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story.lead_photo.caption Marleigh Dodson

Jacksonville Coach Marian Kursh was not going to make Shymaryia Christopher wait.

Kursh said she recognized last season that Christopher's talents would be wasted on the freshman team and promoted the 5-9 forward to the varsity roster. Christopher has not disappointed her coach.

"Typically, ninth-graders go with the ninth-grade coach, but she has an ability that's very special," said Kursh, who said Christopher is averaging approximately 21 points and 8 rebounds a game. "I wanted to grab her early. She's very young and still growing, but she is maturing."

When it comes to going after the ball, there is nothing bashful about Shy. In Wednesday's 41-21 home victory over Little Rock Hall, Christopher picked up four steals and turned three of them into breakaway layups. She also finished with a game-high 16 points and eight rebounds.

In Tuesday's victory at Maumelle, Kursh said there was a lot of attention being paid to Christopher.

"They were all over her and she started to get frustrated," Kursh said. "I said, 'Look, that says a lot about who you are as a player. They obviously know you can score and they don't want you do to that. But guess what? You have other roles. You can be a great screener, a great rebounder, a great passer. You have other things you can do.' She's doing those things and I'm loving it."

Jacksonville (12-12) won its fourth consecutive game Friday night, beating Little Rock Parkview 54-52.


Making an impression

Good things tend to happen when Greg Johnson touches the ball.

Johnson, a 6-4 junior forward for Little Rock Hall, has enjoyed a stellar season for the Warriors -- averaging close to 20 points per game. Hall Coach Jon Coleman said Johnson should be a better-known player by the end of the season.

"Greg is a very versatile basketball player," Coleman said after Wednesday's 50-42 victory over Jacksonville. "We depend on him to do a lot of things, and tonight he was able to score the basketball and I think he did a good job on the boards. I also thought he defended well."

Johnson scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half as the Warriors built a 22-11 halftime advantage. He hit 8 of 9 free-throw attempts and grabbed 5 rebounds.

"I think I'm playing well, but then again, I think there's some things I can do better," Johnson said. "My coaches are hard on me every day and I want them to be. They want me to get better. I've had an OK season, but it can be better."

Johnson scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Friday's 58-54 victory over Little Rock Christian.

Coleman said Johnson may not be the most treasured player in central Arkansas, but he is valued by his teammates.

"Let me say this, we appreciate him a lot here at Hall High," Coleman said. "We're definitely glad to have him. I think he is somewhat a secret of the Class of 2019 because he's a 6-4 guard who's versatile. He can do a lot of things."


All in the family

To say it's been a special season for the Dodson family would be an understatement.

Rocky Dodson is the coach for the state's Class 1A No. 1 boys team Omaha. Marleigh Dodson recently scored her 2,000th career point for the state's Class 1A No. 1 girls team Norfork.

"Special isn't a strong enough word," Coach Dodson said.

Led by 6-6 senior Garrett Matlock, Omaha is enjoying its best season ever. The Eagles (32-1) are scoring 67.1 points per game and are riding a 13-game winning streak.

Matlock, who averages 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, is within 150 points of reaching the 2,000-point milestone.

"He plays with his back to the basket, but he's better facing the basket," Coach Dodson said. "He's always got someone on his back. He wears other players like a jacket."

The Eagles finished 31-10 a year ago, but they lost four of their last five games.

"We're a year older and a little more hungry," Coach Dodson said. "We had a good year last year but kind of fizzled at the end. I think we're tougher mentally this year. I can tell you that we're getting everybody's best shot. It's getting harder and harder with every game."

While the Dodsons are enjoying their respective seasons, it has been a rare occasion when the coach has been able to see his daughter play.

"When she scored her 2,000th point, I had to watch it on Facebook Live," Coach Dodson said. "I had some proud tears running down my cheeks that night."

Marleigh Dodson has averaged 17.5 ppg during her four years at Norfork. She has hit 65 percent of her two-point shots and is a career 34 percent shooter from three-point range. She has signed to play with Lyon College next season.

If the two teams experience the regional success they are expected to enjoy, both Omaha and Norfork will advance to the state tournament in Morrilton. The ultimate goal, said Coach Dodson, is to have both father and daughter competing in the state championship games in Hot Springs.

"This is my 24th year as a coach, and I don't think it's going to ever get more special than this," Coach Dodson said. "Hopefully, it will continue."


Rolling Senators

Joe T. Robinson has won 8 of its past 9 games, including a 70-62 upset of Baptist Prep on Jan. 26. Senior Cameron Bush has played a large part in the Senators' recent success, producing back-to-back 30-point-plus efforts during the streak.

"Even when he doesn't fill the scoring column, he's been important to what we do," Robinson Coach Anwar Hardin said. "He controls the pace of the game. He also puts the ball in the hole and he's one of our better defenders."

Bush, a 6-0 guard, scored 31 points, handed out 8 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds in the victory over Baptist Prep. Four nights later, Bush was good for 30 points, 6 assists and 3 steals in a 78-56 victory over Lisa Academy.

Bush's numbers (10 points, 4 assists, 6 of 8 free throws) were more pedestrian in Thursday's 65-54 victory over Fountain Lake.

"Cam's having a great season," Hardin said. "He got into foul trouble [against Fountain Lake] but we were still somewhat controlling the game. I didn't want to risk him getting that third foul."


Fitting end

Conway St. Joseph and Guy-Perkins have been longtime rivals in Faulkner County.

So it was fitting that St. Joseph was the final school Guy-Perkins Coach John Hutchcraft faced in his last two home games with the Thunderbirds on Friday night.

St. Joseph Coach Jessie Ross, who played for the Lady Bulldogs under former coach Chris Kordsmeier from 2002-2005, told her team before Friday's game it was not going to be a normal game between the two schools.

"There were going to be a lot of people there supporting Hutchcraft," Ross said. "But if we just played our game, we would be just fine."

The game was tied at 48-48 entering the fourth quarter, but St. Joseph outscored Guy-Perkins 27-12 in the fourth quarter to earn a 75-60 victory. Brooklyn Kordsmeier led St. Joseph with 22 points. Piper Mullaney finished with 20 points, Alexis Roach had 14 and Emily Briggler added 11.

"St. Joe's always had a good rivalry with Guy," Ross said. "I love it. I love the atmosphere. There's always good basketball when we play each other."

Hutchcraft is retiring after a 42-year career in which he's won 10 state championships (five boys titles, five girls titles).

"He's a great coach," Ross said. "He's changed a lot of Arkansas basketball, not just Guy-Perkins. It's been fun watching him throughout the years. Good luck to whoever takes his place."

Sports on 02/04/2018

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