McBride, Felts a handful for defenses


Photographs by Staton Breidenthal

Avery Felts

HOT SPRINGS -- Avery Felts is getting used to the attention.

The Jonesboro Westside junior guard put his team in today's Class 4A boys state championship game with a buzzer-beating, finger-roll layup that helped the Warriors defeat Southside Batesville 59-57 in last Saturday's Class 4A semifinal game at Brookland's Bearcat Arena.

"It was crazy," said Felts, who scored 34 points in Saturday's victory. "I've never had so many Twitter notifications in my life. I'm just thankful that we're here right now."

Not to be outdone, Baptist Prep junior guard Issac McBride had a game-ending shot of his own. His three-pointer gave the Eagles a 42-40 victory over Riverview in the second semifinal game last Saturday.

McBride is focused on today's championship game, scheduled for 4:15 p.m. at Bank of the Ozarks Arena.

"Everyone's been like, 'Issac this, Issac that,' " said McBride, who is averaging 24.5 points per game and is Baptist Prep's career scoring leader with 1,881 points. "But you have to remain humble and keep that out of your mind. We're trying to bring home a third one."

Baptist Prep Coach Brian Ross has been impressed by Felts' play in the state tournament, in which he's averaged 29.3 points in three games.

"That kid is really similar to Issac," Ross said. "He hit a big-time shot to win that game [against Southside Batesville]."

Jonesboro Westside Coach Mark Whitmire calls McBride a phenomenal player.

"He's a special talent," Whitmire said. "He can do whatever he wants to do. We know it's going to be a challenge to slow him down. I don't know if you can stop him. He's that good. We're going to do our very best to hang in there."

McBride, who has received scholarship offers from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas State University and Abilene Christian, is averaging 21.0 points in two state tournament games in victories against Ashdown and Riverview. He's looking forward to facing Felts and the Warriors.

"It's a really good matchup, guard-wise," McBride said. "We're going to be aggressive and lay it all on the court."

Felts, who had 36 points in a quarterfinal victory over Bauxite on March 1, understands the task at hand in facing McBride, a two-time state champion at Baptist Prep.

"He's really good," said Felts, who is averaging 26.3 points per game but has not received a NCAA Division I scholarship offer. "I don't know if you can completely stop him. It's going to be tough. But we know to give ourselves a chance, we have to do something."

With a victory today, Baptist Prep would win its third consecutive state championship. The Eagles won in 2016 against Malvern and last season against Pea Ridge.

"It would mean the world for our community and our little school," McBride said. "We worked hard. We've prepared hard. We're ready to show the state that we're an elite team and that we should be up there with the Halls and the North Little Rocks."

Baptist Prep's Issac McBride practices with his team at Bank of the Ozarks Arena Friday, March 9, 2018.

Sports on 03/10/2018

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