Tickets on sale on Friday
By Billy Woods WM School District
Conference basketball is ready to heat up for the West Memphis Blue Devils and Marion Patriots and it starts in the frying pan. The two Crittenden County neighbors will go at it on the floor Friday night at Lehr Arena with girls varsity action beginning shortly after 6 p.m. The Blue Devil boys (7-6) got the chance to play some stout competition over the holidays in the Neosho (Mo.) Invitational. West Memphis lost to the nation’s No. 1 team, Atascocita, Texas, which defeated the Blue Devils by 39 points. However, Atascocita clobbered the rest of the competition, too, including a 78-point margin of victory. “They had about eight guys who could make a play on you any time they wanted,” West Memphis head coach Larry Bray said of Atascocita. “They had a 6-8 player and a couple of 6-6’s, but it was their guards who were awesome. One had already signed with Purdue.” Bray and assistant coach Marcus Brown got an up-close look at Marion in November and December in each team’s Classic, but the Blue Devil boss wouldn’t budge on divulging his scouting report. Bray said his team has played a stout non-conference schedule, as usual, with hopes of it making his own outfit tougher for the 7A/6A-East Conference slate. “Not too many teams can say they played the No. 1 team in the nation,” Bray stated. “We’ve also played some of the tougher teams in Arkansas. So we haven’t had many easy games. We should be conference-tested by now.” The Lady Devils (10-3) are coming off two straight defeats at the Dragon Fire Invitational in Collierville, Tenn. Head coach Shelia Burns said she hopes her club can hold its emotions in check for Friday’s battle. “The key for us will be to stay composed,” said Burns. “I’m thinking the game will be a sell-out and our girls will be extra pumped up. We’ve just got to make sure be calmed down and play composed basketball.” The Lady Devils will rely heavily on a solid starting five that is led by seniors LaShala Saine, Sable Greer and Anquanetta Chatt. The group can play fast and pressure the ball all over the floor. “Non-conference and conference are two different levels,” Burns added. “We’re playing for something at the end, starting now. So, these conference games will all be more intense.” Tickets for the games will be available at the Academies of West Memphis main office on Friday.