Skip to main content

Top 10 Arkansas high school sports moments of 2023

The best 10 moments of 2023

With 2023 on the verge of expiring, the SBLive Arkansas staff compiled the greatest moments of the calendar prep sports year. 

We selected 10 from multiple sports, some of which either lived up to, or surpassed, expectations while others accomplished feats that few saw coming. 

Here are SBLive Arkansas' Top 10 moments of 2023, along with some honorable mentions. 

10. Jonesboro boys basketball wins third straight state championship, first in Class 6A

Wes Swift has been one of the trendsetters of Arkansas high school basketball for years, but 2022-23 was one of his more impressive jobs coaching overall. That is not to say Jonesboro did not bring back a talented roster, there was more than plenty, but the Hurricane did graduate a lot of production from the previous season and moved up to Class 6A.

Not only did Swift make sure to challenge his guys as he always does with a tough schedule, Jonesboro now had to take much longer road trips to Central Arkansas as opposed to the 5A-East being in their own corner. To no one's surprise, they overcame it all and claimed a third consecutive state championship, led by MVP and SBLive Arkansas Player of the Year Deion Wesson.  

9. Conway girls basketball writes perfect story and avenges upset loss from 2022-23 state tournament

It is no secret that the Lady Wampus Cats' upset loss to Central in the 2021-22 quarterfinals – a squad they beat by a combined 99 points in two conference games earlier in the year – was possibly the biggest shocker in all of Arkansas prep sports that season.

Head coach Ashley Hutchcraft discussed how her current squad has a chance to write a great end to the season's story if they so choose, and did so. With senior stars Chloe Clardy and Savannah Scott leading the way, Conway took down arch rival North Little Rock in the state finals for an absolutely perfect ending.

8. Farmington got the monkey off its back in redemption state championship win over Nashville

In its third consecutive state finals appearance during the 2021-22 season, the Lady Cardinals were about to seal their first outright championship after sharing the trophy with Star City in 2020 when the finals were not played due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was until Sidney Townsend swished a three-pointer with three seconds remaining to steal the title for Nashville.

However, Farmington got another shot at the Scrapperettes last spring and earned redemption behind MVP and current Arkansas Razorback Jenna Lawrence, along with a 22-point performance from Marin Adams.

7. Russellville's River Hardman breaks long-standing record in the 800m

This was far from the only record Hardman rewrote, but he broke both the state meet and overall records with a time of 1:51:52 at last spring's Meet of Champs in Russellville. Both were previously held by Robert Bradley of Crossett, who accomplished those feats in 1985. Hardman also beat John Feltner's time of 1:51.83 from 1970 to break the Russellville school record.

6. Manila boys basketball wins first state title in half of a century in overtime over Bergman

The Lions had the roster to create a special season and the 11-0 start was an early sign. Following a three-game skid Manila rolled, winning 20 of its final 23 contests, the biggest one a thrilling overtime victory over Bergman to win the program's first state title since 1962 in what was the last game of the 2022-23 season.

A successful free throw attempt from Brayden Nunnally all but sealed the game with four seconds remaining of free basketball. Nunnally earned MVP honors while leading the Lions with 22 points in the contest, along with 6 rebounds. 

5. Fayetteville football achieved first undefeated season en route to winning sixth state title 

To put it truthfully, Fayetteville fell flat on its face in the 2022 playoffs. The Purple Dogs were not only shutout, but run off of their own field by Conway. That clearly lit a fire. They responded by completing the first undefeated season in school history, led by University of Minnesota signee and SBLive Arkansas Player of the Year Drake Lindsey and won the program's sixth state championship, first since 2016.

4. Cade Bowman walks off Valley View in the ninth inning for Little Rock Christian's first baseball state title

Cade Bowman's lone hit of the 5A state baseball finals could not have come at a better time as his single up the middle brought home Cole Davis for the walk-off victory with the bases loaded on an 0-2 count. Bowman also scored a run and batted in an additional runner, along with Davis, on the evening. The Warriors achieved an impressive 31-3 record in 2022-23. 

3. Lexi Franklin leads Booneville to 3A softball title after taking bat to head

Through all of the ups and downs the 2023 season provided for the Lady Bearcats, from being sub-.500 in early May to following that up with five straight wins to finish on the top of the 3A mountain. But, no one could have predicted the final day of events.

Ace junior pitcher Lexi Franklin took an accidental bat to the forehead while taking part in hitting practice the morning prior to the game. Luckily, there was an emergency room down the street and she quickly got stitched up and arrived back at Farris Field in Conway minutes before first pitch. Franklin was named the Most Valuable Player after striking out three batters on 103 pitches. 

2. Parkview ends Bryant's 54-game win streak against in-state competition

The Patriots got over the hump in 2022 under Brad Bolding and won the program's first state championship since 1978 in dominating fashion, especially on defense, throughout the season to run it back. Defensive coordinator Bobby Bolding's unit allowed only 10 points per contest, while forcing 24 turnovers with 32 sacks and held opponents to just 192 yards per game. Offensively, the Patriots averaged 46.7 points each time out. 

University of Central Arkansas signee Eric McGehee was one of multiple Division I prospects on the roster and he earned the MVP of both the 2022 and 2023 5A state championship games. 

1. Fayetteville volleyball wins fourth consecutive state title with only one returning starter

Former Arkansas Razorback Jessica Phelan has built a firm foundation in Fayetteville and that was put on full display in 2023. University of Central Arkansas signee and SBLive Arkansas Player of the Year Regan Harp was the senior leader of a squad who not only defied the odds, but mostly dominated again. 

While they did suffer their first in-state loss in three years, the Lady Purple Dogs refused to back down against another gauntlet of a schedule. 

Honorable mention:

– County Line lived up to the hype as the Class 1A boys basketball favorite following a heartbreaking end to 2022-23. The Indians reeled off a 45-0 season, winning the program's first state title since 1971 on a last-second lay-in by Cooper Watson to leave Marked Tree stunned.  

– Bentonville boys cross country won seventh consecutive state championship. 

– Quitman girls cross country won a ring for the thumb with their fifth consecutive state championship. 

– University of Arkansas golf signee Anna Kate Nichols of Pulaski Academy earned her third consecutive state championship scoring a 6-under-par. 

– Lake Hamilton's Justin Crutchmer won fourth consecutive individual wrestling state championship and solidified himself as the best to come out of Arkansas in the short history of the sport in The Natural State. He is one of 11 athletes to win four state titles and finished with 121 wins, never losing to an in-state opponent.

– Russellville boys soccer claimed fourth state championship in five seasons (six seasons counting the COVID 2020 season that was cancelled) and seventh since 2012. 

– Will Childers scores three goals to help Conway win its second consecutive boys soccer state title. 

– Like it did in football recently, Harding Academy girls soccer won a state championship after bumping up in classification and did so in undefeated fashion. 

(Cover photo by Tommy Land)

– Kyle Sutherland | @k_sutherlandAR