Unbeaten Blytheville on a hoops mission


The only force able to slow down Blytheville’s undefeated boys basketball team this season has been the weather.

Blytheville (19-0 overall, 8-0 in Class 4A Region 3 conference action) wasn’t able to play a regular scheduled game on Jan. 2 with Pocahontas due to inclement weather, but the Chickasaws handled the Redskins 57-29 a night later.

The defending Class 4A state runner-ups, who were 33-7 last season, then continued their undefeated match by downing Trumann 86-64 last Thursday and routing Wynne 86-26 on Monday.

It’s been a phenomenal start for head coach McKenzie Pierce’s program, which has lost just two conference games since the 2019-2020 season.

“If you had told me before the season that at this point we would be undefeated, I don’t know that I would have believed it, but I also don’t think I would be shocked either because these guys have really been locked in,” Pierce said. “Every day they come in and take care of their business and seem to be on a mission that started last April. 

“We can see what we have been trying to do the last two years and the fruits of our labor are beginning to pay off. Hopefully we can keep it going down the stretch here.”

Blytheville has nabbed a trio of tournament titles at the Kevin Brown Memorial Tournament in Washington, Ill. – where it downed teams from California, Florida and Illinois -  the Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Showdown and its own Chickasaw Classic.

“When I put the schedule together, we knew we wanted to be tested early, often and as much as possible,” Pierce said. “I don’t mean this as a a bad thing, but there are only so many teams in our conference  that can really challenge us. So the non-conference games we play, we would essentially have a chance to lose if we didn’t play well.”

Current Arkansas freshman Darrian Ford and Magnolia topped Blytheville 59-56 in the 2022 Class 4A state championship game.

“It was a completely different thing last year because I only had one guy with any experience,” Pierce said. “But when we walked out of state finals last year, I did time reflecting  and thought that we didn’t play enough competition to have us ready for this moment. So with this group coming back, we said ‘what do y’all want to do?’  They said ‘we want to play all the competition we can.’ It was a reminder all of season of what we were getting into.” 

The Chickasaws, with seven returnees this season,  feature senior center and Ole Miss signee Rashaud Marshall (6-9, 230).

“Obviously it is a really talented bunch, led by the big fella Rashaud Marshall,” Pierce said. “He is a monster, the number 50 player in the nation or whatever, the best big man in the country and probably the best big man to come out of the state of Arkansas since Corliss Williamson and it’s not even close in my opinion. I am a little bit biased.”

Marshall had 34 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in Blytheville’s 77-67 win over Haywood, Tenn., in its Poplar Bluff (Mo.) Showdown opener and he followed that up with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in 75-71 overtime win over Springdale in semifinal.

“He is just a specimen of an athlete, a great person, unselfish and a great teammate,” Pierce said. “We are going on him two years now of shooting 70 percent from the floor and being an 80 percent free throw shooter. His shot blocking and defense has gotten even better and just an unbelievable player down low.”

Blytheville point guard KeSean Washington has been a solid pick-up for the Chicks and joins a starting line up that also includes Shamar Marshall, Jeremiah Wells and Tyree Jackson.

“Our point guard KeSean Washington, who moved in from Forrest City and is kind of the straw that stirs the drink,” Pierce said. “He gets everybody going and has had four double-doubles in points and assists this year. He’s 5-7, but he plays like he is 6-7.

“The other guys Shamar Marshall and Jeremiah Wells are 6-2 athletes that can really shoot the ball and stretch the floor. And there is Tyree Jackson, a 6-6 wing who is a locked down defender, can really slash and is shooting 34 percent from 3-point from 3 and can knock down shots.”

It is balanced group according to Pierce.

“So we have five guys and the pieces really fit well,” Pierce said. “We have a true point, a true big, a shooter, a slasher. It just really fits well. They feed off each other and play really well together and our bench is doing a great job. 

“… All five of our starters have scored over 20 points at least twice throughout the year. They are so unselfish, but we truly have guys that truly love each other and truly care for each other. There is no unselfishness and nobody gets upset if somebody scores 20 or if somebody gets an offer.”

While Blytheville has dominated its league, Pierce has a lot of respect for the coaches and teams involved.

That includes Forrest City (12-8, 4-2), which has won its last seven games and where Blytheville travels for it next game on Saturday. 

“Obviously we get everybody’s best shot in our conference and have been fortunate to win our league four years in a row now and hopefully we can do it again this year,” Pierce said. “We talk about how we are not going to sneak up on anybody.

“It’s a good league and I am biased, but I think it is as well coached of a league as there is. You can sit here and watch all the film that you want to, but who these guys show up on game day you just never know what they are going to throw at you and they execute it pretty well. It is a fun league to coach in and there are a lot of talented players.”