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Riverbend set to kick off upcoming basketball season

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

(Photo)
In this file photo, Charleston's Ryan Parham goes around Pine Bluff, Ark., defenders during the Riverbend Classic at New Madrid County Central High School Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. Charleston headlines the 14th Annual Riverbend Classic which begins Friday, Nov. 23. David Jenkins, Staff
NEW MADRID -- The Riverbend Classic Shootout signals the beginning of high school basketball for southeast Missouri, which some treat as a national holiday.

The day after Thanksgiving will provided relief from Black Friday as well as fans of roundball a chance to see how their favorite team stacks up against out-of-state competition.

Four Missouri squads -- New Madrid County Central, Charleston, Scott County Central and Kennett -- will take on some of the best programs Arkansas and Tennessee have to offer as they open the 14th Annual Riverbend Classic Shootout Nov. 23 at New Madrid County Central High School.

"For me, it's exciting because high school basketball is getting started," NMCC head coach Travis Day said. "You've got the holiday right before and a lot of people want to come out and watch good basketball."

The away teams will be the same as last season's as Pine Bluff, Ark., West Memphis, Ark., North Little Rock, Ark., and Covington, Tenn., make their annual return to Missouri.

Both North Little Rock and West Memphis compete within Arkansas' highest classification (7A) while Pine Bluff routinely finds themselves deep inside a playoff run inside Class 6A year in and year out.

North Little Rock, who won the 7A state championship in 2010, was 18-9 last season and boasted two all-state players -- Tyree's Hollister and Dayshawn Watkins.

"They went deep in the playoffs last year and they seem to be in it every year," said Day.

West Memphis, led by longtime coach Larry Bray, underwent an uncharacteristically down year, slipping to 14-13 and failing to make the Class 7A postseason.

Headed by Ronald Morange, the Pine Bluff Zebras lost to the eventual 6A state champions in the quarterfinal round last season ending their season at 15-7. They were led by all-state selections Ricky Clement and Darrian Kee.

"They're always a talented team," Day said about Pine Bluff.

All three teams are currently still involved with football. West Memphis and North Little Rock are in the second round of their class bracket while Pine Bluff will play their first round game Friday in 6A.

"If they're out of the football playoffs, they usually bring in a boat-load of kids that can get after it," said Day.

Covington, coached by Dion Real, went 25-6 last season and has already played one game so far this year losing to Bolivar Central 77-74 Tuesday.

Covington competes in Tennessee's Div. I-AA.

"They will be a highly energetic team," said Day. "They like to get out and press and run up and down the floor."

Representing Missouri, two defending state champions make their return to the Riverbend seeking to start their season on the right foot.

Charleston, the defending Class 3 champion, will open the Riverbend Friday at 2 p.m. against Covington.

Although the Bluejays lost all-state guard Greg Tucker, they still return all-state point guard Ryan Parham as well as others crucial to their first place finish last season.

Following the Charleston-Covington game, NMCC will take on Pine Bluff at 3:30 p.m., Kennett goes against West Memphis at 5 p.m. and SCC, who is coming off it's fourth-straight Class 1 state championship, ends the first night against North Little Rock at 6:30 p.m.

"The good thing about the home teams we have is that they're all full of tradition," Day said. "You talk about Scott County Central and Charleston who's won a number of state titles. Year in and year out, they're going to be highly competitive teams."

Day two will feature Pine Bluff against Kennett at 2 p.m., Covington v. SCC at 3:30 p.m., North Little Rock taking on Charleston at 5 p.m. and West Memphis ending the shootout against NMCC at 6 p.m.

"I'm a basketball junkie," Day said. "I want to get my team out there and get our early test to see where we're at. But, at the same time, I'm a fan of the game too. I like sitting around and watching other teams play. It should be a lot of fun."


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