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Monday, May 2, 2016

Hurricanes blow through Wichita

Friday, August 19, 2011

HURRICANES: Dalton Grigg, Austin Gardner, Trenton Hatman, Kalen Hudson, Garrett Wooldridge, Omar Perez, Dillon Hargrove, Trent Middleton, Dale Curtis and Clayton Gardner. Not pictured: Wayne Coffey, Houston Cooper and Dion Hargrove.
Saying that the Arkansas Hurricanes had a good couple of days over the weekend of Aug. 6-7 would be a lot like saying it's been hot around here lately.

No kidding.

Matter of fact, the Hurricanes, a hoops squad made up of area players, was probably hotter than the triple-digit temps that's blanketed the region in the last month.

All they did was play their way to an impressive eighth-place finish at the Mid America Youth Basketball (MAYB) Summer 2011 National Tournament in Wichita, Ks.

Pretty impressive stuff when a group of players from small schools in Arkansas can finish in the top 10 of a tournament featuring 64 of the nation's best squads.

The Hurricanes were made up of Dalton Grigg and Trenton Hatman from Izard County High School; Austin Gardner from Viola; Garrett Wooldridge, Wayne Coffey and Houston Cooper from Mammoth Spring; Dillon Hargrove, Kalen Hudson and Dale Curtis from Flippin; Omar Perez from Alpena and Trent Middleton from Marshall High School.

The coaches were former Viola and current Flippin Head Coach Dion Hargrove and Viola's Clayton Gardner.

"It was Coach Hargrove's big idea and brainchild to put this team together," Gardner said.

And what an idea that team turned out to be.

The Hurricanes went 2-1 in pool play at the nationals, losing their first game before bouncing back to win five straight.

After emerging from pool play, the Hurricanes knocked off Players Only from Oklahoma, the Arkansas Jaguars from Fort Smith and the Runnin' Rebels from Nebraska, before finally falling to the Kansas Elite team from Andover, Ks., in the Elite Eight round. Kansas Elite went on to play for the championship, falling to another Kansas squad, the Wichita Bulls, in the tourney finals.

The Hurricanes then fell to a pair of Oklahoma teams -- the Suns and the Assualt -- to wind up their time at the nationals with an eighth-place showing.

"The teams that we played had a bunch of Division I prosepcts and a couple of the teams that we played had kids on them that were going to Kansas State and a couple that were going to Kansas University," said Gardner. "And we played and beat a team that had a kid that was going to Butler Community College, which is one of the top-ranked junior colleges in the nation."

To take a team comprised of players from this area and do so well at such a big-time gathering as the MAYB Summer Nationals speaks volumes about the kind of high school basketball played night-in and night-out in this part of the world.

"It really means a lot to Coach Hargrove and myself. It says a lot about the quality of the players and the quality of the coaches we have in rural Arkansas," Gardner said. "When you can take kids from Class 1A, 2A and 3A schools in Arkansas and take them to the nationals and compete and have some success against teams from metro areas like St. Louis, Kansas City and Wichita, that really says a lot about the quality of the players and the coaches in our area. It really means a lot to show that we can compete with those guys."

Fans of high school hoops will no doubt agree that the players that make up the Hurricanes are all bonifide All-Stars and have proven as much over the course of their careers. But taking a group of All-Stars and having them function as a team can be a trickly thing.

Not so with this group, said Gardner.

"We have a good bunch of kids, not only talent-wise, but who are mentally tough and sharp, as well," he said. "It took them awhile to get to where they could play together and understand their roles, but that's just what they did. When you've got three or four guys that can score, it takes awhile for those players to get adjusted to each other and play team basketball. But these guys peaked at the right time and figured out how to play with each other. They're just good kids."

A highlight of the MAYB Summer Nationals is the dunk contest, featuring some of the nation's top high-flyers.

After winning the dunk contest last summer, Grigg came in third this time around. While coming in third might not sound as big a deal as topping the field a year ago, considering that Grigg wasn't fully healthy, it is a pretty big deal.

"Dalton had been sick and hadn't played much this summer, missing a couple of tournaments," said Gardner. "But he really showed his true athletic ability by being not at 100-percent and still competing well enough to finish third in the dunk contest. You talk to anybody that knows anything and they'll tell you just how hard it is to keep your stamina and level of play up there after sitting out three or four months."

Austin Gardenr also took part in the dunk-a-thon and finished in the top eight.

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