Teams from schools in Conway suffered heartbreak on one hand, and celebrated a first on the other.
In just their second year competing as a member of the Arkansas Activities Association, the Conway Christian girls obtained the school’s first Class 2A state championship in basketball, after defeating St. Joseph 52-42 in the opening game of title weekend at Summit Arena in Hot Springs. The loss was the Lady Bulldogs’ second consecutive one in the state championship game.
"It feels great. You know that when you’re playing in the Christian league, then you know that it doesn’t match up very well with the AAA," Conway Christian’s Christina DenHartog said, who collected two state championship in the Christian league. "We would play with all of our friends in the summer and they would say that it didn’t mean anything. So coming out here we knew how awesome it would be if we were able to be state champs."
Conway Christian and the Lady Bulldogs alternated the wins in their five contests this season, starting with the Lady Eagles win to begin the series. St. Joseph won the last matchup in the regional tournament.
"When we came into the AAA two years ago, we said that we were gonna compete and we got pushed around by some of the bigger schools because they didn’t think that we were going to be serious about it," Conway Christian athletic director Chuck Speer said. "We knew all along that our girls were gonna come in here and compete, as well as the other sports. We saw that this one was coming with a state championship. We figured that it would be our girls basketball that would be the first ones to do it, and they were."
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Guy-Perkins’ legendary coach John Hutchcraft was on hand to watch his daughter’s first state championship as a head coach.
"It’s a great feeling and I’ve never had this feeling with it being one of my kids," Hutchcraft said. "I don’t know if this one feels better or one of mine. I think this one feels better. I’m so proud of her. She just didn’t win a state tournament, but she was able to beat coach (Chris) Kordsmeier and St. Joseph. That’s a big accomplishment."
Hutchcraft, who has won nine combined state championships in girls and boys basketball in Guy, gave Nance a few helpful pointers during the week.
"The main thing that he said was, ‘If you’re nervous, then make sure that your kids don’t know that you’re nervous,’" Nance said, while flashing a smile. "We did a dance in the locker room that kind of got our nerves under us a little. That always helps us out."
(For an in-depth follow-up on game notes, postgame interviews and more, please see the Youth Sports Corner in Saturday’s edition of the Log Cabin Democrat.)