The Boys and Girls Club of Faulkner County will be hosting its annual elementary basketball tournament, beginning next Monday.

The tournament will run all through next week, with championship games slated for April 2. Most of Conway’s elementary schools will be represented in the tournament, and officials are still hoping to add representatives from Mayflower, Greenbrier or Vilonia on Wednesday before the brackets are finalized. All four of the defending tournament champions will return this season to defend their titles, which include Julia Lee Moore (third grade girls), Jim Stone (third grade boys and fourth grade girls) and Ida Burns (fourth grade boys).

The two tournament sites are the Bob Nabholz Unit and the Conway High-East campus. The Farris Center on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas is also a possibility for tournament games. The championship games were held at the Farris Center a year ago. 

"We had some major upsets in our league tournament and we hope our elementary tournament has just as much excitement," said Mandrell Howell, who serves as the unit director and athletic director. "In one of our games last week, one of the favorites, Ida Burns boys lost a great game on a buzzer-beater. Ida Burns missed a free throw up by two points, and Theodore Jones’ Terry Clardy Jr. got the rebound and threw the ball three-quarters of the court and made the basket off-glass. That was a semifinal game too."

Even though getting ready for the 2010 Boys and Girls Club Elementary Tournament is the center of attention for the club, it’s not the only thing going on at the center. On Tuesday, one group went hiking on Petit Jean Mountain, while the other group stayed back at the facility for games and activities. On Monday, there was group of around 40 kids that went to JumpZone.

"Wednesday is movie day for everybody," Boys and Girls Club executive director Robert Wright said. "We have a lot going on since it’s spring break week. We usually don’t have this many kids during spring break, but with the economy the way it is people are sticking around. We’re gonna entertain the kids the best that we can. I really believe our staff is doing a great job."

The Nabholz Unit hosted the club’s annual season-end league tournament a week ago. There were two divisions in the boys league, the first and second grade, which was won by Florence Mattison and the third- and fourth-grade tournament championship was captured by Ellen Smith. There was only one division for the girls side, and that was first through the fourth grades. Jim Stone’s team consisting of mainly fourth- and third -grade girls captured that tournament championship.

"This coming up tournament is a big deal for us," Wright said. "Not only does it gives us exposure, but it helps the elementary schools get exposure. We here at the Boys and Girls Club like to have a partnership with as many groups as we can. 

"Our league tournament was packed last week. That last night of the tournament finals, I tell you, it was standing room only. You would have thought it was the championship game of the Conway Wampus Cats and Fayetteville again. It was fun. It was third- and fourth-graders, but you couldn’t have told anybody that. Some of those grandparents may have thought they were high school or college players. It was great to see all of the support that the kids got."