By John R. Schirmer
The dry-erase “KBA Multi-Court Playmaker” in Coach Damon Williams’ office was never erased.
Right in the middle of the board, between the two courts, was a list which stayed up through four months of basketball.
It was the coaches’ pre-season poll for District 7-4A. Right there for coaches, players and visitors to see.
Arkadelphia was picked first.
The Scrappers were picked last.
Williams wrote the rankings on the board before the season started. The dry-erase stayed in his office at the old Scrapper Gym throughout the season, even after the basketball program moved to new quarters at Scrapper Arena. Williams still used the office while a p.e. class met in the old gym.
When the longest season in school history, almost four months, was over last week, the Scrappers had advanced to the final four teams in Class 4A. They went to the state tournament for the first time since 1963 and won their first two state games ever before falling to Lonoke in the semifinals March 10.
“I enjoyed it,” Williams said Friday morning as he reflected on the season. “I had fun. Other coaches don’t realize how good it is here at Nashville.”
The season started strong for the Scrappers as they went 6-0, a streak which included a win over Bauxite in their first game at Scrapper Arena. Blevins handed the team its first loss in the finals of the Nashville Bankers Holiday Classic.
Conference play saw ups and downs for the Scrappers, who finished strong and took the runner-up trophy at the 7-4A tournament in Scrapper Arena.
Nashville finished third in the regional tournament, also at Scrapper Arena, and moved on to state at Lonoke.
Along the way, fans turned out in large numbers to support the Scrappers. The arena was designed with a student section in mind, which was populated by the Bleacher Creatures. Those students rode with parents or filled two buses for the semifinal trip to Lonoke, where they sparred with their counterparts from the host school.
“I loved the support,” Williams said. “The community went the extra mile to watch us. The student section was great. I hope they continue next year. [Athletic Director James “Bunch”] Nichols realizes that. The support is tremendous.”
The Scrappers picked up some “signature wins” during the season, according to Williams. “Arkansas Baptist, Malvern, those were big wins. Arkadelphia was a big win. Maumelle was number one in the state” when the Scrappers defeated the Hornets in the state quarterfinals. Those were huge steps for the program. And we had a shot at the finals.”
As a result of the Scrappers’ turnaround, “The kids know we can win. The community realizes this sport can be [successful] here at Nashville. It can happen,” Williams said.
The players bought into Williams’ style as the season progressed. “I’m very intense on the sidelines. It took them a bit to get used to me. I expect them to get after it and play hard. That’s all I wanted,” Williams said.
“The kids know basketball can be successful. That’s a whole different outlook. THe new arena made a huge difference. It’s second to none,” Williams said.
“It was fun to watch the kids grow. Every day they wanted to come to practice. That’s hard to do,” Williams said.
The Scrappers had “great senior leadership. I’m going to miss them. Other players looked up to them and respected what they did,” Williams said.
Brandon Shamrock likely will receive some notice from college coaches, Williams said. Cameron Alexander has already signed to play football at Ouachita Baptist. “He’s a great competitor. He’ll do well at OBU,” Williams said.
With the season completed, Williams said he will help with the football offseason program and start planning for the next basketball season. “I want to support the other sports like they’ve helped me. The support here is amazing. I appreciate the faculty, administration, everybody.”
Assistant coaches Aaron Worthen and Jerry Baker worked with Williams during the season. Baker served as strength and conditioning coach for the Scrappers. In addition to being an assistant with the high school program, Worthen was head coach for junior Scrapper basketball. Williams helped him most days before senior high practice.
All three coaches were on the bench for games.
“I want to work together,” Williams said.
Williams marks the third head coach in three years for the high school basketball program. “We need stability,” he said. “I plan on being here. I’m looking forward to the future.”
Williams wants this season’s success to carry over into coming years. “I’m proud of our seniors. They’ve started something that we’ll continue. They can look back and say we started this. They were the first to go to the state tournament in 51 years and started the tradition. We want it year in and year out. We want people around the state talking about Nashville basketball. That’s exciting for our kids,” Williams said.
“I’m looking forward to next year and hope to go one game further.”