Class 3A coming to Drew Central
Especially in the lower classifications where the Arkansas Activities Association has so many schools from which to choose, this opportunity comes along maybe once in a student’s athletic life.
Of all the seasons for it to happen locally, 2017-18 was the year—and it has. Drew Central was selected as host for the early rounds of the Class 3A Basketball State Championships by the AAA Board of Directors at its winter meeting in Little Rock last Thursday.
“It’s a huge honor to be chosen,” Drew Central Director of Athletics Michael Goad, also the head girls’ basketball coach, said. “We are extremely excited to host the tourney. It will give us a chance to showcase our facilities and our hometown to the rest of the state. I’m excited for our school and the city of Monticello.
“It will be a nice boost to the local economy, as well. We encourage anyone that would like to help or be involved with the tourney to contact us. We would love to get the entire community involved.”
The four top seeds, both boys and girls, from each of four regions will gather at Drew Central Gymnasium beginning Tuesday, Feb. 27. Those 16 teams will compete in the single-elimination tournament through the semifinals on Saturday, March 3.
Barring any changes, the tournament is scheduled to tip off at 1 p.m. on Tuesday with a girls’ first-round contest. Six games will be played, alternating boys and girls, for the first four days of the gathering, with the girls’ semifinals set for noon and 6 p.m., and the boys 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., on Saturday.
“What a late Christmas present for Monticello, Drew County and Southeast Arkansas,” Drew Central School District Superintendent Billy Williams said. “This is a great opportunity for our school district, our city and our county to showcase our town as the regional hub of Southeast Arkansas and to support and watch some of the top 3A basketball teams in Arkansas.
“It’s always exciting when your local community and businesses show their support and southern hospitality during these special events for students and families in our state. Let’s celebrate and support the Pirate Nation players and coaches in their opportunity to play in the state basketball tournament right here in our hometown.”
For Pirate followers, that means a chance to showcase DC’s top-ranked (according to the latest MaxPreps.com 3A rankings) senior boys’ club on its home floor in hopes of advancing to the Bank of the Ozarks Arena in Hot Springs. All 14 state championship games will again be played there March 8-10.
While the AAA has not determined which classes will play where as of yet, the schedule is for four state titles to be determined on both Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9, beginning at 2:30 p.m. each day, while the other six state crowns will be handed out on Saturday, March 10, beginning at 11 a.m.
There’s a lot of basketball to be played between now and the state tournament, however—and things could change with just one off-night. But just the thought of his Pirates having the chance to prove to the rest of the state what he already knows and teams around Southeast Arkansas are quickly discovering has Drew Central’s head boys’ basketball coach C.J. Watson extremely happy, he said.
“I think it’s great for our school, community and for our kids,” said Watson, whose club is currently 16-1. “It will be great to play in front of our home fans—but we’ve got to earn our way there first.”
That chore has already begun for both Watson’s senior boys and Goad’s senior girls, who are now just 7-10 overall but 1-1 in the all-important 3A, District 8 seedings race. The last eight regular-season dates on each teams’ schedule will go a long way in determining where the teams fall in the 8-3A district tournament that begins on Feb. 12, also at Drew Central. One win in that tourney will assure the teams of making the 3A, Region 4 Tournament, which this year will be played at Fordyce starting Feb. 19. And one regional victory is all that’s needed to guarantee both the Pirates and Lady Pirates a berth in this year’s state tournament back at home.
As the state brackets are set up the same for both divisions, should either DC team win 3A, Region 4, their first state contest will be against the fourth-place team from 3A, Region 2 on the tournament’s first day. The girls would tip off at 4 p.m.; the boys would follow at 5:30 p.m.
If Drew Central enters the state tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 4, the Pirates and Lady Pirates would play the third-place team from Region 2 at 1 and 2:30 p.m., respectively, on Thursday, March 1. A third-seed regional showing would pit Drew Central against the Region 2 runner-up at 4 (for the girls) and 5:30 p.m. (for the boys) on March 1.
And, if the state tournament hosts are Region 4’s No. 4 seed, DC would face the winner of Region 2 at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the girls in the first game of the state tourney, or 2:30 p.m. for the boys.
As both Watson and Goad cautioned, though, teams and players which look that far head often wind up watching other teams play from the stands. And it’s a good bet neither coach wants that to happen—especially this season.