The Blue Devil teams take to the road tonight to play Nettleton, and it will be opposite ends of the spectrum for each of our clubs.
First, the Nettleton girls (15-2 overall, 2-0 in the 5A-East Conference) are very powerful and should be considered the favorites tonight. The Lady Raiders are ranked No. 4 overall in the Arkansas Sports Media Poll and they are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, garnering 14 of the 17 first-place votes.
With senior Elauna Eaton leading the way, the Lady Raiders are also ranked No. 4 overall in the state in the latest MaxPreps Sports poll.
Second, the Nettleton boys, which have proven to be major pests to West Memphis the past two years, winning at Lehr Arena both times, are down this season, sporting an ugly 3-10 record overall and an 0-2 mark in the conference.
Gone from the Nettleton success machine the last three years are head coach Mark McCord, replaced by Bubba Deaton, and play-making guard Kevin Fulton, who is now starring at ASU Mid-South. Fulton beat the Blue Devils last year at Lehr Arena with a soft running floater near the end of the game to give the Raiders the upset victory.
The Blue Devils (12-3, 2-0) are one of three teams tied atop the conference standings. Jonesboro and Greene County Tech also own 2-0 league marks. Jonesboro entertains Tech tonight.
West Memphis' boys are ranked No. 3 in the state in the Arkansas Sports Media Poll and No. 2 by MaxPreps Sports. They have established themselves as one of, if not THE, team to beat for the conference championship this season. The Blue Devils are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A.
They should have no problem with the Raiders tonight. Marion, a team the Blue Devils beat last Friday night 52-43, blasted Nettleton 72-51 on Tuesday night.
The most consistent asset the Blue Devils have going for them this year is defense. Head coach Marcus Brown's fierce man-to-man has been active and well-drilled thus far.
Exhibit A: In last Friday night's contest at Marion, Brown appointed senior Kyalan Sykes to defend high-scoring guard Detric Reeves, who is capable of going off for 30-plus points on any given night.
Although Reeves scored a game-high 23 points, with the final points coming off a meaningless and unguarded three-pointer at the final buzzer, Sykes slowed down the Marion star with some of the most tenacious defense the Blue Devils have seen all year. Sykes forced Reeves to take off-balanced shots, most of which he missed, and covered him like a blanket all night.
But the girls game should be the most interesting clash tonight.
Head coach Shelia Burns' club (12-3, 2-0) has presented the opposition this season with double-trouble from the guard positions. With senior Aryah Hazley running the show at point, she is complemented by the cool-headed ninth-grade sensation Janiya Tucker.
With two very dependable ball-handlers in the lineup, the Lady Devils are dangerous and are capable of defeating the highly ranked Nettleton girls tonight.
There will be a boys junior varsity game kicking off the action tonight at 5 p.m., followed immediately by the girls varsity contest.
See you Blue Devils there!!