Going into today, there are six high school basketball teams left in our coverage area that still have a chance to win state.
There are three teams from Arkansas (Northside's boys, Charleston's girls and Greenwood's girls) which are one win away from becoming state champions. Then there are three teams from Oklahoma (Roland's boys, Muldrow's girls and Howe's girls) which need to win three straight games in the next three days in order to claim a gold ball.
So needless to say, these are exciting times around here, at least as far as high school basketball is concerned.
And guess what? Those aforementioned six teams aren't planning to go away any time soon. We could have more of the same at this time next year.
Obviously, the Northside Grizzlies, who are playing for their second straight 7A title today, will have to deal with the loss of Isaiah Joe, who has signed to play at Arkansas next season. That will definitely be a big void to fill right there.
But the Grizzlies still have some talented pieces in place to possibly make a run at a three-peat should they beat North Little Rock today.
Prevalent among them is 6-foot-9 sophomore Jaylin Williams, who has drawn interest from several major colleges. They may also get an infusion of young talent, especially from those who were part of Kimmons Junior High's recent regional championship. So even without Joe and the other members of the senior class, expect Northside to be back in the hunt for the 7A-Central and 7A state titles in 2019.
The Greenwood Lady Bulldogs, who play for the 6A championship on Saturday, could be the favorites to win it all next season. Greenwood has an abundance of current freshmen and sophomores who have gained valuable experience. The Lady Bulldogs will lose just one senior, and they will also return incoming senior Kyiah Julian, who has missed the team's state tournament run with an injury.
Charleston is playing for the 3A title on Friday. The Lady Tigers might just make it back to Hot Springs again next year as they will lose just three seniors and they currently have eight sophomores on their roster.
Over in Oklahoma, two teams which appear to be ahead of schedule have a chance to win state in 4A.
The Muldrow Lady Bulldogs are making their first trip to state in eight years. They may make it back-to-back trips to state and beyond with a very talented nucleus, as they lose only three seniors.
Muldrow turned some heads across the state with its performance at the Tournament of Champions in Tulsa over the holiday break, nearly winning the elite event. But it got the team some valuable experience, especially going into a state tournament which is loaded. The top four teams in 4A are each of the top four seeds at state, including No. 3 ranked Muldrow, and the Lady Bulldogs' quarterfinal foe today, Broken Bow, is capable of beating anyone on any given day.
The Roland Rangers returned one starter with significant experience last season. But they have made it to state again, reeling off a current stretch of 17 wins in their last 18 games. They also have two talented sophomores, Darrius Phillips and Jaxon Wiggins, who could be primed for bigger and better things as juniors.
As for the Howe Lady Lions, they will return Jalei Oglesby, arguably the top player in the area and already the school's all-time leading scorer. With Oglesby, who had a big-time showing at the Tournament of Champions in Fort Smith last December, the Lady Lions are more than capable of making another deep playoff run next season.
Of course, there are some other area teams which may have breakout years in 2018-19. So we could be talking about even more teams next March.
Regardless of whatever happens to our six teams still standing this week, the future still looks pretty bright for those squads.