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Fort Smith
Saturday, May 21, 2022

Charleston Lady Tigers Advance to District Tournament Final with 41-19 Win Over West Fork

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The Charleston Lady Tigers once again ran to a methodical win over a conference opponent in the semi-finals of the senior high district tournament being held this week at Waldron High School. This time the opponent was the West Fork Lady Tigers. With the win, Charleston advances to the tournament final and is assured no worse than a #2 seed in next week’s regional tournament. Charleston will play a rematch with the Elkins Lady Elks on Saturday at 6 p.m. for the district tournament championship and the top seed in the regional tournament.

Charleston has not lost to a conference opponent this season. Elkins will be the last opportunity for any conference school to beat Charleston this year before the regional and state tournaments begin. With the win, Charleston improves their overall record to 24-2 and to 15-0 in conference play (includes their district tournament semifinal win). According to Max Preps, Charleston entered this week ranked 29th overall in Arkansas across all classifications, and moved up to 4th in Class 3A in Arkansas. The Lady Tigers have now moved past Lamar who is ranked 5th in Class 3A. Charleston’s last loss was on December 13 at Class 6A Hot Springs Lake Hamilton.

With Charleston now being either a #1 or #2 seed in the regional tournament, it is possible that the Lady Tigers will not face the top one or two teams in Class 3A until the state tournament. The Lady Tigers will play the first three rounds of the state tournament on their home floor in two weeks, and this could set up a potential blockbuster state final in Hot Springs between Charleston and either Mountain View or Hoxie for the state championship title. But that is still a ways down the road, and before any of that is possible, the Lady Tigers must find a way to get off to a faster start that it has their past two games at the Waldron Activities Center. In yesterday’s semifinal, the Lady Tigers shooters started the game cold, forcing their defense to control the game early. The Charleston defense stymied the West Fork Lady Tigers for the entire game, giving Charleston a ten point lead at half and eventually buying time for the offense to click and stretch the game out of reach for West Fork. In the district tournament final against Elkins, and beyond, Charleston will have to get their fast break offense going early, along with their great defense to win games against the best teams in Class 3A over the next two weeks.

Charleston will face the Elkins Lady Elks who had an easy time with the host Waldron Lady Bulldogs in the other girls semifinal game played on Thursday. Elkins is the only team that has had a competitive game against Charleston this year. The Lady Elks lost to Charleston at Tiger Center on January 21 by the score of 50-44. In their last meeting in Elkins, Charleston defeated the Lady Elks 47-25. Elkins will have teams in both the boys and girls final on Saturday, and they should bring a big crowd to Waldron. Charleston will have to be ready to play from the opening tip-off against a team that badly wants to give Charleston their first loss in front of a big crowd in the district tournament championship.

Elkins will enter Saturday’s final with an overall record of 21-6 and 12-3 (includes their semifinal win on Thursday). Max Preps has Elkins ranked 72nd in Arkansas across all classifications and 16th in the state in Class 3A. The Lady Elks will be a formidable opponent for not only Charleston on Saturday night, but in the regional tournament next week. The Elkins fan base travels well, and the team will play an inspired brand of basketball Saturday against the Lady Tigers.

In the first boys semifinal of the night, the home standing Waldron Bulldogs defeated a determined Greenland Pirates team to advance to Saturday’s tournament championship final. In front of a packed Waldron Activity Center Crowd, the Bulldogs responded to the energy in the arena with a strong second half to overcome Greenland. Waldron is the top seed in the boys bracket, and they will be tough to beat playing on their home floor on Saturday night.

Waldron entered the district tournament as a tri-champion of the regular season, and by point differential among the three schools who tied for the conference regular season title, the Bulldogs were placed as the #1 seed in the district tournament. Overall, the Bulldogs are 25-5 and 13-2 in conference play (includes their semifinal win on Thursday). Max Preps has Waldron ranked 53rd in Arkansas across all classifications, and 9th in the state in Class 3A. Elkins, the Bulldogs’ opponent in Saturday’s final, is ranked 5th in Class 3A. Saturday’s district championship game should be one for the ages as two top-ten teams will clash for the tournament title and the #1 seed in next week’s regional tournament. Waldron will be playing again on their home floor next week in the regional tournament, making Waldron one of my favorites to go on to Tiger Center in two weeks and compete for a state championship.

There are four very good teams in the conference, all of which played in Thursday’s semifinals. Only two could advance to Saturday’s final. By order of conference finish, Greenland will go into next week’s regional tournament as the #4 seed. That left Charleston as the tournament’s #3 seed playing Elkins in the last game of the Thursday session for a final birth in the finals to play Waldron. Waldron awaited the winner of the Charleston vs. Elkins game following their win over Greenland; three teams that had split on the season against each other.

Charleston and Elkins played in Thursday’s semifinals and were facing each other for the second time in less than one week. Last Friday, the Tigers traveled to Elkins and were defeated by the Elks, forcing a three way tie for the conference championship along with the Waldron Bulldogs. Again, in front of a packed WAC that included large numbers of fans from both Elkins and Charleston, the two teams hooked up for another hard fought, intense, game that featured physical inside play and great defense.

Elkins entered the semifinal as the district regular season tri-champion and the tournament’s #2 seed. Max Preps ranks Elkins as 37th overall in all classifications across Arkansas, and #5 in Class 3A. On Thursday night, the Elks looked every bit the part of a top five team as they focused on containing Charleston’s great guard, Brayden Ross, and harassed its point guard, Brandon Scott. The game was physical and produced many interesting moments as the tension in the building arose between both the players and the crowd. Charleston played hard but could not overcome the early lead of the Elks.

With the loss, Charleston will now move on to the regional tournament next week as a #3 seed in the tournament. It will mean another trip to Waldron to play next week to win enough games to qualify for the state tournament that will be hosted by Charleston High School. Elkins will face Waldron on Saturday night in what should be a blockbuster final to wrap up the district tournament. The winner of that game will enter the regional as a top seed, and the loser will move on as a #2 seed in the tournament.

The semifinals were a display of great basketball on both sides of the boys and girls brackets. The district should have strong representation in the regional tournament as eight teams will move on with their dreams of a state title that is still within reach. After Saturday night, the next step will be to qualify in regionals for the following week’s state tournament. We wish all eight teams the best of luck as they pursue a state title.

Stay with Resident Press as we bring you all of the action over the next two weeks as district teams compete for a state title.

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Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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