FORT SMITH - Just minutes after shining despite playing hurt against NEO on Monday night and leading his team to an outright Bi-State Conference East Division title, University of Arkansas Fort Smith standout and future Razorback Sonny Weems spotted a visitor on his way to the locker room.
The visitor was none other University of Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, who will have Weems on his team next season.
After some small talk about the neck being sore, Weems declared "but I am a warrior."
"This I know," Heath responded with a big smile on his face.
The 6-6, 200-pound Weems scored 14 of his game-high 22 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead the No. 6 Lions to a hard-fought 64-58 win over the Golden Norsemen at the Stubblefield Center and extend their winning streak to seven.
It came just a few days after the former West Memphis star landed hard on the ground during a win the Lions (25-3, 5-1) were in the process of getting over Carl Albert 85-70 on Thursday night.
"He got flipped going up and came straight down on his face and I'll be honest with you, I thought he might have broke it," UAFS head coach Jeremy Cox said. "But he got up and kept playing until we put the game away and then came over and said 'Coach, my head is hurting, I need to come out,' so we got him out and he's been getting treatment for it. He was in a lot of pain, but he is a tough kid."
Weems was 7-of-8 from the floor on Monday night, four of those on slams and another one a 3-pointer and two from his mid-range game. He was also 5-of-8 from the free throw line.
And like most great players, he took over the game when his team needed him to do so.
With his team down a point, Weems proceeded to score 10 of his team's next 20 points as he helped turn a 38-37 deficit into a 57-48 advantage.
That run started with the high-flying Weems getting loose for a slam on a set play and he stuffed home another soon afterwards on the break.
He then scored on a spinning shot in the lane, drained a shot just inside the 3-point arc from the left baseline and then capped his surge with a free throw.
"When the game got tight, he just made all the big plays," Cox said. "He made them inside and outside, made them in transition and made them with his defense. That first dunk was really special and really got us going. He is a big-time player that makes big-time plays. He makes plays that help you win and he expects to win. He may look like a finesse player, but he is tough, tough, tough."
Weems is averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season, shooting 53.5 percent from the field, 33 percent from 3-point range and also 70 percent from the free throw line.
"I think I have had a very good all-around year, but the most important thing is we have won basketball games," Weems said. "I'm most proud of how much better a defensive player I have become."
He is as happy as anyone about the three-game winning streak the Razorbacks are currently riding, a streak that includes wins over then No. 7 Florida and at then No. 10 Tennessee sandwiched around a win over Alabama that he got to see first-hand at Bud Walton Arena.
"I am really happy for them and now it looks like they are going to go to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise," Weems said. "You had a rumor going around that Coach Heath wasn't going to be there next year and that had me wondering. But they have got everything going in the right way now and I am looking forward to playing for him next season."
Weems is also excited about the recent talk that current Razorback star Ronnie Brewer may return for his senior instead of heading to the NBA after this season.
"I've heard that he might and if he does come back, we will be better than we have been in a long time," Weems said. "I really think if he does we could compete for a national championship next season."
UAFS will close its regular season Thursday night with a home game against Eastern Oklahoma State and then move on to the Region II tournament March 10-12 in Shawnee, Okla.
The winner will move on to the National Junior College Association Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., on March 19-25.
The Lions will enter the regional with the Western top seed while Eastern Division champ Seminole State (22-6, 7-1) and The Redlands (23-5, 5-3) are the other top two contenders.
"We are clicking now just in time for the regional tournament," Weems said. "The goal all along has been to get to the national tournament and that's what we plan to do. We got upset last year in the regional. I am not taking another upset this year."
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