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SouthArk basketball teams enjoying hot starts

by Jason Avery | November 27, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

South Arkansas Community College men’s and women’s basketball coach Nate Davis has much to be happy about these days.

Both basketball teams head into December having gone undefeated.

The men’s team is 5-0 after a 101-52 thumping of Royal Ambassadors Prep back on Nov. 19, while the women’s team is 3-0 after upending Arkansas Baptist 73-69 in overtime on Monday.

The men reentered the NJCAA Division II poll for a second time at No. 20 this week, while the women were also ranked earlier.

“Getting national recognition for not one, but for both programs is huge for us,” Davis said. “These young men and women put in a lot of time and effort into being a student-athlete at the collegiate level and it’s paying off. I have always told those around the program to hold the vision and trust the process. We still have a lot to work on, but we are headed in the right direction. I truly believe we could surprise some teams this year.”

The men’s team has been very explosive, averaging 88.6 points per game with Xavier Hall (15.6) and Michael Pryor (14.4) in double figures with former Strong standout Derrion Davis (9.8) also enjoying a solid start. The three also lead the Stars in rebounding.

In Monday’s road victory, the Stars got great balance with Lexi Pyle and Darbee Forte each scoring 16 points, while Dyinasty Davis and Cierra Gardner had 10 each.

The Stars also showed plenty of resolve.

After an Addison McNiel 3-pointer with under two seconds left to play gave SouthArk a 62-59 lead, Arkansas Baptist hit a trey of its own at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

But the Stars prevailed with Forte drilling a 3-pointer with 38 seconds left in the extra session to give SouthArk the lead for good.

If there has been one key to the Stars’ success for both teams, it has been the addition of Nate Evans as an assistant coach.

“Bringing on Nate Evans has been a huge addition for us,” Davis said. “Without his support and guidance, this would not be possible. We added a few more pieces to the puzzle for both the men’s and women’s teams, and our experienced players are able to help close out tight games down the stretch.”

The Stars have welcomed fans to their renovated gym for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic. So far, attendance has been solid, which in turn has created a tough atmosphere for opponents to contend with.

“We’ve had good crowds,” said Heath Waldrop, the director of marketing and public relations at SouthArk. “We’re averaging more than 200. Tuesday’s (Nov. 16 against East Texas Baptist JV) was phenomenal, with lots of very loud students in attendance. Coach has gone on and on about how important the student support was that night, and how often the fans make a difference in close games.”

Davis also thanked the fans for their turnout.

“I also want to give a shoutout to our fans,” he said. “Our fanbase has been amazing. Being on the road, but feeling at home is a great feeling.”

With conference play looming, Davis is hoping both teams can build off of their solid starts.

“In order to win games, you must first be competitive,” Davis said. “I believe we checked that off the box last year for the majority of games for both programs. We are hungry for some conference wins this year.

“Both teams have really impressed me thus far and I’m excited to see how we carry over this momentum through the holiday season. We look forward to the continued support of this community and hope to make you all proud.”

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