Conway’s Most Valuable Player of the Class 7A state tournament, senior Preston Purifoy, along with Wampus Cats coach James Bates, joined elite company in the Cats’ historic state championship run.
Purifoy, who signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Alabama-Birmingham, was Conway’s first MVP of a state tournament since the Wampus Cats’ title in 1976, and Bates was the third coach in Conway’s history to win a state championship in boys basketball.
"To have this group of kids to win a state championship with is really special," Bates said. "There’s two coaches going into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame this summer, C. D. Taylor and Joe Graham, and both have the other two state championships at Conway, so that kind of puts you there in a special group too. I just can’t say enough about the community, and that new arena. Everyone has just rallied around and it’s been special."
Purifoy knew that what the Cats accomplished last weekend in Hot Springs would be remembered for some time.
"When me and Kenyon (McNeaill), our sophomore year, see Catholic win by two and celebrate gave us a lot of drive and will power to come back here and win a state tournament," Purifoy said. "That’s what we did. Micah stepped up big, and so did everybody else. Now, we can say that we went out this season as No. 1."
A ROWDY CREW
Conway’s student section was one of kind this season. The group provided for a special experience for players and fans. The student section tailgated in Van Buren and then had parade for the team upon the Cats arrival. Conway responded with a win over Little Rock Catholic and Little Rock Central over the weekend
"They just showed how close the senior class is," Bates said. "The other students have embraced the whole bunch and that’s how our team is. There’s a special bond there, and you have to be successful there in team sports."
Conway senior guard Kenyon McNeaill gave further insight on why Conway’s student section was such a rowdy bunch.
"Ben Riner has a lot to do with that. He’s our class president and he’s an excited and a goofy person," McNeaill said, drawing laughter from the room. "He just runs around and be excited all the time, so he a lot to do with that. He sits there and thinks of crazy chants and even gets us involved. He has us doing a lot of exciting things that gets us pumped up and ready to play."
A TEXT FROM DAD
Marvin Delph, a former Conway all-state standout and member of the group known as "The Triplets" for the University of Arkansas, was on hand to see the Cats’ championship win.
Delph, like many fathers who have sons playing their favorite sport, has been giving his son pointers all season, but at 3:30 on the day of the game, his pointers came in a text message.
"The first thing that he told me was to play with confidence," Micah Delph said. "The next thing the text said was to play aggressive, and he told me to remember who I was representing."
"I told myself that I was gonna play with confidence and that I was gonna be aggressive. I told myself that this is for coach and for these seniors. I wanted to be like my dad and win state, so I was representing myself too."
Delph scored a game-high 25 points, along with the MVP, teammate Preston Purifoy. Delph hit 8 of 9 shots from the floor and ended up 8-for-8 at the foul line.