Photo Credit: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Our summer ball schedule has begun and we’ve already got 4 tournaments under our belt. We have new team members this year and it has taken the team a while to gel and build chemistry. Spencer plays for the Arkansas Hawks 17U team and they have played in Real Deal in the Rock, The Adidas Uprising Gauntlet in Duncanville, TX, King of the Hill and Adidas Uprising Gauntlet in Indianapolis. It’s been a busy April!
Spencer is playing very well. In Duncanville, which was a college coaches evaluation weekend, he had 17 points in the first game in front of 25+ college coaches and 11 points in another game. In King of the Hill, he had 10 points, 9 points, 15 points and a career high 29 points. The Hawks won that tournament which is their home tournament/fundraiser.
In Indianapolis this week, again in front of college coaches, Spencer had 16 points and 5 assists in the first game, then 10 points and 16 points in later games. His 3-point shooting really looks good.
We get a break for a bit before playing in New Orleans for Memorial Day, then June is for camps and July will be busy with 3-4 tournaments back to back. Then it will be all over….I can’t believe it. Spencer played in his first Real Deal on the Hill when he was 8 years old. He’s been playing summer ball (AAU ball) for 9 years! Time sure does fly.
The 7A schools do not have district or regional tournaments…they go directly to the state tournament. The top 5 teams in our conference automatically get in along with teams from east and central Arkansas. This year, the tournament was held at Harber high school in Springdale, which was nice and close.
The Bulldogs finished second in the conference and got an automatic bye in the state tournament. Due to snow, the tournament was postponed twice and we didn’t start play until Sunday afternoon. It was a good weekend of high school basketball and I went everyday to watch games.
We played Heritage on Sunday and while it wasn’t our best game, we beat them 58-50 to advance to the semi-finals. All the semi-finals games were on Monday and my dad and I spent all day there watching 4 games. It was a lot of fun and we saw a lot of talent play.
Fayetteville played North Little Rock at 5pm on Monday…NLR is the 2-time defending state champion and home to two D-1 players, one in basketball (Florida) and one in football (Ohio State). They were big and physical and unconscious on offense. We played our hearts out. The game was close the entire time with both teams trading the lead back and forth.
Their great player KeVaughn Allen hit 7 3’s and finished with 33 points and our great player, Payton
Willis hit 5 3’s and finished with 23 points. We had great play inside with our big guys and Spencer did a great job controlling the tempo and managing the offense. He finished with only 2 points but he had 4 assists and 5 rebounds.
We were up 5 points with 1:44 to go and it was starting to feel like we might upset the great giant. NLR was not to be deterred. We did not finish plays down the stretch and they made free throws at the end. With only seconds left they were up by 1 point.
The first time I heard the adage, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” I remember thinking…what does that mean? The more I played basketball, the more I learned what it meant. In a matter of seconds you can go from the greatest high to the lowest low but you hold out hope until the final buzzer buzzes.
We had a great look at a last second shot. Payton dribbled through traffic and was triple teamed so he threw it to Spencer on the wing who put up a good looking shot. It went in the goal…took one trip around the rim and rolled out. Devastating. 65-66.
I sat there stunned. I could only imagine what my son and his teammates felt in that moment and my heart went out to them
It was a great season. We finished 23-6, won the Conway and Mt. Home tournament, second place in a very tough conference and went to the state semi-finals. I am immensely proud of this team and what they accomplished. We had a great group of seniors and the future is very bright because we return 5 juniors with starting experience.
My son will probably never forget this game for the rest of his life but I know that this game will not define his life. I asked him later that night if he’d just like to quit and go play piano…(this is something I ask him every year or so)…and he said “I can’t quit because it is so much fun.”
There will be other missed last second shots and there will be made last second shots as well. He will grow from this experience and return stronger and more determined. I could not be more proud of him.
North Little Rock went on to play Bentonville in the finals today and won by 7 points. Our Lady Bulldogs beat Conway today to win the State Championship! Talk about a team that peaked at the right time, the ladies have been playing great ball as of late and carried it with them to the finals. So proud.
Next up, we will head to Disney World for Spring Break then hit the roads traveling with the Arkansas Hawks. First tournament will be the Real Deal in the Rock tournament in Little Rock, April 3-5.
As I mentioned in my previous post, last night was a big game. Not only was it a game of intense regional rivals but we needed the win for better state tournament placement. The game did not disappoint.
It was a star-studded affair with the entire Arkansas Razorback men’s basketball team plus Coach Anderson there to woo Bentonville’s star, Monk. The arena was packed with fans from both teams and others there to see the highly touted match up. I can honestly say, everyone got their money’s worth!
First quarter was back and forth with both teams playing well. We fell behind in the 2nd quarter and ended up down 9 heading into halftime. The second half, we came out and cut the lead in the 3rd quarter but fell behind again at the beginning of the 4th. Both teams were playing hard and we had several players on our team step up and refuse to lose. We battled back in the 4th to tie the game 58 all and had a chance to win at the end but fell short.
The crowd was electric heading into overtime and I knew that it was going to be a dog fight for the next 4 minutes. However, only one dog showed up, the purple dog! We took over in overtime and scored 9 straight points. Spencer had a huge drive to the basket for an and one…he finished the game 5/5 from the free throw line and 9 points total. Bentonville subbed their starters with a minute and a half left which allowed all of our seniors to play on their final home game. That was really great. Final score was 72-59.
Payton Willis was fantastic finishing with 23 points, many times trading shots with Monk. CJ O’Grady (14 pts) played great as well as Josh Breathitt (14pts). Once again, balanced scoring was the key to winning the game.
I’m not sure I’ve seen a better high school boys basketball game. I was so honored last night because my high school coach, the great Scotty Nolan, was in attendance to watch Spencer play.
Up next, the state tournament at Harber High School. We play Friday at 5:30pm versus the winner of Heritage and Bryant. With snow in the forecast tomorrow, we could get moved to Saturday.
We were supposed to play Friday night but Mother Nature had other plans so they postponed the game for tonight. So all the excitement and anxiousness I felt all day Friday, I have now transferred to today.
This is the last regular season conference game vs Bentonville and we need a win to secure 2nd place in the conference. A loss would make us 3rd or 4th which wouldn’t be the best set up for the state tournament which starts Wednesday…(yep in two days) but regardless of what happens, I believe in this team to handle business wherever they land.
Friday there would’ve been a sold out crowd most likely, so we will see if everyone shows up on a Monday night to see the two best teams in NWA battle it out. We did beat Bentonville in January at their place, so I am pretty certain they’d like to pay us back. No matter, it’s going to be a great game.
Fingers crossed for the Purple Dogs and
Xanax good thoughts for this basketball mom who gets very nervous before games.
State Tournament Bracket:
Earlier in the season we went through a rough patch…we lost 3 conference games in a row, 2 at home and one at Heritage. We just played those 3 teams in a row again and won all 3 games.
Last night we played Heritage on our home court and won by 10 points. It was a great game! The lead changed hands many times and we were able to get out in front in the 4th quarter. We had 5 players in double figures which was fantastic…I’m a huge believer in the thought that great teams have balanced scoring. When we are playing our best it is when more than 2 players have 10 points or more.
Spencer probably had his best game of the season which was great to see. He was 2-3 from the 3 point line, 3-3 inside the 3 and 3-4 from the free throw line, finishing with 15 points, 4 assists, 3 steals and 3 rebounds. I was so proud of his effort, it was great to see him playing well again. He did foul out with 2 minutes left in the game. This team is so fun to watch and when they are on they are very difficult to beat.
Up next is Rogers at their place Tuesday, then Bentonville at home on Friday for the last game of the season. We need to finish the season strong and get ready for the state tournament the first week of March.