The Blytheville Chickasaws open the 2013 5A-East conference season Friday night against the Beebe Badgers at Chickasaw Gym.
Beebe finished the 2012 season with a 22-7 record overall and 11-3 in the 5A-East, good enough for second place behind conference champion Wynne. The Badgers advanced to the semifinals of the 5A state tournament before bowing out to Little Rock Mills in the Final Four.
"This is the second season," said Chicks head coach Jeff Flanigan. "I've told our players that there are three seasons. We just finished the first season, now we're on to the second. If we want to get to the third, we have to earn it in the second."
The Chicks finished their "first season" with a 3-9 record, finishing it with a 65-33 win in the consolation round of the Wynne Holiday Classic last Saturday afternoon.
"It was good to end the tournament with a win," said Flanigan. "We struggled. We've been banged up and slowed down by the flu but we're starting to come around."
The Chicks lost two out of three in the Wynne tournament, losing to the host team in game one and Little Rock Christian in round two before defeating Marianna in the final round.
Beebe is entering conference play with an 8-4 record. One notable win for the Badgers was their 50-35 win over Little Rock Christian. LRC defeated the Chicks, 47-39, and held Blytheville to 25 percent shooting from the field.
"They're (Beebe) well coached, they play hard and they won't beat themselves," said Flanigan. "But then again, I could probably say that about every team in our conference. I think this is one of the most well coached conferences in the state."
Flanigan's team is banged up right now. Post man Larry Bolden is waiting for results of an MRI on his shoulder, junior Darrius Fowler is battling injuries on both ankles and there are still a few who are recovering from flu symptoms. Flanigan used this as an opportunity for other players to show their talents.
"We got some good minutes from Jonathan Dugan-Banks at Wynne, DeQuan Young started for us at center and D.J. Swatson got some playing time as well," said Flanigan. "This should give us more depth as we get into the conference schedule."
One person who may be missing from Friday night's game could be Flanigan himself. His wife is due to deliver their baby today in the Arkadelphia area.
"This has been quite an experience these past couple of weeks," said Flanigan. "My wife has been great dealing with my schedule. Hopefully I'm trying to be an example to these kids about setting priorities. I'm a coach but I'm a husband and a father first."
As for who will be manning the sidelines if Flanigan is absent? Assistant coach Bill Tyer will take over and Flanigan appears perfectly comfortable with this scenario.
"One of the first things I asked before taking this job was if Bill Tyer was still going to be around," said Flanigan. "I can tell him exactly what needs to be done and I know it will get done. We finish each other's sentences."
Friday night's action begins with the varsity girls at 6 p.m. followed by the varsity boys.