Coach: Dick Rippee, first year
Last Year’s Record: 15-10 overall, 12-2 7A-West (co-champion)
Key Players: F Asa Hutchinson IV (6-7, Sr.), F Michael Shanks (6-6, Jr.), G Cadarius Baggett (6-0, Sr.), G Josh Smith (6-3, Jr.), G Connor Deffenbaugh (6-3, Jr.)
Notable: Veteran coach Rippee takes over the Tigers after a successful tenure at Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo, where his teams were 183-49 and finished third in the state last year and second two years ago. … He inherits two returning starters in Shanks, who averaged 9.6 points in 7A-West Conference games, and Hutchinson, who averaged 6.7 points in league play. … Hutchinson, mainly a scorer from the perimeter, is being asked to score more inside more. … Shanks already has received offers from Arkansas State, Central Arkansas and Missouri State, and he has worked hard on his 3-point shooting in the offseason. … Baggett, who moved from Pine Bluff in the spring, assumes the point guard spot and brings the defensive toughness and the vocal leader Bentonville needs. … Smith and Deffenbaugh, a transfer from Fayetteville and son of assistant coach Tom Deffenbaugh, provide the Tigers with a pair of lefty shooters. … Bentonville opens the season Nov. 21 at Gravette and won’t play a home game until the following week at the Crabtree Invitational.
Quotable: “We’re trying to teach our players a motion offense that’s very difficult to teach and difficult to learn. It just takes time. We have an advantage that we’ve been able to start practice throughout the offseason, except for the dead-week period. Our guys enjoy it, and it’s a challenge. There’s never a chance to relax. They have to be thinking, and they’re similar to a chess player. They have to be thinking about a couple of moves ahead and think of what’s coming and how they will be defended. The movement aspect has come along really well; making the correct reads still has some room for improvement.”
— Tigers coach Dick Rippee
Bentonville Lady Tigers
Coach: Tom Halbmaier
Last Year’s Record: 13-15 overall, 6-8 7A-West
Key Players: G Avery Hughes (5-7, Jr.), F Fess Hawkins (6-0, Sr.), G Courtney Cochran (5-10, Sr.), G Jaren Hernandez (5-5, Sr.), F Emma Palasak (5-11, Sr.), F Maryam Dauda (6-4, Fr.)
Notable: Hughes is Bentonville’s lone starting returner at point guard, with Cochran being one of the first players off the bench. … The Lady Tigers, however, have an experienced player in the frontcourt in Hawkins, who transferred from Illinois. … Dauda becomes the third freshman the Lady Tigers have moved up to the high school rankings, joining current player Hughes and former Bentonville player Lauren Hargus. She will also be the tallest player in the 7A-West Conference. … Halbmaier needs just three wins to reach 250 career victories as a head coach. … The Lady Tigers opened the season Tuesday with a home game against Greenwood. … Something Bentonville has stressed this season is perimeter defense in hopes of cutting down the success some opponents had with their 3-point shooting against the Lady Tigers.
Quotable:“This fall’s practices have gone really well, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the talent from the players I have. I think the camaraderie of the squad this year is top-notch. They get along extremely well off the floor, and the chemistry on the floor is very, very good. What’s really nice is these ladies come to practice, and they work hard and get after it. They’re extremely coachable, and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
— Bentonville coach Tom Halbmaier