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Monday, February 26, 2024

Charleston Completes Undefeated Conference Season as Lady Tigers Win District Tournament


As sports fans, it is not often that we get the opportunity to witness perfection. Perfection; if it were easy to obtain, it would be meaningless. But that is exactly what the Charleston Lady Tigers have achieved this year. Charleston completed an undefeated conference regular season last week in Elkins, and last night, the Lady Tigers put the cap on a perfect overall conference season with their two wins in the district tournament to win the Class 3A-1 district tournament championship.

The Lady Tigers defeated the Elkins Lady Elks by the score of 33-17. But unless your were at the Waldron Activities Center last night to witness this historic event, you cannot appreciate the performance of the Lady Tigers. The game ended in the second half with the Lady Tigers holding Elkins to just two points for the entire second half. And once again, the disciplined, experienced, and very talented Lady Tigers methodically dismantled Elkins on the way to the tournament championship.

As the game began, it appeared that both baskets had lids on them as both teams struggled to score. This was the third meeting between the two teams this year, and both teams knew a great deal about each other. Coaches make adjustments with each game, and it was evident that both teams wanted to plug the middle and not allow the other teams’ scorers to have room inside the lane. Charleston again began the game with a low shooting percentage from the field. Elkins eventually managed to get their inside game going, and the result was a halftime lead of 15-11 for the Elks as the two teams went to the locker room. As the Lady Tigers left the floor at half, they appeared to be unphased by the score; the business as usual attitude of this very experienced team.

But as the second half began, the Lady Tigers made adjustments and regrouped. The result was a torrent run in which Charleston held Elkins to just two points in the second half, outscoring the Lady Elks 22-2. Charleston’s defense that had been good in the first half, became even better in the second. The Lady Tigers forced Elkins in to several turnovers and prevented the Lady Elkins from seldomly getting more than one shot on their offensive end of the court. Often times, when it seemed Elkins was finally able to get the ball down low into scoring position, a Charleston guard would sweep in for support and steal the ball.

Elkins, the tournament’s #2 seed, is a very good basketball team and will make noise in next week’s regional tournament. The Lady Elks have had the misfortune of playing in conference with a Charleston team that may be one of the best in its school’s history. In fact, this year’s Lady Tigers may be the best in school history. If they are, remains to be seen. This team is clearly not finished. They have much work to do next week in the regional tournament.

Next week’s regionals will again be hosted by Waldron High School. As soon as the final brackets are known, Resident Press will publish an update for our readers. We do know that to advance to the following week’s state tournament in Charleston, teams must win their first game in the regional tournament. A first round win in the regional will guarantee a spot in the state tournament to continue their fight to a state championship. And of course, the more games that a team can win in regional the higher their state tournament seed will be. This is extremely important for not only their state tournament match-ups in Charleston, but also who they would be opposite of in the brackets and potentially face in Hot Springs for the state championship game.

Charleston is now 27-2 overall and 16-0 in conference play (includes regular season and two district tournament wins). They will enter the regional tournament next week as a #1 seed. This seems to be a team of destiny. But it is much more than that. The team that we have the privilege of watching today is a product of many years of playing together and buying into Charleston coach Jason Rucker’s system of detail, discipline and fundamentally sound basketball. Coach Rucker has pushed them to be the best they can be, and the team’s record this year is not only a testament to the team’s athletic abilities and good teamwork, but also to the true character and work ethic that each player possess. This is truly a very special team, and if you have not had the chance to see them play, you need to do so over the next two weeks. There may never be a Lady Tigers team in the near future that is this talented and is as special as this one.

The final chapter for this team has not been written. The fruit of their labor is just around the corner. Most coaches would worry about a team this good keeping their focus in the final two weeks of post-season play. But from my observation, this special group of Lady Tigers is too disciplined to have a lapse in concentration or effort in the post-season. The Lady Tigers are too disciplined and have worked too hard to let this opportunity slip by. I look for Charleston to come out strong next week in the regional tournament to secure their pathway in the state tournament, and to move toward their team goal of winning a title in Hot Springs while doing so on their home court and in front of their beloved fans.

It is a very special time for the Lady Tigers and the Charleston community. This team deserves a big turnout in Waldron next week from the Charleston fans to cheer them on to the state tournament. And as always, Resident Press will be there all the way to provide coverage of this very special group of Lady Tigers and their drive to a state championship!

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Jim Best
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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