Victor Joyner is no stranger to West Memphis basketball.
The head coach of the Jacksonville boys has squared off against the Blue Devils dozens of times over the last 25 years, both at his current post and as the head coach at North Pulaski.
He'll do it one more time this Saturday as his Titans (20-5) take on the Blue Devils (26-4) for the Class 5A state championship in Hot Springs at 1:15 p.m.
West Memphis and Joyner's North Pulaski and Jacksonville teams have competed in the same conference over the course of the last 25 years and he said one thing seems to stand out to him.
"I don't know where y'all get all those bigs," he said. "It just seems West Memphis always has a lot of size, and they've got them again this year. The guard play is good, too, but it feels like I'm always putting my little guards against all those good bigs."
A look at Jacksonville's roster this year would indicate that Joyner has the size to offset West Memphis' length. The Titans' point guard, Razorback signee Davonte Davis, is 6-foot-3. Plus, Jacksonville counters the Blue Devils' inside ace, 6-foot-7 senior Chris Moore, with 6-6 power forward Ryan Maxwell.
Jacksonville made it to the finals with two blowouts and a close win last week in Russellville.
The Titans had little trouble with their opening opponent, Little Rock Fair, in a 57-35 win. In a quarterfinal match-up with the East's No. 3 seed, Greene County Tech, Jacksonville jumped out to a 20-point plus first-half lead before taking its foot off the gas late in the third quarter as the Eagles sliced the deficit to 3 before the Titans finally won 82-69.
As most around here already know, it was very nearly an all-Crittenden County final, but after erasing a 16-point second-half deficit, the Marion Patriots lost 54-53 in the semifinals to Jacksonville.
In that game, Jacksonville's two guards, Davis and Christian Moore, combined for 12 turnovers against an effective Marion press.
Also in that game, Joyner was without one of his top guards, junior Braxton Brown, who was out with the flu. He'll be a full go for Saturday's tilt.
"We know West Memphis is going to press us, and we'll be better equipped to handle it with Braxton in there," said Joyner.
The Titans are not only big, but they are very athletic and skilled enough with shooters on both wings. Joyner said his team likes to get up and down the floor, playing as fast a tempo as they can stand.
Head coach Marcus Brown's Blue Devils play faster than last year's pace, but maybe not quite as fast as Jacksonville likes to play. Both Marion last week and Little Rock Hall, the last team to put a loss on the Titans in the last regular-season game, slowed down the tempo against Joyner's club.
Joyner said his game plan for the Blue Devils may begin with some divine intervention.
"Other than pray a lot, I think what we'll do is try not to get killed on the boards and keep Chris from getting 50 (points)," he said straight faced. "Chris is a handful. He's an outstanding kid, a high-character kid from what I'm told. He's very deserving of the scholarship he's getting from Auburn."
This is West Memphis' 11th appearance in the state championship game. After winning six of their first eight appearances, the Blue Devils have lost their last three, including 2018 when they were defeated by Jonesboro.
Joyner has brought Jacksonville state titles in 2009 and 2012.