BY MELANIE BUCK –
Wanting a little different action and some tough competition during their off-season, several Polk County boys formed a basketball team through Hoop Play USA and have spent their days practicing, traveling, and winning.
The Yank ‘Ems, were formed with players from within Polk County, and out. The team included Ashton Pardan, Sky Jackson, Ethan Bird, Justin Hogan, and Blake Head, of Acorn; Jarrett Clibrey, Darius Simms, Austin Wagner, Drew O’Brien, Drew Plunkett, Cross Hughes, Zak Terwilliger, Blake Seals, and Justin Godfrey of Mena; Ben Counts and Edgar Gonzalez, of Cossatot River High School; Dustin Lunsford, of Greenwood; Morgan Yates, of Two Rivers; and Alexander Strating, of the Netherlands. Strating spends his summers in the area and has become fast friends with the team members. Christi Head began coaching the boys in the spring and their first tournament was held in April at the Hoop Play Easter Eggstravaganza in Hot Springs where the team took Senior Boys’ Runner-Up. The next tournament was held in Acorn where they were deemed champions and that carried them through to take the championship in the next two tournaments, the Hoop Play USA Memorial Day Blast in Hot Springs and Hoop Play USA High School Boys Champions tournament held in Mena.
Wanting a little more assistance with coaching duties, Coach Christi sought the help of upcoming Mena assistant basketball coach, Randy Peters. The Yank ‘Ems took 3rd place at their next tournament, Hoop Play USA in Hot Springs.
With the national tournament approaching, Coach Christi and Coach Peters gained the help of Acorn’s head basketball coach, Mike Jackson.
The trio coached the boys through their last game, the Hoop Play USA Nationals Tournament, held in Russellville and Conway. Coach Christi said that the tournament is as big as a state tournament. The Yank ‘Ems came in 3rd place.
Sky Jackson and Morgan Yates took first and second place, respectively, in the Slam Dunk Contest and Mike Jackson competed in the coaches’ game.
The Yank ‘Ems are thankful for all of those who supported them throughout the spring and summer. As Coach Christi put it, “the boys developed skills and a brotherhood.”