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story.lead_photo.caption MARK HUMPHREY ENTERPRISE-LEADER Farmington junior Makenna Vanzant gets past Greenland's Fiona Wilson to score a layup during the Lady Cardinals' 66-49 win at Har-Ber Hiigh's Slim Chickens Classic girls basketball tournament Friday, Now. 23. Vanzant scored 24 points.

SPRINGDALE -- Greenland girls basketball coach Alan Barton's 2018-2019 team isn't off to the greatest start in school history, but the Lady Pirates may only be warming up.

The beloved coach has won not only state championships in girls basketball, but touched the hearts of players willing to come out on Black Friday to cheer on Barton and the Lady Pirates competing in the Slim Chickens Classic hosted by Springdale Har-Ber Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. As of Friday Greenland is 3-3 after nonconference losses to Berryville, Prairie Grove, and Farmington.

Even a 66-49 loss to a highly-touted Farmington squad Friday couldn't diminish how Barton felt to have his girls show up. There's no substitute for physical presence and Lady Pirates of yesteryear dined with Barton in the hospitality room interjecting their own perspectives while the veteran coach fondly recalled having to beat conference rival Green Forest five times that season including the 2012 State Class 3A championship.

"We play on a Friday of Thanksgiving and I have four former players here, all have (championship) rings and appreciate what we've done," Barton said.

Farmington coach Brad Johnson believes northwest Arkansas is a hotbed for girls basketball. Barton is quick to agree emphasizing the importance of improvement during Thanksgiving week when school is out.

"If you're not practicing or playing over the holidays or something like that; you ain't doing your job because northwest Arkansas is a tough place to win a girls basketball game," Barton said.

Johnson, an intense competitor whose team is expected to contend for the State 4A crown this season, insures he won't become totally absorbed in a profession that tends to consume coaches by constantly vocalizing the importance of family.

Johnson excused two players, junior 5-9 center Joelle Tidwell and 5-10 sophomore Tori Kersey, two of the tallest Lady Cardinals to be with their families. He didn't grumble about their absence, instead looking at ways to use the situation to the team's advantage although acknowledging Greenland's 5-9 Fiona Wilson and 5-4 Destiny Jackson present match-up problems.

"Defensively, at times we were good. At times, I think we got some things to improve on, but it is the first game of the year for us," Johnson said. "We also played without a couple of kids. We were missing Tidwell and Kersey; so our rotation was little different, but that's OK, too; because we thought this weekend is going to allow us to maybe build some depth and show some things that hopefully down the road will pay off for us as we work through it in conference season."

Earlier in the week Barton and the Lady Pirates absorbed a 76-68 loss at home to one of his former players, Prairie Grove coach Kevin Froud.

"I coached Coach Froud when he was in school," Barton said. "It's always great about that, but the first time we played each other, the first time he was the head coach at Prairie Grove and I was the head coach at Greenland, 19-17, was the score; and then we have a 76-68. Evidently, we're not very good defensive coaches like we used to be."

Like Barton, Froud is constantly searching out ways to improve harping on players to make good decisions on the court and avoid getting into situations that cause unforced turnovers.

"Like (assistant) coach (Shelley) Dougan mentioned, last year when some stuff like that happened it kind of snowballed," Froud said. "This year we're doing a little bit better at overcoming. Huntsville (48-39 win on Nov. 13), it was a close game and we hit free throws to win it. Last night's game (76-68 win at Greenland) was a close game and we hit free throws and made plays to win it. Tonight (50-40 win over Siloam Springs on Nov. 20), it was closer than what I like, but we made plays, had people hit some big shots at the end. Emily Grant (20 points) hit some big shots and Larisha Crawford (9 points) and Jasmine Wynos (14 points) hit her free throws and some big shots. She's had two real, good games the last two games against Greenland and tonight."

Wynos scored 23 points and had 15 rebounds at Greenland. Her play factored into Wilson fouling out for Greenland with three minutes to go. Nonconference losses don't bother Barton as long as the team competes hard. After all these years he still relishes coaching.

"Yeah, especially when you're the Elementary Principal, Pre-K Director, I love the game. I love practice the most because that's when we get to know each other," Barton said. "There's nothing better than getting across from one of these well-known coaches in northwest Arkansas and trying to have your team beat their team. There ain't nothing better than that."

Sports on 11/28/2018

Print Headline: NWA: Hotbed Of Girls Basketball

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