Considering the amount of success they’ve had over the years, seeing Junction City get off to an 8-2 start isn’t all that surprising.
What is surprising is that they have gotten that record before Christmas.
On Tuesday, the Dragons will look to continue their solid start at the Ultimate Ford Basketball Tournament at Mountain Home.
Junction City opens against Mountain Home two years after they collided with the Bombers winning 63-57 at home.
Junction City will face either Greene County Tech or Mountain Home Christian Academy in the second round before wrapping up play on Thursday.
The trip is the second to Mountain Home for the Dragons, and coach Kendall Hutcheson said he likes making the lengthy trek up north.
“I like going to this tournament because it helps us build a little bit of camaraderie and help us grow as a team,” Hutcheson said. “The guys have always really liked going up there because it gets us away from everybody around here. We hang out together, and I’ve really enjoyed that, but we also play larger schools and playing a different style of basketball than we see in southern Arkansas sometimes with a different style of officiating honestly than we see down here sometimes.
“We’ll have some quality teams, some good teams with great records already. Teams that are going to be better at the end. I think everything we do, we’re trying to build toward the state tournament. We enjoy going up there. I think it really helps us.”
Last week, the Dragons played three games in three days with their lone blemish coming at Dumas in their final game of that stretch.
“We didn’t play nearly as well as we did on Friday. We came out and played just a little bit timid and maybe underestimated ourselves a little bit,” Hutcheson said. “We played a bad second quarter and found ourselves down 21 at halftime. Except for the second quarter, we played them pretty even. We’ve got to work on our confidence a little bit. They’ve got to understand that they’re a good ballclub and they can compete with anybody.”
Hutcheson said the Dragons’ lack of patience hurt them against Dumas.
“We do a lot of film study, and sometimes when you look at a team on film, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re good,’” Hutcheson said. “I think our guys looked at the film and it’s like coach (Xavier) Diamond told them, ‘They didn’t do any of the things we told them to do.’ Our press offense looked great in practice, two minutes into the game, it looks great two times in a row, but then we try to do too much.
“I think it was not being as patient as necessary. It’s like we told them, ‘You have to be patient and play our style of game and not their style of game.’ It’s like we came out and tried to do too much too fast. We really played into their hands. I think we were a little bit timid and not attacking when we needed to.”
Hutcheson said Saturday’s loss is one his team cam learn from.
“This is why we went,” Hutcheson said. “We wanted to go play some more good, quality teams and get some more experience. Dumas is really, really good, and we wanted to play them just to get that experience and put it on film for us to show our weaknesses to our guys and build off of and grow from. I think it will help us in the long run.”
Junction City has already posted two four-game winning streaks, and Hutcheson said the team’s work ethic was the key reason to their success.
“I think just the work ethic in practice,” Hutcheson said. “The guys have worked really hard. We’re not very deep this year, but the guys that we do have are practicing hard, playing hard. They’re doing everything we ask them to do in practice. I think that’s carrying over on to the court.”
But perhaps the biggest factor for the Dragons is that they are 5-0 in conference play, although they start January with showdowns against Woodlawn and Fordyce.
They will also play a more normal schedule than have in the past where the success of the football team often meant the Dragons would have to make up games and play several during a week.
“I think this is the first time we’ve played a conference game before Christmas in about six years,” Hutcheson said.
“After the Christmas break, we play three, four games a week a lot of times in conference just trying to catch up, so it will be nice not to have to play those four games a week and end up putting our kids at a disadvantage. That will be nice.
“Right now, we’re 5-0, but we come back from Christmas and have one of our tougher games right off the bat with Woodlawn and then Fordyce in there. We’ll have some tough games coming back, but we’re excited so far.”