First county-wide senior game on its way

This time of year can be a hectic time for coaches. The regular season ended yesterday and everyone is gearing up for next week’s district tournaments.
A win or two there and it’s on to regional where a good showing puts them in the state tournament.
For many players, tournaments can be a stressful time. They know a loss (at certain points of the district and regional tournaments) will mean the end of the season.
That takes on added significance for the seniors on the team, as a loss means the end of their career.
The thought of never again putting on your team’s jersey is a sobering thought.
Through all of this anxiety and busyness, some coaches have their minds on something else — something especially for those seniors.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Ouachita High School senior boys’ coach Clayton Ray and senior girls’ coach Blue Kesterson yesterday.
They told me about their plans for another basketball game in March that will become an annual event in Hot Spring County.
On Wednesday, March 13, seniors from the surrounding six schools — Bismarck, Glen Rose, Magnet Cove, Malvern, Ouachita and Poyen — will meet at Bismarck High School for one last game.
That game is called the Hot Spring County Basketball Senior Showcase.
The purpose of the game is to showcase the county seniors for their hard work and dedication to their school’s team in the Hot Spring County area and help raise money for each school’s athletic program. All money from the gate will be used for expenses and divided up between the schools.
The host school, which will rotate each year, will get to keep the proceeds from the concession stand.
In 2014, Ouachita High School will host the game. Glen Rose High School will host in the following year, then Malvern High School in 2016, Poyen High School in 2017 and Magnet Cove High School in 2018.
The order of the rotation was decided by picking names out of a hat, Kesterson said.
For the game itself, the players will wear their school’s jersey. Home and away teams will be decided at the meeting.
The seniors will be split into two teams and there will be an effort to keep players from the same school on the same team.
The teams have not been set yet, and there will be a meeting of the coaches a week before the game to iron out all of the specifics.
It will not be like normal games, as the showcase will consist of five periods of eight minutes.
The coaches will be with players from their school and will take turns coaching each of the first three periods. Also in the first three periods, the teams will see three different groups of five take the court.
The last two periods will be an open play format, with the players having free reign to have fun on the court.
Each player in the game will receive a T-shirt to commemorate the event, and the event organizers are still looking for sponsors.
Anyone interested in being a sponsor for the event should contact their local school for more information.
Ray and Kesterson hope to see local businesses in each area stand up and support their local teams.
Admission to the game will be just $5 and the coaches are hoping for a great turnout to send the seniors off with style.
“We want to showcase the seniors,” Kesterson said. “We want to give them the standing ovations they deserve.”
Kesterson encourages as many people in the communities to get involved to help build camaraderie while bringing the communities closer together.
The idea of putting on a game like this has been in the back of the minds of many for a long time, but it was Kesterson who started making the calls to the coaches of other schools to set the wheels in motion to make this dream a reality.
“The more I talked to each coach, the more excited I got,” Kesterson said. “Around here people are excited. The more basketball you can get, the more they like it.”
And I’m with Coach Kesterson on that. I would have loved the opportunity to be on the court with Malvern players once I wrapped up my senior season at Poyen.
Sure, we played teams like Hot Springs Lakeside that year (close but no cigar), but we were not familiar with them.
Around here, the smaller schools are all familiar with each other. The Ouachita Warriors played nearly everyone else in the area, with the exception of Malvern.
Bismarck and Glen Rose are in the same classification (3A) as Magnet Cove and Poyen (2A), but they have never had the chance to play with and against Malvern teams before.
When I first heard of this idea, I couldn’t get enough of it. Each stop I’ve made throughout the county I’ve talked to people about it.
The first reaction I get is an amused surprise, but after the idea had time to sink in with them, they began to warm up to it as much as I have.
I am 100 percent in favor of this game and I cannot wait for March 13 to roll around.
Admission is only $5 and they specifically picked a Wednesday night so it would not interfere with the baseball season, so I expect to see all of you there.
Bismarck has a pretty good sized gym and I want to see it packed to the rafters that night. Let those seniors know how much you appreciate all their hard work and sacrifice through the years.
A good crowd will also let them know how much they will be missed once they walk across that stage to receive their diplomas.
Kesterson and Ray told me that all the coaches at the surrounding schools have been “real receptive” to the idea of the game and that they were all “excited to do something for the seniors.”
The coaches have done their part getting the game set up. The players will do their part by taking the court that night. You, me and everyone else need to do our part and go out and support these kids.
Give them one last send off. The girls game will begin at 6 p.m. and the boys will follow around 7:30 p.m.
(Eric Moore is the sports editor for the Malvern Daily Record. Contact him at 501-337-7523 or email him at

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