliation of DeWitt on the road the next night.
Their Lady Pirate counterparts are also 2-0, with a 68-31 triumph over Dermott in the traditional season opener and a 65-50 win at DeWitt. Drew Central’s junior girls also dropped Dermott while the defending four-time Class 3A, District 8 champion Junior Pirates earned their 65th consecutive win at DeWitt last Friday.
All the local senior high teams started off with a win except Monticello’s senior boys. Unfortunately, the Billies began the 2017-18 season the way they tipped off a year ago—with three losses in the Honda of Jonesboro Invitational Tournament held at Brookland—fell to Marion 83-78 in overtime, host Brookland 38-30 and Paragould 51-44.
With the Thanksgiving holiday, not many games are being played in the next few days, but all four hit the ground running next Tuesday.
The only contests scheduled for this week are Monticello’s visit to Jacksonville on Tuesday (and because of early holiday deadlines, the Advance-Monticellonian was not able to report on those matchups) and the Lady Billies’ first game in the FBT Bank and Mortgage Tournament in Fordyce on Saturday.
The Billies and Lady Billies’ tipped off three games with the Red Devils at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and Monticello’s senior girls will be on the court against Parkers Chapel at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Fordyce.
Should Monticello win that contest, the Lady Billies will next face the winner of the Junction City-Lake Village Lakeside game at 4 p.m. next Wednesday; a loss Saturday would have Monticello playing the Junction City-Lakeside loser at 4 p.m. on Thursdsy, Nov. 30.
The FBT seventh-, fifth-, third- and first-place trophies will be decided on Saturday, Dec. 2. Game times that day will be 11 a.m. or 1:30, 4 and 6:30 p.m. But before that, all four local high school teams will jump into the Class 3A4A, District 12 waters.
The last year for the Arkansas Activities Association’s experiment with so-called “blended conferences” will start next Tuesday for both Monticello and Drew Central. The Billies and Lady Billies host Smackover while the Pirates and Lady Pirates visit Warren. Games at both sites tip off at 5 p.m. with junior high games (girls for Monticello, boys for Drew Central).
With both schools being in the same league for the regular season (all teams return to their own classifications when the playoffs begin in February 2018), the first “Showdown in M-Town” clashes will be on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at Drew Central Gymnasium. Monticello will host the second on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.
It’s very early in the seasons, but so far—aside from the 30 points junior Shania Smith netted for the Lady Billies at Marmaduke in their opener—Drew Central senior Montiel Daniels is the top scorer. Daniels scored 24 points in DC’s big win at DeWitt last Friday. Monticello’s Shannon Strickland got his sophomore campaign started with a 16-point performance at Brookland to lead the Billies.
Strickland scored that team-leading total in Monticello’s first game and followed that up with 16 points against Paragould two days later. His classmate and fellow guard Keshaun Pippen also finished with 16 points in the Billies’ latest game against the Rams in the tournament’s seventh-place contest. Junior Terrance Washington was Monticello’s top scorer with six points in the game against the host Bearcats, who traditionally slow their games down (Brookland defeated Monticello 22-21 in overtime in the state tournament a few years back); hence, the low final score.
Sophomore Travarus Shead stepped off the football field and led Drew Central to the win over Dermott with 13 points. Shead and his fellow 10th graders have still never lost wearing a Pirate backetball uniform, as they played a big part in a lot of the four consecutive 8-3A championships the Junior Pirates have won during their win streak.
For the Lady Pirates, senior Amaya Partman was the top scorer against Dermott with 14 points. Junior Charlayah Ridgell paced Drew Central over DeWitt with a team-high 16 points.

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