The debate over who is the best in the state remains


I was working at the Pine Bluff newspaper and talking sports with a colleague when the young man we hired to answer the phone and type up the Little League scores scolded me and shook his head.

“You guys,” he said. “You will always speak of ancient times. Nobody cares about that sort of thing anymore.

Oh, the youth. It was his clumsy way of pretending that nobody cares about the story, which most people absolutely reject.

My co-worker and I were reminiscing back then on the Global Tournament and Parkdale, the class B school that beat much bigger schools and won it all in 1979. For anyone interested enough to put down their cell phone for a minute , the entire tournament brought together state champions in every class to determine Arkansas’ top boys’ and girls’ teams each year from 1972 to 1992, when coaches who didn’t like to lose after winning a state championship killed him.

The question of who is the best is still as relevant today as it was when teams settled it on the pitch.

North Little Rock’s boys’ and girls’ teams can rightly claim to be the top overall after winning the state championships last week in Arkansas’ highest ranking. But what about the Jonesboro boys, who beat Marion 55-28 to claim the Class 5A championship? Jonesboro can certainly claim to be the best, especially with a resume that includes victories over North Little Rock and Class 6A runner-up Bentonville at the Hurricane Classic in December.

Are you going to tell them they’re not the best in the state this season? I’m not, that’s for sure. Either way, Jonesboro will get its chance starting next season when the Hurricane is bumped to Class 6A due to an upgrade.

There are other champions who would have had a chance against the bigger schools, including the Melbourne Girls, who destroyed Bigelow 63-30 to claim their fourth straight Class 2A state championship. The 33-point win marked the 15th time Melbourne (34-0) has won a game by at least 30 points this season.

Oh, and don’t forget, it was a Melbourne team that won without Jenna Lawrence, the University of Arkansas clerk who transferred to Farmington before the start of her freshman year. The loss of Lawrence didn’t slow Lady Bearkatz, who showed once again that the program is more important than any player.

“This year we thought we were going to lose a lot,” said Kenley McCarn, who scored 31 points in the league game for Melbourne. “Everyone doubted us, and after the first five games of the year, we thought we would be 0-5. But we fixed that pretty quickly.

What about the Bergman girls, who finished 43-0 after beating Lamar for the second time to win the Class 3A state championship? Were the Lady Panthers better this season than North Little Rock or Greenwood, the Class 5A state champion?

Who knows? But I appreciated that these matters were settled in a centralized place on a basketball court in Conway. Those were good times, of course, especially when Parkdale provided Arkansas State with its own version of the movie “Hoosiers” which followed the real-life story of the Milan Indians, who won it all in 1954 when each team from Indiana has played for only one state championship.

Yes, there was a time when every high school basketball team in Indiana played for a championship. One ranking. A champion. Look for it. It’s history.

Without the overall tournament, fans can argue over who is the best in Arkansas, where all the controversies in the world are being debated these days.

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