Close behind Christmas this week will come an Arkansas basketball staple, the annual Battle at the Brier, matching some of the state’s top teams, at Greenbrier High School’s Panther Pavilion.
The first Battle at the Brier came shortly after the new arena opened in 2000. The competition that year stretched into January. More recently, the tournament has been held on three consecutive days.
The 13th edition of the First Security Bank Battle at the Brier will have competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The tournament again will involve 16 teams — eight boys and eight girls.
Greenbrier and Vilonia boys and girls have been in all of the Battles at the Brier. Joining them this year will be another Faulkner County school, Guy-Perkins, making for some interesting angles, along with several first-timers and repeaters. Most of these are Class 7A, 6A and 5A teams.
Rogers Heritage, Watson Chapel, Bauxite, Benton and Searcy will be in the girls bracket, with Greenbrier, Vilonia and Guy-Perkins. In boys play, Russellville, Searcy, Mountain View, Hazen and Little Rock Mills will compete with Greenbrier, Vilonia and Guy-Perkins.
The Mills comets are the boys defending champions. Mountain Home girls won last year but are not returning.
The first round games on Thursday:
Guy-Perkins and Benton girls, 10 a.m.
Searcy and Russellville boys, 11:30 a.m.
Rogers Heritage and Searcy girls, 1 p.m.
Guy-Perkins and Mountain View boys, 2:30 p.m.
Vilonia and Watson Chapel girls, 4 p.m.
Vilonia and Mills boys, 5:30 a.m.
Greenbrier and Bauxite girls, 7 p.m.
Greenbrier and Hazen boys, 8:30 p.m.
Consolation and winners semifinal games will be Friday beginning at 10 a.m. Final rounds will be Saturday with the girls championship starting at 7 p.m., and the bys championship at 8:30 p.m. The lineup, based on performances so far this season, will probably include several teams to be solid contenders a few weeks later in the state playoffs.
Perennially strong Vilonia girls could be a challenge as usual in the Battle at the Brier. Vilonia has won four of the previous 12 Brier titles.
The Mills boys, winners last year over Russellville, have some of their top players back, but so do the Cyclones of Russellville. Vilonia’s boys have also won four of the previous 12 Brier championships and were in the finals four other times.
The addition of the always competitive Guy-Perkins boys and girls should enliven the action for fans. The Thunderbirds and Lady Thunderbirds competed in the Battle at the Brier in 2004 and 2005.
First Security Bank is planning a variety of halftime contests for fans at the tournament games. The free programs for Battle at the Brier again will be furnished by the Log Cabin Democrat.