Small Towns Step Up at State Tourney
The sound was deafening when the Concord Pirates ran onto the floor prior to the championship game of the state basketball tournament this past week at Little Rock's Barton Coliseum.
The first reaction from press row -- "I didn't know there were that many people in Concord."
As a matter of fact, there aren't.
The 2010 Census shows Concord with a population of 255. There were easily five times that many in the stands cheering on the Pirates.
At the same time, on the other end of the court, the Bay Yellowjackets emerged and all the "Purple People" made their presence known from the town of 1,801.
It was state tournament time and once again the small towns of Arkansas took center stage, easily outdistancing their larger fellow communities in turnout and, to a large degree, in fan intensity.
As an example, Fayetteville, with a population of 75,102, was well below Bay-Concord levels in supporter turnout.
The Yellowjackets eased past the Pirates in an exciting game to capture their second state title in the past three years. The fans were right on top of the action all the way as the young men, cheerleaders, students and the entire community did a great job of creating memories that will be relived for many years to come.
There are times that it just flat out feels good to be a resident of a small, rural community and this was such an occasion. The bond that exists between townspeople was there for all to see and there was a "stick together" atmosphere evident win or lose.
The emotions especially ran high in a game later in the week as the Weiner Lady Cardinals attempted to capture their first state championship in what would prove to be their last opportunity. State consolidation requirements have led to the merging of Weiner into a neighboring district and the Lady Cardinals' campus will be closed after this year.
Weiner made a valiant run to the state title game in the last year of existence, but the Lady Bluejays of Nevada County were too talented and denied a storybook finish for the Northeast Arkansas team. There were plenty of tears at the end for the small Weiner squad (only seven players) and we suspect there were a lot in the stands as well.
Our Delta Publishing newspapers had four teams in state title games and, unfortunately, we came up 1-3 in the won-loss column.
Two powerhouses from traditionally-strong District 2A-3 came up just short as the Marmaduke Lady Greyhounds fell to undefeated Norphlet and the East Poinsett County Warriors were denied a third straight title by the Cedar Ridge Timberwolves (in one of the most exciting of the 14 games in the tournament). The fans of both schools were out in force, supporting their teams in solid small town fashion. Growing up in a close-knit community certainly has its advantages.