VAN BUREN (KFSM)--For the past seven years, a team from the 7A-Central has won the boys state championship. Fayetteville is the last winner from the West in 2009. Once again this season the Central appears loaded, with five teams piling up at least 17 wins. Har-Ber is the only boys team from the West with more than 17 wins.
"This is the toughest conference I've ever been in. The 7A-Central this year was really tough, you know, having to play a really good team every night you step on the floor," Northside coach Eric Burnett said. The Grizzlies face either Van Buren or Bryant in the quarterfinals.
"What makes the conference good is they're all old, they're senior laden teams and they're all athletic," Har-Ber coach Scott Bowlin said. The Wildcats played two teams from the Central in the regular season (Little Rock Central and Bryant), eventually winning the West for the first time in ten years.
"It was very important. When you haven't done something in ten years, that makes it pretty important," Bowlin said.
Even experienced coaches understand that receiving a bye can be a curse.
"I would rather be playing just to get that game and that atmosphere," Burnett said.
Bowlin agreed, "The first game is always the hardest to win in any state tournament and after that everybody seems to settle down."
The tournament tips off at Van Buren High School with six games tomorrow including three on the boys side: Fayetteville plays Conway at 2:30, Little Rock Central faces Bentonville West at 5:30 and Cabot duels with Rogers Heritage at 8:30.
For a look at the complete 7A boys bracket and schedule, click here.