On this Thanksgiving week, I am thankful for many things. At the top of the list are the four F’s: family, friends, faith, and fast breaks! That’s right; it is that time of year where squeaking Jordans and the sound of bouncing round balls fill the air of every basketball gymnasium across America. I love it. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I pretty much grew up on a basketball court or in a gymnasium somewhere. My dad was a basketball coach for over 30 years, and I lived and died with the wins and losses every winter.
Whether it’s second-grade girls playing Upward Basketball on Saturday mornings (I coached my daughter one outstanding season – she was a “one and done” player) to the professionals in the NBA making millions, I love it all. And that’s why I’m excited for the quickly approaching fifth annual First National Bank of NWA Great 8 Girls Basketball Classic. The name of the event may be a mouthful, but you can get your fill of some good high school girls’ basketball action as eight teams compete over three days for the title of 2016 Great 8 Classic champion.
The event is December 1st -3rd at Rogers High School, and here are four of the eight teams in the @Great8Classic:
The defending champ:
Camdenton, MO Lady Lakers
Fifth-year head coach Staci Caffey makes a return trip to the Great 8 with a team that will be relentless in pressure and will play a hard-nosed fast-paced game. The Lady Lakers graduated four seniors off of last season’s 18-6 team, but they return six varsity players including lone starter, Blair Kurtz, who will be joined on this year’s squad by younger sister Shelby Kurtz, a freshman. The intensity will be high on both ends of the floor as the Lady Lakes look to defend their Great 8 Classic title.
Webb City, MO
Seniors Cami Roy and Addie Darby will be called upon to lead this year’s Webb City Lady Cardinal basketball team for head coach Lance Robbins. Going into his third year as the head coach of the Lady Cardinals, Robbins will look to those two seniors and several others that played key minutes last year on a team with a strong tradition that will rely on team chemistry and hard work to carry them to their potential this season.
Coach David Brewer brings his 22 years of coaching experience and five returning starters on a return trip to the Great 8. Three of the returning starters are seniors Mikayla Putt (who recently signed to play basketball next season at Southwest Baptist University), Bre Johnson, and Morgan Doyle. They’ll be joined by junior Macey Putt, who has verbally committed to play volleyball at Arkansas State, and sophomore Jadyn Easley on a squad that went 13-13 last season. With some talented young girls ready to contribute, the Lady Tigers will look to make a strong showing at the Great 8 as they prepare to get ready for the Central Ozark Conference part of their schedule.
“Get better today!” is a motto that head coach Tim Rippy preaches to his Siloam Springs squad. The Lady Panthers head coach returns two starters (Morgan Vaughn and Hadlee Hollenback) off of a 14-15 team from a year ago. With several key players battling injuries this preseason the Lady Panthers hope to have everyone healthy by the time conference play begins in January. In the meantime, the Lady Panthers, with just one senior (Sydney Henry), will look to grow and improve, and the Great 8 will certainly be an early season test.
Like all great stories, there comes a time where a cliffhanger is involved, and so you’ll have to wait patiently for part II coming soon and featuring the other four contenders: The host team Rogers, cross town rival Rogers Heritage, Ft. Smith Southside, and Alma.
Kyle, his wife Rebekah, and their daughter Caroline have called NW Arkansas home since 2001. He is a front runner so you will find him cheering for the Razorbacks, OU Sooners, and OSU Cowboys at various times throughout the year depending upon who is doing better. He is an avid sports fan in general and enjoys playing golf, reading, writing and he and his family are active members of Keypoint Church. Kyle claims to like almost everyone at #FNBNWA.