The Charleston boys have climbed almost to the top of 3A basketball the past two seasons, reaching the state championship game in 2011 and the semifinals last year. The Tigers are hoping that hosting the 3A State Tournament for the first time will give them a little extra boost to the pinnacle of success.
"We’re always excited about competing in the state tournament and we are really excited about it being at our place this year," Charleston coach B.J. Ross said. "We’ve hosted a few regionals and had some great basketball here and it is going to be even bigger and better with state."
Charleston (27-5) is coming off an impressive performance in winning the Region 1 Tournament. The Tigers won by 43 points against Green Forest and 34 against Elkins before beating West Fork by 10 in the championship game. Since getting its full compliment of players late because of football, Charleston’s only loss has been to Siloam Springs, a 6A team, in the championship game of a holiday tournament.
Ross said he expects the competition to ratchet up considerably, starting with Friday’s 2:30 p.m. matchup against Valley Springs. Ross was able to scout Valley Springs on Saturday in its regional.
"They come out of one of the strongest regionals and are not your typical No. 4 seed," Ross said. "They have played a tough conference and have some good players, including one that is being recruited by Division II schools."
Charleston’s Matthew Ward leads the team with 26 points per game. Andrew Smith and Chance Shelby are also in double figures scoring.
"We got a late start on the season but have been improving all season," Ross said. "I feel like we always play hard on defense and that is how you set the tone. If you aren’t playing well offensively, and some nights you won’t, you can always play hard on defense and stay in the game. We just try to win each quarter and take it one step at a time."
Charleston has won four state titles in football in the last decade and won a girls basketball state championship in 2008, but has never won in boys basketball.
Also in the boys bracket, Cedarville (21-9) will be a No. 3 seed and play Friday at 8:30 p.m against Melbourne. Garret Parson leads Cedarville in scoring and is coming off a 25-point game in the third-place game at regionals.
On the girls side of the bracket, Paris (27-6) won a Region 1 title and a No. 1 seed at state for the first time. Paris went to the state tournament last year.
Senior Christa Huber is the leader of a team that has talented younger players in sophomore Morgan Highfield and freshman Lycia Peevy. All three have led the team in scoring in multiple games.
Paris struggled some in the 3A-4 game though by losing two games and coming up short in the district title game. But the Lady Eagles played their best at regionals, handling Mansfield 49-33 in the semis and West Fork 47-41 in the championship.
"With a young team, I knew it would take some time for us to mature," Paris coach Toby Tevebaugh said. "We were probably a little tight in district and the first round of regional, but they have been more relaxed and are playing their best right now."
Paris will play Manila on Friday at 1 p.m.
Mansfield (17-15) will be a No. 4 seed and plays today at 7 p.m. against Rivercrest. The Lady Tigers top scorer is Kaylie Pyles, who averaged more than 20 points per game in the regional tournament.
Mansfield finished No. 6 in its conference but knocked off No. 3 seed Charleston in the district tournament and two-time defending state champion Greenland in the first round of regionals.