Scrimmage not on the Blue Devil agenda
By Billy Woods WM School District
Even with 30 years of head coaching experience, Larry Bray learned another lesson last year in the Class 7A state tournament at Springdale. Bray’s Blue Devils pulled into Springdale one day ahead of a vicious winter storm that iced out the first two days of play in the tournament. Whiling away the days and hours wasn’t an easy task, so Bray decided to schedule scrimmages on both days the tournament was postponed. “I told (assistant) Coach (Marcus) Brown at the end of the season if we ever go to the state tournament again we are NOT going to scrimmage,” Bray said. The result was two great days of effort in the scrimmages and an absolute dud in the game that counted, which was a 53-39 loss to a Springdale team that came in with a 9-16 record. The Blue Devils could not get a shot to fall, shooting .325 percent from the field and an even worse .226 percent from the free-throw line. “We played our best games just waiting to play,” Bray said with a laugh. “Everything was clicking in those scrimmages and then when we went out in the game it was like we had done it already. I wish we could have recorded some of those scrimmages that we had…we were unbelievable.” So now that the Blue Devil players don’t have to worry about scrimmages, they’re set to face off against Springdale Har-Ber in the first round of this year’s state tournament in Cabot. Game time is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bray has his bunch playing with a high level of rhythm and confidence as they enter with a record of 16-11. After starting the season 0-3, Bray and assistant coach Marcus Brown have turned the team around after much deliberation, sweat and blood. Consequently, the Blue Devils finished 9-5 in the 7A/6A-East Conference, where they experienced one four-game winning streak and the current three-game winning streak. Bray jokes that it took “a lot of prayer,” but it took a lot of experimentation as well. “I was kind of seeing things all along,” Bray added. “We would play hard and we would practice hard, but we’d break down late in games. So we started shifting the lineups around a little and I think some of the kids were a little unsure what their roles were. “One day at practice I didn’t even go out on the floor. I called them in one at a time into my office and told each one of them what I expected them to do. The ones that did it were the ones I’d play. I had others who wanted to prove they could do other things, so in turn they didn’t play as much.” The Blue Devils enter the postseason with three viable three-point shooters in seniors Dylan Gazo, Robert Harris and Ahmere Albert. But they’ll have to play disciplined and defend on the perimeter if they want to beat Har-Ber, who comes in with a record of 13-14. “They do a lot of things, but they execute real well,” Bray said of Har-Ber. “They like to dribble-drive, kick out and shoot the three. We’ll have to defend and box out on the boards. We just have to play and be as fundamentally sound as we can possibly be.” A familiar name dots the Har-Ber roster. Ninth-grader Tyler Perry, a starter, is the son of former Blue Devil Tim Perry, who played point guard for Bray in the 1992-93 season. “(Tyler) is a really good player,” said Bray. “He’s small, but he’s real savvy with the ball and he can shoot it deep. I’ve seen him pull it three and four yards behind the (three-point) line.” The winner of Wednesday’s game advances to Thursday’s 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal game against Bentonville, which features superstar Kentucky signee Malik Monk.