For the first time ever, Bentonville West High School is hosting a state tournament. And it just so happens to be the 6A boys and girls basketball tournaments, two of the most competitive over the entire calendar year.
Generally there's not a clear cut favorite in the 6A tournament, but you could pin Northside (25-1) as the team to beat.
"Took a little pressure off us going into the state tournament. And got our kids back in the gym a little bit more focused, a little bit more serious," Lady Bears head coach Rickey Smith said.
"We were trying to chase perfection, but it’s not like you’re ever going to fully reach that," Northside sophomore Jersey Wolfenbarger. "But now we know. We messed up, we made mistakes but we can learn from them so we don’t make them later in the season."
But a good chunk of the other 11 teams pose a threat to Northside. Bentonville (No. 1) and Fayetteville (No. 2) lead a top-heavy contingent from the 6A-West.
"We’ve had some really up and down times this season," Fayetteville coach Vic Rimmer said. "I would like for us to play our best basketball and we’re gonna play some really good teams."
"There’s talent everywhere, so every game is gonna be a competition and it’s gonna be a challenge every single game but we just gotta take it one game at a time," Bentonville senior Avery Hughes said.
Fayetteville won the title in 2016 and North Little Rock hoisted the trophy last year. Sasha Goforth was a freshman on the winning Purple Dogs team.
"It’s definitely a lot more nerve racking because we have a really young team this year. I know I’m still gonna be nervous."
The reason Fayetteville is the No. 2 seed stems back to a late season loss at the hands of Bentonville.
"Well it’s really huge for the kids. I think they worked really hard throughout the whole season and that’s one of the goals they wanted to get this year," Lady Tigers coach Tom Halbmaier said.
While just a handful of teams realistically have a shot at the title, Smith feels its wide open as usual.
"We got a shot at it. But so does Fayetteville, so does North Little Rock. Conway, Bryant, Bentonville, Van Buren. I mean there’s a bunch of teams out there that’s got a shot at it. So we just gotta go play."
You can click here to see the 6A Girls bracket and schedule of games from Wednesday through Saturday at Bentonville West High School.