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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Paris Gets Signature Wins Over Charleston

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Over one thousand miles from Paris in the small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, the ground hog “Phil” saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. On that same night, two outstanding programs and young teams played lights out at Paris Gymnasium, each hoping to gain momentum and extend their seasons six more weeks into the upcoming post-season tournaments. And of course, anytime Paris and Charleston get together, regardless of sport or records, it is almost guaranteed to be a fun night of good, hard-fought competition. And last night in Paris, the fans of both schools were treated to two games that were played hard by both schools. This time, the Paris Eagles and Lady Eagles won signature games that are by far their biggest wins of the season. The wins could be a turning point for both teams as they finish this year and build toward the future. In fact, both Paris and Charleston are young and have bright futures, but neither school is ready to give up on this season just yet.

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

In the first game, the Paris Lady Eagles survived an early ten point lead by Charleston to fight their way back to their biggest victory of the season. The Lady Eagles, who have been up and down, experiencing the highs and lows of a young team that is growing and developing, had perhaps their best defensive game of the year. Lady Eagles coach Donald Hart commented after the game, “I thought the team played hard from start to finish. I was very proud of their effort on both sides of the ball.”

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

The Lady Eagles played tough defense against the Lady Tigers who all but ran them out of Tiger Center in January. The young Paris team has grown and is starting to see improved play from members of its starting rotation, giving help to senior Jadyn Hart with scoring and rebounding.

In the second game, the Paris boys fought hard in a back and forth, highly intense game that saw the Eagles finally break the game open very late with two three-point baskets from the corner by sophomore Jesse Wells.

Resident Press Photo / Ronni Tate Young

After the game, and ecstatic Paris head coach, Blain Brewington said, “We battled all night. We played physical, tough defense and rebounded the ball well for the most part. We hit some big shots in the fourth quarter. I really liked that we didn’t settle for 3’s and were patient offensively and got the ball inside for the easy baskets. We got down seven points in the third quarter and kept battling. We gave ourselves a chance in the fourth; took the lead and held on. So proud of our fight and learning how to play through our mistakes with such a young team.”

For Charleston, the Lady Tigers are one of the top girls programs in Class 3A, and their future is bright. I expect to see Charleston competing in the state tournament next year; perhaps to the point of the state semifinals or even deeper, just as the program did in 2019-20. Coach Jason Rucker has done a great job this year with just seven players dressed for most games, and will be a factor this year in the district and regional tournaments.

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

After the loss to Paris, Coach Rucker said after the game, “I thought we played well in the first half but just didn’t make enough plays in the second half to win. Really have to give credit to Paris for not quitting and making plays when they had to. Hats off to them.”

And the same tone of sportsmanship was used by Charleston Tigers coach B.J. Ross when he also said, “Our boys played really hard last night but couldn’t get the ball to fall in the hoop. Give credit to Paris and Coach Brewington for playing a good game.”

I don’t know about you, our readers, but it is refreshing to hear classy remarks from coaches of schools in a rivalry setting such as Paris and Charleston. The coaches’ remarks are great examples for our student-athletes and for all who follow high school sports.

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

The Charleston basketball programs are young and talented, just as the Paris programs. I expect both schools to be serious contenders next year, and once again, treat their fan bases to great competition throughout the season.

If you have followed Paris, you know that the Eagles have had their share of both good and bad times as a young and inexperienced team has had to learn and mature on the fly. But the last two weeks have been good for the Eagles, and a win against a quality opponent is just what they needed to give them confidence that they can compete successfully in the conference tournament and into next year.

And the same can be said for the young Lady Eagles. The team will sorely miss senior guard Jadyn Hart. But the team will have a nucleus of good young players who have now had a season of playing experience under their belts and should have plenty of talent and experience to build upon for next season. The team will have to find a way to replace the point production and the ball handling of Jadyn Hart. If they can do that, they have a great chance to take the next step in being a very competitive team next year.

Resident Press Photo / Ronni Tate Young

Eagles fans need to be aware of schedule changes for the end of the regular season and the district tournament. In an email from the Paris school district this morning, the following schedule changes have been made. First, Friday, February 5, will be senior high boys and girls only at Cossatot River. Tip off time for the first game is 5 p.m.

The junior district tournament that was scheduled to be held at Booneville next week has been cancelled. In fact, some ninth grade players for both schools were dressed and on the bench for last evening’s varsity games.

Secondly, Paris will host Cedarville on Tuesday, February 9 as originally scheduled for senior high games only. Next, the games at Booneville originally scheduled for Friday, February 12 have been moved up to Thursday, February 11.

And finally, the senior high district tournament, originally scheduled for Cedarville, will now be hosted at the home sites of the higher seeded teams in the first round match-up pairs, starting Saturday, February 13. According to the district’s email, “The higher seed will host each individual game. Once the brackets have been set, or we know for sure the seeding for the tournament, we will update.”

Resident Press Photo / Ronni Tate Young

So it appears the senior high district basketball tournament will be held in the same format as the 2020 district volleyball tournament. Unlike the conference volleyball tournament, all conference basketball games will be played before the tournament, so it should be easy to seed each team according to record and order of finish. The higher seeds will host games on their campuses. I recommend that you go to the Paris school district’s website and watch for the “live feed” with the latest information from the district on game dates, times, and venues.

In the topsy turvy world of COVID-19, it appears that the high school basketball season has a chance to be completed. It was about eleven months ago that the state tournament was immediately cancelled after the semi-finals games, and the state finals were never played in Hot Springs. When the Class 3A basketball tournament, hosted by Charleston high school, had finished semi-final play, no one dreamed that the following week’s championship final in Hot Springs would not be played.

Hopefully, the entire tournament will be played to its scheduled completion, and the hard work of the players and all involved will be rewarded with a great state tournament experience ending with the crowning of state champions in each classification.

Fans from both schools can see additional photos of both games on Facebook at Paris Eagles Sports. In fact, Resident Press had two photographers at the games, including yours truly and Mrs. Ronni Tate Young. I know you will love her photos, and her shots can also be found at Paris Eagles Sports. Thanks to Ronni for the additional coverage and for all that she has done this year capturing the images of Charleston sports!

If last night’s Ground Hog Day game was any indication of what is to come, there is still a lot of basketball yet to be played. Good luck to both Paris and Charleston as they continue to play for the post-season!

Resident Press Photo / Jim Best

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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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