BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
As far as Nashville girls head basketball coach Paul Dean is concerned, there is nothing better than a trip to Hot Springs this time of year.
That’s where Dean and his defending Class 4A champion Scrappers (29-3) will be again on Thursday when they take on Farmington (35-1) at noon inside the Hot Springs Convention Center.
It is a rematch of last season’s title clash in which Nashville scored the final five points, capped by Sydney Townsend’s 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds left that handed the Scrappers a 42-41 win.
“Obviously this is every team’s goal when you start the season and our kids have worked really hard and kept this going,” Dean said. “We are excited to be there again.”
Dean expects another close game between the two programs.
“That’s how games are supposed to be at that point, state tournament games are supposed to be close and a little more intense,” Dean said. “The moments are a little bit bigger, the pressure is a little more.
“We were fortunate to come out on top last year and we are just looking forward to the challenge again.”
The Cardinals are riding a 31-game winning streak and are 69-3 over the last two seasons while the Scrappers have been victorious in their last 24 outings and are 62-5 over the past pair of campaigns.
Farmington, who is led by 6-3 Arkansas signee Jenna Lawrence, suffered its only loss of the season in a 63-50 defeat to Overland Park (Kan.) Blue Valley North on Dec. 10.
“Farmington is a good team, just like they always are,” Dean said. “They have a lot of experience coming back and they do a good job at what they do.”
Dean insists that his job was easier this season than it was during the 2021-2022 campaign.
“You can’t take getting back there for granted, but the kids were focused in the summer time and in the fall,” Dean said. “They were mature enough to handle the success we had last year and not settle for that.
“The kids were excited and motivated to do it again so I didn’t really have to do much because they just came in and worked hard every day. They were self-motivated to get back so my job was pretty easy. I have got really good kids and really good players.”
Nashville only losses this season were to Class 6A championship game participants Conway and North Little Rock and Class 5A finalist Greenwood.
Seniors Kyleigh Scoggins and Lauren Carver have led Nashville in scoring this season while Olivia Dean, one of two daughters of the head coach on the roster, is a third returning starter from last season’s title team.
Aaliyah Hollins, who will miss the championship game due to an ACL injury suffered in the last three minutes of her team’s 57-39 semifinal win over Gentry, and Caroline Dean stepped into starting roles this season.
“Their roles have all increased a little bit more and they have accepted that role,” Dean said. “They have all accepted their roles well and taken on the challenge with delight.”
• • •
Arkansas High School Basketball State Championship Games
Thursday Session 1
Noon – 4A Girls – Farmington vs Nashville
1:45 pm – 4A Boys – Blytheville vs Little Rock Christian
Thursday Session 2
6 pm – 5A Girls – Vilonia vs Greenwood
7:45 pm – 5A Boys – Pine Bluff vs Lake Hamilton
Friday Session 1
Noon – 6A Girls – Conway vs North Little Rock
1:45 pm – 6A Boys – Jonesboro vs Springdale
Friday Session 2
6 pm – 1A Girls – Mammoth Spring vs Norfork
7:45 pm – 1A Boys – Marked Tree vs County Line
Saturday Session 1
11:30 am – 2A Girls – Conway Christian vs Mt. Vernon-Enola
1:15 pm – 2A Boys – Bigelow vs Marshall
Saturday Session 2
6 pm – 3A Girls – Lamar vs Salem
7:45 pm – 3A Boys – Manila vs Bergman
Photo courtesy of Nashville Athletics