JONESBORO — New coaches are in charge of girls’ basketball at Riverside and Buffalo Island Central this season.
Riverside alumnus Tyler Timms is leading the Lady Rebels after a successful six-year stint at Cossatot River. Chuck Winkelman, a 32-year coaching veteran with experience at the college and high school levels, has taken over at Buffalo Island Central.
The Lady Rebels and Lady Mustangs are in the 2A-3 conference, which was dominated last season by eventual state champion Melbourne. Melbourne remains in Class 2A for the new two-year classification cycle, but the Lady Bearkatz, Sloan-Hendrix and Salem have moved into 2A-2, where Tuckerman is also part of the lineup.
Earle, a state semifinalist last season, moves into 2A-3 along with Cross County and East Poinsett County, joining Bay, BIC, Marmaduke, Rector and Riverside. Marmaduke and Riverside were state quarterfinalists last season, although the Lady Rebels have a different look after losing all five starters.
The only change in the 3A-3 conference lineup involves Harrisburg replacing Trumann. Corning, Gosnell, Hoxie, Manila, Osceola, Piggott, Rivercrest and Walnut Ridge all return to 3A-3. Newport remains in 3A-2.
Armorel, Hillcrest, KIPP Blytheville, Mammoth Spring, Marked Tree and Maynard have girls’ basketball teams in 1A-3.
In Class 4A, Trumann is new to the 4A-3 while Wynne remains in 4A-5.
The Lady Yellowjackets return three starters as they look to improve on last season’s 11-21 finish, which included a 2-12 conference record.
Juniors Mykaela Jolly, Christan Reed and Destiny Bogard all started for Bay last season. Coach Michael Slater is also counting on junior Lilly Williams as well as sophomores Marlena Hipsher, Hannah Lane and Keyana Dodson. Game-by-game matchups will determine starters, Slater said.
“With no off-season camps, I would say playing together and getting experience as we move forward (are areas to improve). If we stay healthy, I believe we can compete this year,” Slater said. “However, with COVID, I have already had to cancel and move games. It will be a trying time for a small team this year.”
Buffalo Island Central
Winkelman takes over at BIC to continue a career that has included 18 seasons as a college head coach, including nine at Hendrix and six at Millsaps. He has also spent time coaching at Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian.
BIC was 5-26 last season, including a 1-13 record in 2A-3 play. Winkelman said the Lady Mustangs have shown a desire to keep improving each day and that they need to improve their sureness with the basketball, attention to detail, defensive rotations and communication.
“We need to continue to be the best versions of ourselves every day,” said Winkelman, who has more than 300 career coaching victories at the college level. “Lack of depth and size/length will be challenges we must find ways to overcome.”
BIC returns a couple of returning starters in 5-6 junior guard Haley Milligan and 5-7 junior guard/forward Lexi Riley. The starting lineup also includes 5-5 senior guard Olivia Manning, 5-8 sophomore Emily Stull and 5-5 sophomore Krystyn Hawkins. Chareigan Davis, a 5-7 senior, will also see action.
Timms led Cossatot River to an average of 26 victories per season and five conference championships in six seasons. The Lady Eagles reached the state tournament in each of his last two seasons.
Riverside has a new starting five, but Timms said the Lady Rebels have quality depth with 11 players he feels comfortable putting on the court.
“I think it’s an adjustment with a new coach and new system, but the girls have done a great job of showing up every day and buying in,” Timms said. “Obviously we are young and inexperienced at the senior high level, but we don’t feel that will be a huge deal to this team. The biggest thing for me is our ball-handling and our toughness. If we get better in those two areas, I think we could have a really nice year.”
Timms expects senior Anna Meurer, who scored 19 points against Calico Rock, to be one of the Lady Rebels’ leading scorers. Senior Alexis Courtney is also in the lineup along with freshmen Ali Towles, Gracie Washington and Kalli Blocker. Sophomore Mackenzie Thomas has started a couple of games early in the season.
Sophomore Hannah Gosa and freshman Amber Courtney will help in the post, Timms said.
“I think it will be a thing where we will get better as the year goes on, but that’s what you want to do as a team anyways,” Timms said. “We play in one of the stronger conferences around and probably the strongest conference in 2A year in and year out. Marmaduke will be the team to beat, but anybody you play on a nightly basis can sneak up on you, so we have to play with a chip on our shoulder every night.”