Local flavour abounds on Monday and Tuesday
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
While Thanksgiving isn’t officially until Thursday, local hoops fans will get a headstart on the holiday on Monday and Tuesday at Patriot Arena at the annual Marion Patriot Classic. The event will be headlined on Monday by boys and girls teams from Earle, Marion and West Memphis, all three local public high schools. In fact, the opening act of the classic will be an Earle-West Memphis girls and boys doubleheader that will begin at 3:30 p.m. while the boys will tip at approximately 4:45. The nightcap will feature the Marion Lady Patriots taking on the Osceola Lady Seminoles at approximately 6 p.m. while the Marion boys will revive an old 4A-East rivalry when they play the Wynne Yellowjackets at 7:15 p.m. “I’m excited about the type of talent that we have here this year,” explained Marion head boys coach Irving Clay. “Teams get better year in and year out and we played Wynne this summer and they’re pretty good. A lot of size, they will defend you and they can shoot it. We’re looking forward to that matchup.” Marion’s girls are sitting at 0-1 following a season-opening loss at Horn Lake, and while their home opener is exciting all on its own, Shunda Johnson may only be more excited about one other thing. “I’m pretty excited about having the whole week off (Marion will not be in school during the week of Thanksgiving),” said Johnson with a laugh. “It’ll be nice to come in and have an actual walkthrough those days before the game. I’m really excited to see West Memphis on the court since we’ll catch them in conference play. It’s still early, but it’s always good to get a look at a conference rival.” Another intriguing angle is the West Memphis-Earle boys matchup. The Bulldogs are one of the favorites to compete for the Class 2A state hoops title this year, and they may have most of their football players back in shorts and sneakers for the tip on Monday. While Monday is chock full of fireworks, Tuesday may somehow be more intriguing. Earle’s boys will be replaced by Tennessee Prep Academy for the final game of the classic, against Marion. “They have about seven or eight players, but they have good size and great skill people,” Clay says of Tennessee Prep. “Our non-conference schedule this year is very tough and we can be beaten any given night if we’re not ready to play.” Tuesday will open with Osceola’s girls playing the West Memphis Lady Blue Devils at 3:30 p.m. followed by a Wynne-West Memphis boys game that will actually be a district hoops game at this time next season. At 6 p.m. Marion and Earle’s girls will play for the second season in a row at the classic. “I love when we have Earle and Osceola in the arena, because they always bring a crowd,” Johnson explained. “If they’re playing football or not, it doesn’t matter, they bring a crowd. I love Earle’s style of play, as well. I saw them at their jamboree and they’re tough. Those are teams that aren’t just gonna lie down because they’re a smaller school and we’re Marion.” Admission to each day of the Marion Patriot Classic is $5.