A stellar showing in girls basketball highlighted the Spring 2017 athletic season at Carlisle High School.
Jonathan Buffalo’s Lady Bison completed the school’s best girls basketball season since 2008 with a quarterfinal appearance in the Class 2A State Tournament.
Carlisle, the third seed from the Class 2A North Regional, closed 28-5 after a 57-40 loss to Quitman, the top seed from the West Central, on the Lady Bulldogs’ home court.
“It was the most successful season I’ve had as a head coach,” said Buffalo, who finished his sixth year atop his alma mater’s girls program. “When you go 28-5, win a district championship and get to the second round of the state tournament, it’s a great year.
“The kids worked hard all year. They did everything I asked of them to the best of their ability.”
Carlisle had not won a state tournament game since its state title years in 2007 and ‘08.
Buffalo graduated Kayla Golleher, Ashby Terry, Ashley Harbison and Madeleine Brown. They had been with him since they were in seventh grade.
“I guess the worst part of what happened (in the final game) is having to say goodbye to them,” he said. “They were the leaders for the program, especially this year. They stepped up and bought into the changes in the culture we were making. Day-in and day-out, they stepped up for me on the court and off the court and were leaders and great examples for the younger kids.
“These seniors left a foundation to build on. We’ve got 11 of 15 coming back, kids who contributed quite a bit and some who didn’t get to play as much will have opportunities to try to prove themselves. The future’s bright.
“I am so proud of my kids for the year they’ve had.”
A roundup of the rest of Carlisle’s spring sports:
Jayson Lowery’s second Carlisle squad closed 6-20 with a 67-65 loss to Augusta in the quarterfinals of the 3-2A District Tournament.
Six wins are the most for a Carlisle boys squad since 2013.
Lowery, the first CHS returning boys coach since 2013, compiled an 8-45 record with the Bison (2-25 in 2015-16 and 6-20 in 2016-17). They had four more wins on the floor but were forced to forfeit four two years ago for use of an ineligible player.
The Carlisle School Board accepted Lowery’s resignation and later hired Brad Slatton in the 14th coaching change for the basketball Bison since 1994-95.
Slatton will arrive at Carlisle this summer after his retirement as superintendent of the Fort Elliott Consolidated Independent School District in Briscoe, Texas.
Carlisle principal and athletic director Brad Horn said Slatton’s experience — including 426 career wins and six honors for conference coach of the year — was attractive to Bison officials.
“Really, all the experience he’s had as an administrator — where he has seen things that we have to deal with — and also his experience on the basketball court,” Horn said. “We’ve had some who didn’t have a lot of experience and traditionally some who did. We’re just trying to get somebody to come in and stay a while.”
Horn said Slatton’s Arkansas experience included stops at Stamps, Lafayette County, Prairie Grove, El Dorado, Carthage, Leslie and Strong. He took the Carthage boys and El Dorado and Prairie Grove girls to the state tournament.
Slatton was athletic director and head girls basketball coach at Fort Elliott from 2007-11 and became junior high principal in 2009 before taking the superintendent’s job.
Tristan Bennett qualified for the Arkansas 5A-1A High School State Swimming Championships at the Bentonville Community Center in the 200 and 500 freestyles, but because of a scheduling conflict, she did not compete.
Bennett, who graduated this spring, will attend Arkansas State as a theatre major.
Carlisle’s track season was marred by weather and the death of sophomore Garrett Hogan.
Hogan ran the 800 and a leg on the 4x800 relay team for the Bison. His funeral was the same day as the 3-2A Conference Meet, and the Carlisle athletes chose not to compete.
Coach Jonathan Buffalo said his teams had competed only at Lonoke and Riverview after two meets were canceled because of weather. His girls team included senior Paige Jenkins and two sophomores; the Bison roster included seven sophomores.
“We were a young track team, and they competed well,” Buffalo said. “We had quite a few kids competing at the junior high level. We’re always trying to build the program from the bottom up. We had more on the senior high roster this year than we did last year. We’ll keep trying to build.”
The Lady Bison came within two runs of reaching the Class 2A State Softball Tournament when they fell to Salem in the opening round of the Class 2A North Regional, 3-2.
Salem, the top seed from the 2-2A, improved to 23-2. Carlisle, the fourth seed from the 3-2A, closed 10-15.
“For us, it was all about consistency,” Carlisle coach Lonnie Roberson said. “If we could’ve played like that all year — and we had another game like that with DeWitt where we played them very tough, and of course we played Stuttgart tough.
“Like I told my senior girls at the athletic banquet — those girls left it all on the field, and that’s important. You go out there and if you get run-ruled, you’re upset, but if you fight to the end like that, that’s something you can hang your hat on and something you can build on in your program.
“We’d love to be at the state tournament every year, and I think that’s coming. We’ve got some talented girls we’ve added. We’ll lose a lot of leadership, but they’ve set the bar. The record — I don’t even look at records. What I play for is to get in that playoff, in that tournament race, and play from there.”
The Bison reached the quarterfinals of the 3-2A District Tournament, coming within one win of qualifying for the Class 2A East Regional.
Phil Bernhardt’s first Bison squad closed 11-13. Last year, Carlisle was 8-15.
“It’s definitely an improvement,” said Bernhardt, who had been scheduled as assistant coach before finding out in mid-February he would be at the helm of the program. “It’s always nice to get double-digit wins, and most certainly always nice to come in close to .500.
“We’d like for that (record) to be the other way around, but we’ve got some things we can build on.”
Bernhardt, an assistant football coach for the Bison, said he learned much during his first season with baseball — indeed, his first with a second sport.
“You’ve got to have that time before the season starts, or otherwise you’re already starting from behind,” he said. “Once the season got going, there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of time for us to make adjustments and fix a lot of things.
“I definitely learned that if I’m in that spot again next year, we are starting a whole lot earlier and getting as much practice time in as we’re allowed.”