PCDT Sports: A look back at 2016
January saw basketball season in full swing and also saw the finals of the 69th Annual NEA Invitational Tournament that was held at the Convocation Center in Jonesboro. Bay and EPC squared off in the boys' Division I finals with Bay coming out on top 60-24. Both teams would play for another title a couple months later as Bay repeated as Class 1A state champions with a win over Emerson as EPC brought home a runner-trophy in the Class 2A state tournament. Marked Tree made a deep run in the 2A state tournament falling to EPC in the regional finals. Harrisburg's Abby Wallace was tabbed to play in the volleyball all-star game as EPC's Rachel Lard Alexis Slaughter was chosen to for the all-start cheer team. Harrisburg volleyball coach Chastan Carpino will be an assistant for the East team as Coach Payton Weathers will assist with the East cheer squad.
Several area athletes will continue their sports careers as Blake Daniels of Marked Tree signed to play baseball for Crowder College, Connor Haag inked to play football for Trinity International University and Caroline Parker will continue her education and play volleyball for Hendrix College. Marked Tree's D'Angelo Griffin will play basketball for Williams Baptist College as EPC's Montrell James and Keyon Dorsey signed to play for Crowley's Ridge College.
Baseball and softball cranked up in late March with some new faces at the helm. Pete Prater and Jason Dahl took over the softball and respectively at Trumann with Adam Chamberlin and Brandon Powell taking over the same duties at EPC. Bay's baseball team was the only area team to advance to state tournament play. Walker Hammond of Harrisburg ended his high school career as the Class 4A state champion in the discus. Blake Daniels was again selected to play in the Xtra Innings Summer Classic as well as being chosen to play in the high school all-star game. Dalton Vaughn of Lepanto won the ASA Open C archery title with a score of 216.
Two new coaches will walk the sidelines as Charles Benintende replaces long time Harrisburg Keith Davis and Brandon Powell took over for Brian Weathers at EPC. Trumann, EPC and Marked Tree all saw successful seasons as each team advanced play in the state football playoffs. Trumann finished the season at 7-4 losing to Dumas 30-15 in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs. EPC finished their season with a 6-5 record as they lost on the road to Foreman 33-30 in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs. Marked Tree was also on the road for the first round of the Class 2A playoffs losing to Moutianburg 41-8 to finish the season at 6-5.
Tennis and golf saw players do well in each of their sports as well, The EPC Lady Warriors won their district meet as Kurstin Bryan won the singles title with Becca Bishop and Madison Wiggins won the district doubles title. EPC's Jarrett Householder and Trey Howard played singles at the Class 1A state tennis tournament as Isaiah Taylor and Travis Joplin competed in the doubles play. Railey Jennings and Bryan of EPC played in the singles with Bryan finishing in fourth place as Bishop and Wiggins played in in the doubles bracket. Marked Tree's Jayla Carter also played in the 2A singles bracket.
EPC's Cheer team competed in the Class 1A-2A State Cheer competition in Hot Springs and brought back the state title trophy as the Marked Tree Cheer team brought back the runner-up trophy. The Bay Yellowjackets finished out 2016 just the way they started it with a 49-45 win over EPC to claim the 70th annual boys' Division I NEA Invitational Tournament.
The Democrat Tribune congratulates all the teams and individuals for their achievements and is looking forward to a great 2017 year of sports.