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Arkansas high school association moves back basketball postseason forcing teams to adjust schedules

Buck Ringgold
Fort Smith Times Record

A decision to move back the high school basketball postseason by the Arkansas Activities Association left area administrators and coaches scrambling to adjust their schedules.

The high school association announced Friday afternoon it was pushing the dates of the postseason basketball tournaments back another week due to the recent winter storm.

Regional tournaments for 1A through 4A are now March 3-6, 4A and 6A state tournaments are March 9-13 while state for 1A, 2A, 3A and 5A will now be March 8-15. It also means the state basketball finals in Hot Springs will now be played March 18-20.

With the AAA's announcement, it also meant schools had to once again readjust upcoming schedules on the fly.

On Saturday morning, Fort Smith Public Schools athletics director Michael Beaumont announced the 6A-Central, which includes Northside, will not play a conference tournament. The conference plans to play out the regular season games that were postponed either from the winter storm or from COVID-19.

Northside's boys and girls will play a makeup game Tuesday at Little Rock Southwest. Then, Northside goes to North Little Rock for a makeup on Thursday, March 4.

The 6A-West, which includes Southside, still plans to play a conference tournament beginning March 2.

Southside's boys and girls will have makeup games Tuesday at Ramsey Junior High against Bentonville West and this Friday at Springdale, while the boys will have a makeup Thursday at Rogers Heritage.

"I really appreciate all of our coaches and our administration, our parents and especially our student-athletes and this community for being real patient," Beaumont said. "Not just in figuring out how to end this season, but the entire season.

"The COVID and then the weather, it's been trying for everybody, but I appreciate everyone's efforts in working hard to make this happen and these changes happen, even though we weren't expecting the changes. ... The bottom line is we're all trying to do what's best for our kids, so we're going to make it happen."

The 5A-West athletic directors voted 5-3 to finish the regular season Tuesday, and that a conference tournament for both boys and girls begins on Friday, concluding  March 4 on the home courts of the higher-seeded teams.

Greenwood's girls, ranked No. 1 in 6A, are the top seed. For Greenwood's boys, a win at home Tuesday against Siloam Springs assures the Bulldogs of the No. 4 seed and an opening-round bye in the conference tourney.

For the 1A through 4A schools, many district tournaments had been canceled this week due to the inclement weather. But with the AAA's announcement Friday, those tournaments are now back on tap for the coming week.

It also gives some teams the opportunity to resume a season that had abruptly been cut short with the cancellations. One such team is the Booneville girls.

The LadyCats were already assured of clinching their first winning season since 2003-04, though they were the No. 5 seed when the 3A-4 district tournament began on Feb. 13. Booneville defeated Hackett that day, and needed one more win to advance to regionals.

With the 3A-4 deciding to cancel the remainder of the districts, that left the LadyCats on the outside looking in. But on Friday, they got renewed life.

Now, Booneville can clinch a trip to regionals on Tuesday when the LadyCats play at Charleston, with the winner keeping its season going.

"The girls are very happy to get back after it. ... It was rough when it was taken away, but now we are thankful that there is still a chance," Booneville coach Tim Goers said.

Also happy are both Paris basketball teams. The Eagles and Lady Eagles each won their opening 3A-4 district tournament game on Feb. 13, but like Booneville's girls, they had an unexpected ending themselves, being denied the chance to play for a regional.

But on Tuesday, the Paris boys go to Booneville while the Paris girls head to Cedarville, with the winners clinching a spot at regionals the following week.

"Our district had already voted (to cancel districts) based off the guidelines the AAA sent out earlier in the week," Paris girls coach Donald Hart said. "So I was just trying to not think about it. But I got a call from my brother-in-law about the change, and man, what a change in feelings that was."

The 3A-4 girls district title game is now set for Friday, Feb. 26, with the boys to play for the district championship the following day.

The 4A-4 had canceled its entire district tournament. But that, too, is now on, starting Thursday with play-in games to decide participants for the 4A-North regional, at Ozark beginning March 3.

Also, the 2A-4 will resume its district tournament with play-in games starting Monday in both divisions.