When pre-season basketball polls were released, sports pundits had the Nashville Scrappers picked seventh or eighth out of eight teams in District 7-4A. Saturday night on their home court, the Scrappers played head to head with Central Arkansas Christian for the district championship before falling 45-35.
Nashville will enter this week’s regional tournament at Scrapper Arena as the second seed from District 7-4A after mercy ruling Malvern 60-35 Thursday night and upsetting top-seeded Arkadelphia 56-54 in the semifinals Friday night.
“It was a great week,” Coach Damon Williams said of his team’s showing in the district tournament. “I’m extremely proud of them. They played well. I’m proud of our seniors. They have started something for the underclassmen to continue. They expect us to be in there. We’re going to make it a habit. What the seniors started, we’re going to continue.”
A win in the regional Thursday night would send the Scrappers to the state Class 4A tournament at Lonoke next week. Local sports observers say that would be the first time since the 1960s for the Scrappers to compete at state.
Nashville and Malvern split their series during the regular season, with both teams winning at home.
Thursday night, the Scrappers started strong and never looked back, jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter and extending the margin to 31-11 at halftime. LaMichael Pettway led the team in scoring with 14 points. Freshman Darius Hopkins was next with 13, followed by Brandon Shamrock with 12 and Cameron Alexander with 10.
The Scrappers recorded 33 rebounds against the Leopards, 12 offensive and 21 defensive. Shamrock was the leading rebounder with 10.
The Scrappers had 10 turnovers for the night. Shamrock recorded 5 blocks.
Nashville shot 54 percent from the field, 22 percent from 3-point range and hit 10 of 19 free throws for 52 percent.
The tournament highlight for the Scrappers came Friday night with the win over Arkadelphia, ranked sixth in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Class 4A poll.
The Badgers took the lead early and were on top 17-12 after the first quarter. The Scrappers fought back, outscoring the Badgers 19-11 in the second quarter to lead 36-33 at halftime.
Arkadelphia led 17-12 after the third, but the Scrappers put up 13 points to Arkadelphia’s 9 in the fourth to seal the win. “We were very excited Friday night after the win. It was a very emotional game,” Williams said.
“The crowd was great,” Williams said. “Our student body is second to none.” Scrapper Arena was near capacity for the conference showdown, and the student section was large and vocal. When the Badgers went to the free throw line late in the game, “There was no way [#11, Blake] was going to make the shot with our student section. Our crowd was as loud as any high school gym in the state.”
Alexander was the leading scorer for the Scrappers with 18 points, including 7-9 from the field and 3-5 from the free throw line. He also hit a 3-point shot.
Pettway added 16, with 12 from Shamrock, 8 from Hopkins and 2 from Jamie Newton. Shamrock and Pettway tied for rebounding honors with 6 each, followed by Alexander with 5.
Shamrock blocked 3 Badger shots.
Alexander and Shamrock had 2 steals each.
Central Arkansas Christian and Nashville fought it out for the district championship Saturday night. Although the Mustangs won, the Scrappers “played well,” Williams said. “We didn’t get tired. CAC is a good team. They packed in the zone to keep the ball away from our 3 big guys.”
CAC held Nashville to hitting 16 of 48 shots form the field and 0 out of 17 shots from 3-point range. The Scrappers hit 3 of 5 from the free throw line, including 2 for 2 from Alexander.
Pettway scored 18 points to lead Nashville. Alexander had 12, with 5 from Shamrock rounding out the Scrapper scoring.
Nashville had 18 rebounds against CAC and stole the ball 13 times. The Scrappers had 9 turnovers for the game.
After winning 2 of 3 games and advancing to regionals, said Williams he and the Scrappers appreciate the support from the community. “Everybody in town is a Scrapper. They want to do well,” Williams said. “The support from the other coaches is great. I appreciate that. It’s easy to get something going here. Coach [Billy] Dawson does it right in football. The kids know how to act when they get to me. All I have to do is keep it going. We want to build a program. I hope everybody will be patient with us.”