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Wonder Boys Have Greatness Within Reach

Up to this point in the 2009-10 basketball season, everything that the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys have done has been very good.
 
On Saturday, they have an opportunity to earn the mantle of greatness.
 
Nationally top-ranked Arkansas Tech (24-0 overall, 11-0 Gulf South Conference) will try to clinch its first-ever GSC West Division men’s basketball title and complete the best start to a season in Wonder Boys’ basketball history when Tech visits Delta State at 6 p.m. Saturday.
 
Russellville radio station KWKK 100.9 FM and www.athletics.atu.edu will have live play-by-play coverage from Walter Sillers Coliseum in Cleveland, Miss.
 
The Wonder Boys have already established a new GSC record for longest consecutive run at No. 1 in the NCAA Division II men’s basketball poll (five weeks). They have earned their second consecutive 20-win season, they have shattered attendance records and they have become one of the top sports stories in the state of Arkansas.
 
And while all of those achievements have been special in their own way, the only thing that lasts forever in sports is championships.

On Saturday night, the Wonder Boys can become champions.
 
“We’ll be ready,” said Tech head coach Mark Downey. “I love going down to Delta. I haven’t been very successful there, but it’s fun to go down there and play. Their place will probably be packed, and it’s going to be great. Our guys know what is at stake. We’re playing for something every game. I’m looking forward to it. There’d be no better place to clinch (the GSC West).”

The Wonder Boys remained undefeated with a 71-61 win over Ouachita Baptist on Thursday night. Senior guard Marcus Pillow of Russellville scored 13 of his team-high 15 points after halftime as Arkansas Tech extended its home-court winning streak to 18.

At that same hour on Thursday night, Delta State (18-5, 9-2) was fighting to stay alive in the GSC West Division title hunt. The Statesmen made a narrow 86-85 escape from Southern Arkansas after the Muleriders missed a free throw and two put-back attempts in the final seven seconds of overtime.

It was Delta State’s third consecutive game without All-NCAA Division II South Region point guard Chad Akins. The Bolivar Commercial newspaper in Cleveland, Miss., has reported that Akins was out due to sickness. His teammates have been able to stay in the GSC West race by going 2-1 in his absence.
 
“They’re just so talented,” said Downey of Delta State. “Earnesto Green was playing five or six minutes a game for them at the start of the year, and he’s a former all-conference player for them. I’m sure Chad (Akins) will play. That’s just the way it is. It’s a big game, so I’m sure he will be out there. I hope that he is okay.”
 
Akins had a season-high 26 points against Arkansas Tech on Jan. 23 in Russellville, but the Wonder Boys made 12 3-pointers and beat the Statesmen 88-77. 
 
Tech senior guard Brandon Friedel of Victoria, Texas (photographed), made seven of those 3-pointers and finished with 26 points.
 
“This is (Delta State’s) payback game,” said Downey, referring to an advertisement that appeared on the Delta State Athletics Department Web site promoting the Tech-DSU game this week. “I love that. That’s going to be fun.”

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