It’s hard to imagine a more favored team for an Arkansas state title coming into this season than Sylvan Hills High School.
For starters, all five starters returned from last year’s 25-4 squad, which had roared through conference play undefeated. Guard Archie Goodwin, a Kentucky signee, established himself as one of the nation’s best prep players. Over the summer, the senior-laden Bears added firepower with the transfer of sophomore point guard Kaylon Tappin from rival Little Rock Mills. To top it all off, the squad had strong motivation to redeem itself after losing to Alma – which lost its star player to graduation – in the 5A state title game last season.
Entering November 2011, the Bears were understandably confident. Head coach Kevin Davis scheduled four regional tournaments and out-of-state games against a caliber of competition far above Sylvan Hills’ usual non-conference foes.
But, in the early going, the Bears didn’t exactly devour the big dogs.
By New Years, Sylvan Hills had lost three games – to Memphis powerhouse Southwind 89-60, to Little Rock private school Pulaski Academy 82-72 and to Tupelo, Miss. 65-60. Soon afterward, the Bears lost 75-71 to Lexington Catholic High School in Kentucky, and on Jan. 12 in Missouri hit a low point.
The opponent: New York City’s national power Christ the King. The place: Springfield, Mo., during the first round of the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions. The outcome: a 71-45 shellacking, with Sylvan Hills held to 23% shooting from the field. Senior leaders such as Dion Patton, Devin Pearson and Larry Ziegler combined for 16 points. Goodwin mustered 21 points, but missed all five free throws and ten 3-point attempts.
The reeling Bears, with a record of 9-5, had their proverbial backs against the wall.
In the five games since, Sylvan Hills have bounced back with a vengeance.
Sylvan Hills wiped out its last two Missouri tourney opponents by a combined 44 points and has come to home to surge to a 6-0 conference start, including last Friday’s grit-a-thon with Mills. Dion Patton is once again orchestrating from the point guard position, while 6-5 center Pearson flirts with a double-double every night out. Meanwhile, Goodwin seems to have gotten his mojo back, scoring near 30 points a game while shooting at a 50%+ FG rate and 80%+ FT clip.
And those highlights just keep pouring in, as seen in this reel from the Bass Pro tournament. Best play? Check around 3:11 when Goodwin contorts around defenders in the lane to pull off an aerial whirling dervish of a maneuver. It’s unclear when he and the Bears will return to earth.
Can someone please organize a high school season dunk of the year voting contest? I’ll submit this Archie “Good God-er!” from Sylvan Hills’ 53-43 Tuesday win over Watson Chapel. (H/t to Sylvan Hills student Eddie Higgins for helping find the clip)
UPDATE: There must be something in the water down there in Jefferson County. Not long after Goodwin’s dunk, a college player at UAPB pulled off what simply may be the dunk of the year at any level anywhere. In case you haven’t drunk deep of its glory, here is Savalace Townsend boinging on someone’s silly head.
For a weekly look at high school basketball in central Arkansas, check out the new ARPreps.com prepscast featuring the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Tim Cooper.