BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

Because of a tough early schedule, Bentonville West head basketball coach Greg White did not expect to be unbeaten entering this week’s Hoop Hall South Tournament in Bentonville.

But that’s precisely what the Wolverines (9-0) will do headed into Friday night’s 8:30 p.m. game with rival Bentonville (7-1).

It’s part of the three-day tournament that begins Thursday, but also doubles a conference game for both.

“To be totally honest with you, when we put this schedule together and told us we would be unbeaten, we would have just laughed at your because of how difficult it is,” White said. “The teams were playing and the travel included, but here we are.

“We started with the program and we decided we wanted to so something special and give our kids a chance to play in games that most teams don’t get to. 

“So we scheduled really difficult. People say you are trying to get ready for conference, but we are trying to do it for two reasons. We want to provide memories for our kids, but we also want to prove that we are a regional and national level program. We have kind of risen to that.”

Bentonville West opened the season with a 73-66 win over highly-regarded Little Rock Christian and followed that win wins against Bryant, Siloam Springs and neutral site wins over Texas High, Fort Worth Wyatt and Springfield Kickapoo.

The Wolverines’ last two wins have come over Blue Valley Northwest and Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton.

“These guys have answer the bell every game,” White said. “It’s been fun. I am shocked at 8-0 based on who all we played and where we have played, but I am not shocked by our kids. I know we have talented kids and our staff had done a good job. It is a pleasant surprise, but it is a surprise for sure.”

Bentonville West went 19-7 last and return three key seniors in Tucker Anderson, Tucker Bowman and Dawson Price.

“Those are guys that have been playing major minutes since their sophomore year since we started this kind of track of playing national level teams,” White said. “They are used to it and not really shook by anything. 

“We are down seven points with five minutes left to Blue Valley at its home without a shot clock. My mindset was ‘just don’t get beat by 10’ and instead we end up winning by four. Our guys just find way to win and that’s a cool thing.”

Bentonville certainly poses a big challenge per White, whose team will also play California power Harvard Westlake Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

“I think it will the better for both of us after doing this last year,” White said. “Last year was our first year to host Hoop Hall South and we mistakenly made it bigger than it was.

“Bentonville and Bentonville West, on the basketball side is a rivalry. The late two times we played it was a one-point game and a two-part game. They beat us by one here and we beat them by two there.

“Last year I think both of us put a little too much emphasis of the logo on the court and our guys were almost too jacked for it.

“…Now it is just another conference game for both of us.”

Hoop Hall Schedule:

Thursday, December 15, 2022

5:30 PM Girls – Perry (AZ) vs. Bentonville
7:00 PM Boys – Little Rock Central  vs. Moravian Prep (NC)
8:30 PM Boys – Fayetteville vs. Whitney Young (IL)

Friday, December 16, 2022

4:00 PM Boys – Little Rock Central  vs. Simeon Career Academy (IL)
5:30 PM Boys – Harvard Westlake (CA) vs. Whitney Young  (IL)
7:00 PM Boys – Moravian Prep (NC) vs. Coronado HS (NV)
8:30 PM Boys – Bentonville  vs. Bentonville West

Saturday, December 17, 2022

12:00 PM Boys – Little Rock Christian  vs. Whitney Young  (IL)
1:30 PM Girls – Bentonville HS  vs. Bentonville West
3:00 PM Boys – Simeon Career Academy (IL) vs. Moravian Prep (NC)
4:30 PM Boys – Bentonville West  vs. Harvard Westlake (CA)
6:00 PM Boys – Legacy (TX) vs. Compass Prep (AZ)
7:30 PM Boys – Bentonville  vs. Coronado (NV)