For the first time in recent memory, both Drew Central and Monticello will have to hit the road for virtually all postseason play this winter and spring. After the district tournaments, all of which will be played locally, the Billies, Pirates and supporters of both schools will be traveling.
After welcoming Class 3A basketball to Drew Central Gymnasium a year ago, the defending state runner-up Pirates, and Lady Pirates, will have to go north should either hardwood team advance that far. The early rounds of this year’s 3A State Basketball Championships will be held at Osceola, according to the Arkansas Activities Association, which released its 2019 tournament host sites Monday.
Monticello has its sights set on a trip to Magnolia for the 4A State Basketball Championships, following the long trip to Mena for the 4A South Region Tournament. Drew Central’s 3A Region 4 Tournament will be played in Prescott.
“We are hosting the (3A, District 8) tournaments (Feb. 9-15),” Drew Central Athletics Director Michael Goad said. “We hosted state last year. I felt it to be irresponsible to ask all of our many willing volunteers in Pirate Nation to host back-to- back tournaments.
“We also will host district in baseball and softball. That’ll be plenty to keep us busy and supporting our student-athletes.”
Monticello, meanwhile, will not have to worry with district tournaments as the Billies and Lady Billies had to deal with the past two years with the AAA’s experiment of “blended” conferences. With 4A schools staying in 4A and 3A schools staying in 3A now, 8-4A reverted back to its pre-“blended” conference policy of having the top four teams in the regular season advance directly to the regional tourneys in boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball and softball.
As far as hosting a 4A regional gathering, Monticello AD Blair Brown said, it was simply not Monticello’s turn.
“The regional rotates between 7-4A and 8-4A,” Brown explained. “We had it last year and Dumas had it three years ago; it will be 8-4A’s turn again next year. We did not bid on the state (tournament) because our gym is not up to standards. It takes an arena to host a 4A state basketball tournament. In 4A, standard gyms will not get tournaments anymore. Too many schools with 2,000-seat (or more) arenas will bid. It’s the new reality.”
In spring sports, though, Monticello did host the early rounds of the 4A state baseball and softball tournaments two years ago—and the school did put in a bid in 2019. However, the AAA Executive Board awarded those tournaments to Southside High School in Batesville.
“The bids were voted on last Thursday,” Brown said. “Each school willing must submit a bid before January. A representative from each school is then required to make a presentation before the board. You have three minutes. The executive board, made up of superintendents from all over the state, vote and award the bids.”
Aside from likely trips to Mena and Magnolia for Monticello, or Prescott and Osceola for Drew Central in basketball, the 4A South Region Tournaments in baseball and softball will also be staged at Magnolia before the state qualifiers gather at Southside, and the 3A Region 4 Tournaments will be played at Ashdown. The state site for both those sports will be the Harrison Parks and Recreation fields, hosted by Bergman.
The track and field competition for Monticello will be run at Batesville High School, with Drew Central having to travel to Green Forest again for the 3A state meet.
The early rounds of the 4A State Soccer Tournament will be played at Southside, Batesville for the third year in a row. All state finals in boys’ and girls’ basketball, baseball, soccer ad softball will be contested at the University of Arkansas.
The dates for the basketball regionals will be Feb. 20-23, the state Feb. 26-March 2 and the finals March 7-9, again at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Baseball and softball regionals will be played May 2-4, regionals May 9-11 and state finals in Fayetteville May 17-18. Soccer teams advance directly to the state tournament, which will be held May 9-11.