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The Harmony Grove senior boys basketball program took enormous leaps after the 2007 season, making the state tournament in 2008 and 2009 under the helm of Head Coach Richard Moore. Since then, the Cardinals have been on a bit of a downward spiral, finishing under .500 after losing most of the 2008 and 2009 core to graduation.
But now the Cardinals are back in the history books at the start of the 2012 season. After being the lead man for four seasons, Moore elected to resign his position on the basketball court to concentrate on football and soccer.
After a tough season last year, 2006 Benton High School graduate Dexter Hendrix takes over the Cardinals in hopes of bringing a winning formula to the program once again.
â€śObviously, our goals are to get better after each game,â€ť Hendrix said. â€śWe worked very hard this offseason and we want to keep working to get better in November for December, and December for January and hope we are still playing in March.â€ť
Hendrix added that he and his team want to work on things that they are not very good at as each game comes along this season.
The Cardinals have quite a bit of talent and experience coming back from last yearâ€™s team. Smart and talented point guard Gabe Richard leads the way for the Cardinals heading into the 2012 season. Nick Johnson and Ryan Roush also return to the team after getting significant playing time in 2011.
But, one of the biggest additions to this team is the amount of size that the Cardinals have coming into the year.
â€śOne thing we are really going to rely on is our great size in 6-foot, 10-inch junior Hayden Burchfield and 6-7 freshman Jake Scoggins,â€ť Hendrix said.
Hendrix mentioned that Scoggins has really unbelievable footwork to be so young and will be a starter this season, which is very rare giving he is just a freshman.
â€śWe are going to put a lot on Richardâ€™s shoulders, along with sophomore Larry McMurrary. We are really counting on them in the guard spots.â€ť
Hendrix added that while his team has extremely good size, if his guards cannot handle the ball, the offense will not be able to get the ball into the big guys down low.
â€śRichard and McMurrary have to handle the ball for us in order to get us in the offense and to make sure we get good shots,â€ť Hendrix said. â€śThey will also have to have good communication on the floor as well.â€ť
Last season, the Cardinals did not have much size on the floor. But, with size being the main factor in the Cardinalsâ€™ offense in 2012, Hendrix is preaching to his team that it has to utilize the advantage first.
â€śI have told my guys that we are an inside team first,â€ť Hendrix said. â€śWe are going to try and pound the ball inside and make teams respect that and make teams stop that before we shoot outside. Hopefully, if we do the things we are supposed to do and score the ball like we are capable of, that will open up the outside shot for us.â€ť
Hendrix said that his team needs to get the ball inside first every time on the offensive end this season.
On defense, the Cardinals are expected to shake it up and show multiple setups on that end of the court.
â€śWe will do a little bit off everything,â€ť Hendrix said. â€śWe are going to try and pressure teams and force them to turn the ball over and score a lot off of our defense. I think that is something that we have really worked on this offseason.â€ť
With a new look Cardinalsâ€™ team taking the floor this season, Hendrix has a tough road ahead of him with a difficult 5-3A conference.
â€śI think the conference is going to be very tough this year,â€ť Hendrix said. â€śJessieville is always going to be tough because they are really well-coached, and Fountain Lake is well-coached and does a really good job, too. Mayflower is very athletic with a chance to cause problems and Episcopal too. You never get a night off, really, because you have to be ready to go each night in this conference.â€ť
While the conference schedule is still weeks away, opening night is just a few hours from tip off. The Cardinals travel to Poyen to battle with the Indians. Poyen upended the Cardinals by 40 on the road last season, winning 68-28. Opening tip is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight, following the senior girls game.