Beard's On A Mission

Arkansas signee Anton Beard (6-1, 180), who will lead his North Little Rock team into a Class 7A state tournament semifinal with Bentonville Monday at 2:30 p.m. in Conway, has his sights set on being the Razorbacks' starting point guard next season.

CONWAY - Despite Saturday's clunker in Alabama, Arkansas has closed with a hot finish this season that had future Razorback point guard Anton Beard excited.

Beard, who will lead North Little Rock into a Class 7A state tournament semifinal battle with Bentonville on Monday, is projected as the point guard of the future for Arkansas (21-10, 10-8).

"They have been playing pretty good," Beard said. "They have been beating a lot of teams since people were doubting them about losing. They have been doing pretty good overall and hopefully they will go a long way in the tournament."

Beard said the fact that freshman Bobby Portis – the only player to start every game for Arkansas - has had such an impact for the Razorbacks is big for him as well.

"It motivates me more and my mindset is just going in there and taking a starting position and hopefully playing," Beard said. "That really motivates me as much as he is playing."

Beard had 17 points to help lead the Charging Wildcats (24-2) over West Memphis Friday night as he tries to achieve his other goal of winning a state championship this season.

He is part of a team that has at least four Division I players with junior KeVaughn Allen (19), junior K.J. Hill (12) and sophomore Adrian Moore (10) also shining on Friday.

The Charging Wildcats scored the last 11 points of the first half after the game was deadlocked 28-28.

North Little Rock head coach Johnny Rice said it was a matter of finally playing together.

"We went through a stretch where we didn't play together," Rice said. "I thought a lot of our shots were created off the dribble. We didn't use each other to create shots."

Beard agreed that his team is talented, but has to play together.

"We have a lot of D-Is on our team and sometimes we notice that and take advantage of it and know that we can," Beard said, "but during tougher teams we have to play off of each other."

North Little Rock will face a stiff challenge on Monday when they face a Bentonville squad featuring sophomore sensation Malik Monk.

"We won that game (against West Memphis) because we had better players than they did," Rice said. "It was that simple. There wasn't anything else that we did. When we play Monday, the players we see will be better."

Monk had 23 points and fellow sophomore guard Tyreek Dixon 12 as Bentonville destroyed Cabot 67-36 on Friday night.

"Malik is an all-around great player and one of the top in the country," Beard said. "He is going to do what he does, but at the end of the day it isn't just a one-man game so we are not just going to go in there and just focus on him. We are going to go in and play team ball and do what we do and hopefully come out with a win."

The other semifinal will feature Springdale (22-6) playing Fort Smith Northside (21-6) at 5:30 p.m.

Springdale downed Fayetteville 54-40 on Saturday despite 17 points and 11 rebounds from Purple Dog junior C.J. O'Grady, an Arkansas football target at tight end.

Northside edged Van Buren 60-54 despite Arkansas sophomore basketball recruiting target Mitchell Smith have 23 points and 14 rebounds.





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