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Few small-school tourneys close enough for central Arkansas fans.

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD to the Arkansas High School State Finals on March 12-14 in Hot Springs will begin later this month when regional tournaments kick off at 16 sites across the state.

Of course, regional tournaments do not include the state's three largest classifications, but they give the smaller schools a chance to shine for a week on the statewide stage.

The regionals will be scattered from as far north as Bergman to as far south as Fouke and all points in between. Yes, it might be helpful to note that Bergman is in Boone County just a few short miles northeast of Harrison. Fouke, famous for the monster, is near Texarkana.

But for those living in or around Little Rock and who want to soak in some of the state's small-school action, the closest drive would be Guy (Class A, Region II), a little less than an hour from downtown Little Rock in north-central Arkansas. Near Greenbrier, which is near Conway.

An Arkansas Highway Map does help in finding these places.

It does get better come state tournament time in early March as both the 4A (in Pine Bluff at the Convention Center) and 3A (in Searcy at Riverview High School) are both less than an hour from the Capitol City.

ONE CITY, SEVEN TOURNAMENTS: The Arkansas Activities Association Board of Directors (compromised of administrators from school districts across the state) selected state and regional tournament sites Jan. 15 after hearing proposals from schools and communities interested in bidding on them.

While listening to prospective schools tell the board why they should host the respective tournaments, a bystander could only wonder, "what if?"

As in, what if all of the tournaments could be held at one geographical location and use several venues? Basketball fans could catch a 7A game at 1 p.m. and then a 2A game at another gym at 4 p.m. It would become a much-anticipated event, one that would attraction those die-hard fans of their particular school and even the casual fan just wanting to catch a good game.

For selfish reasons, central Arkansas would be the perfect location with several towns as possibilities--Little Rock, Conway, Searcy or Pine Bluff come to mind. Of course, Fort Smith, the Northwest Arkansas corridor (Fayetteville/Springdale/Rogers/ Bentonville) and Jonesboro also could pull it off with assorted venues at their disposal.

This very subject--though interview focused on Little Rock--was broached in an visit last year with Activities Association executive director Lance Taylor. He said he would not be opposed to the idea but that no suitors have ever bid on hosting all seven tournaments.

No doubt it would be a massive undertaking. But Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) officials pull it off with big national tournaments here (including one this summer in Little Rock and one last summer in Conway). If such an event can be managed for AAU basketball with hundreds of teams coming from all over the country, why not one for Arkansas' high school basketball?)

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Title Annotation:Arkansas High School State Finals
Author:Seaton, Philip
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Feb 9, 2009
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