February 12, 2014 Edition

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Lawrence Co.
tradition lives

John Bland

The 2014 just-ended Lawrence County Basketball Tournament again lived up to the excitement of past years. Lawrence County apparently has one of the few and oldest county tournaments in the state. Attempts by The TD and others to pinpoint the beginning of the tournament have been unsuccessful, but it has existed for many decades.

The tournament once consisted of at least eight schools, including Clover Bend, Lynn, Portia and Strawberry, and is now down to five: Black Rock, Hillcrest, Hoxie, Sloan-Hendrix and Walnut Ridge. Commemorative T-shirts for the tournament stated "The Fab 5" on the front with a listing of the five schools on the back. Next year, the number will be four.

This year's host, Black Rock High School, did an outstanding job. Lori McKenzie, BRHS principal, and the Black Rock staff had to make daily scheduling adjustments due to the weather. The ice and snow caused all schools in the county to be closed the entire week for an unscheduled winter break. Lori said, "I couldn't have done it without a lot of great people and a lot of their dedicated time."

In dramatic fashion, Vivica Smith, a Black Rock Elementary second-grader, opened the tournament play on Thursday with a series of flips, the splits and a fast-break basket. KAIT-TV, Region 8, captured her performance on camera. Vivica is the daughter of Nick and Veronica Smith.


The county tournament is always packed, and this year, with five nights of games condensed into three days, it was standing room only with crowds flowing out to the lobby. As one game would end, a few fans would leave only to have their vacated seats immediately filled by waiting spectators. Most fans just came early and stayed late for all the games, including Saturday's finals in six divisions.

Since our county schools are mostly in different conferences, the county tournament is one of the few opportunities for these schools to face off. Competing against each other, often for the first and only time of the season, the outcome of the games is often uncertain.

Fans from the various schools sit shoulder to shoulder, trying to be on their best behavior. However, with the slightest questionable call by the referees, the politeness is quickly forgotten. Players also give their all for a chance at a championship and bragging rights. This usually results in rough-and-tumble games with player emotions at a peak.


For the Black Rock Zebras, the tournament was bittersweet. With plans for the Black Rock campus to close at the end of this school year, this was the last time for the school to host the event and for the Zebra teams to represent their school in it.

The Black Rock senior boys, coached by Bobby Whitener, played their hearts out. Despite their semifinal loss to eventual tourney champs, Hillcrest, the Black Rock team was fiercely competitive, upholding the long and successful basketball tradition of the BRHS Zebras.

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