Mulberry senior Payton King and rest of senior class part of girls basketball turnaround

George "Clay" Mitchell
Press Argus-Courier

Payton King and the Mulberry girls basketball team has worked hard to get their program turned around over the past two seasons.

King is part of a senior class  that has been with coach Arel Ferguson since she started coaching at Mulberry five years ago. That senior class Other seniors includes Amme Parish, Holly Roe, and Monica Fisk.

"Payton is probably one of my hardest workers," Ferguson said. "She's a great kid and a great student. She has a wonderful personality and everyone at the school says Payton is one of their favorite kids. She's very humble and has great character."

As sophomores, the team finished winless and was just three games under .500 last season. The team is 15-7 overall and 9-1 in conference this season with two league games remaining. 

"Things have been rough before and we're in a much better spot than we have been," Ferguson said. "They mean a lot to me. They've been very adamant and have done a lot to set the tone for this team."

"(Ferguson) had my back from day one and there's nothing I wouldn't do for my coach," said King. "It's crazy to think how far we've come from the first day to what we've been able to accomplish through hard work.

"We had that talk that there was no need for us to sit back and take it anymore. We were going to be the great teammates that we know we are and work hard for Coach Ferguson because she's given us everything, so it's time for us to give her everything."

The team missed out on going undefeated in league play after a 31-22 loss to St. Paul on Monday, Feb. 1. 

"We do have another shot and we're going to work our butts off until we get there," King said. "St. Paul was a very emotional game for us. It took a lot for us to turn our minds around and get ready for this game. We came back (Tuesday) morning and said that we weren't going to be upset again and we'll see them again."

Mulberry faces has both County Line and Ozark Catholic remaining on the schedule, both at home, and the team is expected to take the No. 2 seed for the 1A-West district tournament which begins the week of Feb. 15. One win at the district and the Lady Jackets are onto their first regional tournament during Ferguson's tenure.

"We sat down and talked and they said they wanted to accomplish great things. They've come a long way in setting the tone of 'this is how we play,' 'this is what we are,' and 'this is what we do,'" Ferguson said. "This is a very emotional group for me. They've shown that by working hard and doing the right things, good things will happen for them."

Back on Jan. 26, King scored her career-high 37 points and has been one of the solid contributors throughout the season. On Tuesday, against the Lady Spartans, the Lady Jackets won 55-10. King finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

Parish added 14 points with four rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Katelynn O'Barr tossed in 13 points. Freshman point guard Astyn Conley had six of the team's 11 steals.

Mulberry boys win 46-32

The Yellow Jackets (13-10, 5-5) picked up a key win on Tuesday by defeating Northwest Arkansas Classical Academy 46-32. 

"I'm really proud of the guys and the way they handled the defense," said coach Zach Zajicek. "We did a much better job rebounding [Tuesday] night... much better than we did the night before."

Tyler Williams led Mulberry and the game with 16 points and seven rebounds. Landon Courtney paced the Spartans with 14.