How Jordan Wright did his part to help Northside boys win 6A basketball state tournament opener

Buck Ringgold
Fort Smith Times Record

FAYETTEVILLE — Literally, a big concern for Northside boys coach Eric Burnett entering the season was having to replace his inside game.

Specifically, finding a replacement for Jaylin Williams, now a freshman at Arkansas.

Jordan Wright, a 6-foot-7 senior, may not have the numbers Williams had as a Grizzly, but he has gained confidence controlling the paint. And his play in Wednesday's opening round of the 6A state tournament helped increase Wright's confidence.

Wright led all scorers with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He also blocked five shots as the Grizzlies advanced to the quarterfinals with a 55-48 win against Springdale Har-Ber at Fayetteville High School. 

"When we came out, I just had the mindset that we needed to get a bucket, and we needed to get a win," Wright said. "I needed to do what I do the best, so I was going out there and grabbing the rebound, and I got some blocks there.

"I wanted to put the ball in the hole, that was my main thing. I was thinking about, I've got to get the boards and put it back in."

Wright, who came into Wednesday's game averaging 5.4 points, had eight points in each half. For good measure, he threw down a dunk late in the third quarter. 

"I just said I've got to dunk it just because I need to," Wright said.

But rebounding and defense is Wright's specialty. He led the Grizzlies in both rebounding (averaging six per game) and blocks (1.8) in the regular season.

Wright more than doubled those totals Wednesday. Of his 12 boards, eight were on the offensive glass.

He accounted for half of Northside's blocks, part of a 10-1 edge for the Grizzlies.

"On defense, I just told myself I was going to keep my hands up and be ready to block the ball," Wright said.

Wright started Wednesday's game, but 6-9 senior Tamaury Releford came in and took over at times. Early on, though, Burnett utilized both in zone defense.

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"Early in the zone, when we had Tamaury and Jordan together, especially in the beginning of the game, they had a hard time scoring," Burnett said. "Then we kind of got stagnant and started playing a little man-to-man, but Jordan had a bunch of blocks and did a really good job."

The Grizzlies (12-11) will advance to Friday's quarterfinals, a 1 p.m. game against Fayetteville, the No. 1 seed from the 6A-West. Northside is aiming to reach the semifinal round for the fifth consecutive season, and with Wright among those gaining confidence, the Grizzlies know they can't be counted out.

"I think we've got some good focus, and everybody's mindset is right to go get it done and get that ring," Wright said.