Clash Of The Basketball Titans
While the Arkansas State High School Basketball Championship games begin in Hot Springs on Thursday, it’s Saturday morning’s Class 7A state title game that will be the most anticipated clash.
Bentonville (20-7) and junior star Malik Monk (6-4, 190) will try to dethrone two-time defending champion North Little Rock (23-5) and Florida commit Kevaughn Allen( 6-3, 180) at 11 a.m.
It’s a match up at the Summit Arena of arguably the state’s best two basketball players and a pair of the nation’s best as well.
“I expect it to be a full house,” North Little Rock head coach Johnny Rice said. “I know every time Malik plays somewhere it has been capacity and it should be a great, great battle.”
Monk - a 2016 consensus top five player nationally with offers from Arkansas and Kentucky among others - had a whopping 42 points as Bentonville downed Van Buren 63-48 Monday in one semifinal game.
“We are so close to accomplishing our goal to win our school’s first state title,” Monk said. “We know it is going to take a huge effort against a great team.”
Allen had 33 points - including two game-winning free throw with 5.9 seconds - in the Charging Wildcats’ 66-65 victory over Fayetteville in the other semifinal match up.
North Little Rock junior Adrian Moore - who had 12 points - stole an in-bounds pass to give his team a chance to win.
“I had to just keep my poise and stay calm and knock down,” Allen said. “This is a good feeling and it was a great game.”
It will be a rematch of last season’s semifinal in which Monk scored 30 points, but current Razorback point guard Anton Beard and Allen both had 28 and the Charging Wildcats took down the Tigers 77-64.
Rice will be trying to win his third state title in as many seasons although the previous one has been vacated at this moment due to alleged violations.
“In three years here this is as proud as I have been just because of what we have had to go face the last month,” Rice said. “For those kids to focus themselves like they have the last week and a half is unreal and players are stepping up.”
Moore - who has offers from Tulsa, Wake Forest and LaSalle and is getting interest from Arkansas, Tennessee and Kansas, is excited to be a part of the big game again.
“There is going to be so much hype about that game,” Moore said. “We had a great win and we are going to have to regroup and get ready for Bentonville.
“Malik is a great player and you can’t take anything away from him,” Moore added. “We are going to have to do our best to contain him. I have faith in my team to get this championship.”
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