Local basketball begins in earnest

There’s no rest for sports fans in Monticello, whether you root for Monticello High School, Drew Central High School or the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Basketball is upon us.

<span>While both Monticello junior high girls’ and boys’ teams have already taken to the court in regular-season games at an El Dorado tournament, the Lady Billies opened their regular season Tuesday night with an impressive 42-34 win over Class 3A powerhouse McGehee and likely the best player in the state in any classification—junior Sylvia Begnaud—in newly refurbished Dan Coston Field House.</span>

<span>Coach Lucy Williams started two seniors and three sophomores, and one of those 10th graders—Kiara Franklin (the sister of the Billies’ All-State returnee D.J. Franklin)—led Monticello in scoring with 17 points.</span>

<span>Begnaud got her points, leading the Lady Owls and the game with 18, but the Lady Billies used a strong second quarter to overcome a two-point deficit at the end of eight minutes and secure the victory.</span>

<span>Actually, Monticello got stronger as the game progressed, outscoring McGehee in every quarter except the first. Both teams struggled in the third period, with the Lady Billies winning those eight minutes by a single point 6-5. All six Monticello points were scored by Kiara Franklin.</span>

<span>Another sophomore, Brandashia Hargraves, followed Kiara Franklin on Monticello scoring charts with nine points. Together with fellow starter Destiny Buckley, the Lady Billies served early notice that some of the best girls’ basketball players in Southeast Arkansas will once again be 10th graders.</span>

<span>The game was originally scheduled to be played at McGehee but the 3A state football playoff preparations for the Owls necessitated a change in venue. The same night, all four Drew Central teams played their annual Red-White games in Drew Central Gymnasium, newly refurbished for 2014-15 as well, as a precursor to their regular seasons.</span>

<span>All four Pirate and Lady Pirate, junior and senior high, teams will begin those regular seasons on Friday at Dermott, while UAM’s Cotton Blossoms begin their 2014-15 regular season that same day at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.</span>

<span>After an exhibition game at the University of North Texas on Friday, the UAM Boll Weevils begin the Kyle Tolin era by hosting Champion Baptist College of Hot Springs on Saturday in Steelman Field House, following the annual Battle of the Timberlands football game between rivals UAM and Southern Arkansas University that afternoon right next door at Willis “Convoy” Leslie Cotton Boll Stadium. The football game kicks off at 3 p.m.; the men’s basketball game begins at 6 p.m.</span>

<span>Next Tuesday, Monticello’s Billies will be the final local team to take to the regular-season hardwood at Camden Fairview. The Lady Billies will attempt to provide Williams an encore of Tuesday night’s win at Fairview, too. </span>

<span>The annual grudge match between Monticello and Drew Central is slated for Saturday, Dec. 13 at Monticello this year. Because those games will be played at Coston Field House, the first two rounds of the Southeast Arkansas Commercial Bank Holiday Tournament will be played Saturday, Dec. 27 and Monday, Dec. 29 at Drew Central. The final day, as always, will be played at UAM on Tuesday, Dec. 30.</span>

<span>Longtime Billies’ coach Wayne Sherrer is hoping the usual Monticello senior boys’ tough non-conference schedule will prepare his team for the rigors of Class 4A, District 8 and newcomer Dollarway. In two seasons in the league, Monticello has yet to lose a league game and hopes to add to its 28-game win streak when conference plays starts on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015 when the Billies and Lady Billies host DeWitt.</span>

<span>The junior Billies, who like their senior counterparts have yet to lose a 4A-8 contest, will start conference action that day as well. Monticello’s junior girls begin their quest at defending the 2013-14 district title the following Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 as Hamburg visits Coston Field House.</span>

<span>Class 3A, District 8 action gets underway for three Drew Central teams the next week. Smackover hosts the Pirates, Lady Pirates and junior Lady Pirates on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015.  The junior Pirates will jump into league play the following game, when they, the Pirates and Lady Pirates host new conference member Lake Village Lakeside on Friday, Jan. 16, 2015. </span>

<span>Two local teams jump into their conference frays before Christmas, though. East Central University visits UAM on Thursday, Nov. 20 for games against the Blossoms (at 5:30 p.m.) and Weevils (at 7:30 p.m.) in Great American Conference play.</span>

The Advance-Monticellonian

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Monticello, AR 71657

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Monticello, AR 71655

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