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Fort Smith
Monday, May 20, 2024

Sr Rattlers Season Pumps Up Magazine For Venomous Future


It’s not always the best feeling in the world when something has to come to an end. But if it does, it’s better to go out with a BANG! And that’s just what the Magazine Sr Rattlers did to end their 2020-2021 basketball season. But to better understand the ending, we need to start from the beginning. At the end of the 2019-2020 season, long-time boys basketball coach, Buck Chappell, took off his head coaching hat and passed it on to newcomer, Justin Mackey. Coach Mackey jumped into his new position feet first and never looked back. He immediately started implementing core values and skills into his basketball group of young men by having them go throughout their community and knocking out odd jobs that needed to be done for their neighbors.

Cameron Raggio vs Acorn. Photo courtesy of Amber Canada

The community service coupled with long intense workouts and practices was getting the Rattlers prepared for their upcoming season. With Magazine now ready for whatever was to come their way, the season started and it was game on! Their first two matches ended with extremely close losses to Dover and Mulberry where the Rattlers brought in a combined 112 points while holding their opponents to 129. Not too shabby for a new coach, a new program, and a new team. Magazine continued pushing forward in their season taking some wins here and some losses there eventually finishing up conference play as the #4 seed going into the 2A-4 Districts. The Rattlers even picked up a new and exciting rival in the Mansfield Tigers.

And as luck would have it, it was the #5 seeded Tigers that Magazine would face in Round 1 of District play. The Rattlers and the Tigers pushed each other to the limit in both prior games so there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that this time would be any different. “Going into this match, we focused on executing the game plan just like the previous two games,” explained Coach Mackey. “Ultimately we went 3/12 from the free-throw line and they only missed 1 in regulation and that’s the only facet of that we didn’t execute well. Mansfield’s guys deserve all the credit- they battled throughout and hit some clutch shots late to win it.”

Ashton Droemer

The Tigers went on to secure a 62-55 overtime win marking the end of the Rattlers season. But as I stated before if you’re going to go out, it’s best to do it with a bang, and that’s just what Magazine did. Playing one of his best games this season, junior, Haden Littleton, put up 23 points in the Mansfield game thanks in part to 4 hotshot 3 pointers. “I definitely wanted to go to regionals but as a team, we came up short,” stated Littleton. “My favorite highlights from this season were my 5 threes against Mountainburg and when my little brother and I got to play at the same time. Next year though I’m ready for the fastball we expect to play!”

Following with 17 points was senior, Cameron “Ragin” Raggio. “One of the biggest highlights for me this season was the mentality. Going into every game knowing we were competing to win, and thinking we could. I’m gonna miss dressing out with the guys I’ve been doing it with since the beginning. Some of those guys have played with me since kindergarten and we’re not gonna get the chance for that again. I’m also gonna miss the underclassmen who stepped up and made the team better, I know they’ll be in good hands next year. And I’m gonna miss coach Mackey. It was his first year and, although we didn’t get the results we wanted, the things he taught us and the bonding we’ve had have been very valuable to me. I’m most proud of the foundation we laid for years to come. We didn’t have a winning record but we were definitely winning. In a few years, I hope to check in on the team and see them competing for championship after championship!”

#3 Brady Watson

Securing 6 points and pushing past his limits was junior, Ashton Droemer. “I gave our final game everything I had because I didn’t want to let my teammates down, especially the seniors. One of my favorite moments from this season was when I jumped over someone who had fallen in front of me on a fast break and I went down and made a layup. Also when Brady dunked over someone in a game. We also had 5 guys score in double digits our very first game and I thought that was awesome. “Now I’m looking forward to getting better as a team for next year and hopefully making it further in District and making it to Regionals.”

Seniors, Brady Watson and Tatum Scott wrapped up scoring with 5 points apiece. “Although this is the end of my career,” stated Scott. “I will miss having those late 8-10 practices! I will miss the guys the most and making memories! That’s what sports are about! It’s about teaching you about life and making memories with your teammates along the way! I couldn’t be happier to be a Rattler! There were so many great moments this year. There were a select few that stood out the most though! We were in a close game, and we needed to seal a game-winning free throw to win it! Coach Mackey had pulled us aside and asked us what we wanted to do! I took advantage of the situation and told coach that we needed to get Haden Littleton the ball to get fouled and hit the shot! We ended up winning! After he hit 2 free throws to seal it! Another great highlight, was when we played Mansfield in the first round of District! The whole game was great from the start! Both teams fought hard, and it was definitely a game of my career! One thing I am most proud of is my teammates. They improved throughout the season with the help of our new coach (Justin Mackey). I haven’t seen the basketball program be more excited to go practice! Each individual on our team got better and better each day! I am proud to end my career with our program growing stronger! One day I’m hoping to see us making a run at State!

Tatum Scott. Photo courtesy of Amber Canada

Also saying goodbye as seniors, are William King, Cole Gilbert, Ethan Staton, and Nate Bryan. “I’m going to miss all the little inside jokes our team constantly had. We really are a family,” expressed Staton. “There are several highlights from this season for me. A big one was hitting the opening shot against Mansfield. Since that is my dad’s school, that game is always a big deal at my house. Another is definitely winning our first game with Coach Mackey since this was his first year as our coach and him coming in my senior year. This year, I’m most proud of not only how far I’ve come as a player, from my skills and also my confidence, but also how far we came as a team!”

Bryan added, “Towards the beginning of the season I tore my ACL. It was one of the first practices since the football boys came down. I had put so much work into the game so I could be ready for when they came. Even though this happened, they let me know I was still a part of the team. My best moment of the year was on Senior Night when I got to make my one shot. Which happened to be a three! I’m going to miss this group. I felt as though this was our season to go far and I wasn’t able to participate. Maybe I will get to play with them in the men’s league. Or any other tourneys coach may hold. I am just proud of our guys and how much dedication they put into the game. They were constantly at the gym even if they were told they needed a break they kept practicing. They played as a team this year. I couldn’t be more proud to have been along for the ride. I just hope next year the boys maintain such an interest in the sport.”

William King vs Mountainburg. Photo courtesy of Amber Canada

“The best thing about working with this group of guys,” says Coach Mackey. “Is the unselfishness of the whole group. Every guy on the roster fully adopted the family/team before me philosophy and it made for a great year on and off the court. We had several guys playing meaningful roles on the floor this year that I know will be ready to lead next year. Ashton Droemer is without question the unspoken leader of the group, but several others have matured through this year and should step in big as well. Littleton, Krigbaum, Klein, and Nietert will return as the other seniors (outside of Droemer) who will be ready to make a run in their final year.”

Adding his overall thoughts on the season, Coach Mackey concluded, “In this crazy year of COVID cancellations, game changes due to weather, and building a completely new system, I feel like we had a great year. I saw huge growth in these young men on and off the court. Guys maturing and becoming dependable and accountable. Things that reach far outside of the gym. I never had to question effort, intensity, or commitment to our team (family). I couldn’t have been blessed with a better group of young men to build a program in year 1. This team but ESPECIALLY our seniors has laid a solid foundation for the next groups to build on. We are already in the gym working on next year and in the digital world terms….. 2021-22 Season- NOW LOADING! #RattlerPride #FaithAttitudeDiscipline”

Hayden Littleton
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