Jeff Lewis scored 19 points and Danny Vines added 14 points to lead Alma to a 59-56 win over Van Buren to avenge an earlier loss to the Pointers in the last conference game of the season.

Jeff Lewis scored 19 points and Danny Vines added 14 points to lead Alma to a 59-56 win over Van Buren to avenge an earlier loss to the Pointers in the last conference game of the season.

Alma was winless in league play up to that point but finished with a win at home against their Crawford County rivals.

A month earlier, Van Buren beat the Airedales, 92-39, after hitting 19-of-24 field goals in the first half and leading 51-17. The Pointers added 26 points in the third quarter and ended with their biggest margin of victory in the rivalry against Alma. Colen Roden had 19 points, Chris Terry 16, Sit Pradaxay 14 and Mike Emmert 11.

That was 1991 and those were the last conference games the Pointers and Airedales played. The next season, Van Buren was elevated to the state’s largest classification and two long-time rivals parted ways as conference foes.

tonight, Van Buren returns to Alma as they renew a conference rivalry with both teams now in the 7A/6A-Central.

"I think everybody in Van Buren and Alma will embrace it again," Loyd said. "Nonconference was nice, but now that it means something makes it even better."

The two teams continued to play nonconference games, but Alma’s recent elevation in classification put Van Buren, Alma, Greenwood and Siloam Springs all back into the same conference for the first time since 1991.

"Isn’t that nice," Loyd said. "That’s the way I’ve thought it should be with all of these local schools about the same size. Getting the Van Buren-Alma game back especially in conference is going to be a lot of fun."

Fanning the flames this year is the fact that both the Pointers and Airedales have great teams. Alma is 12-1 and coming off a 55-54 overtime win at Russellville. Van Buren is 10-4 and coming off a 54-45 win at home against Conway.

"Both teams have tremendous teams," Flenor said. "We have an outstanding team and are real solid. We play hard. They also have an outstanding team. They are good off the bench. They do a lot of good things."

Mitchell Smith, the 6-10 center, who is gaining Division I attention, leads Van Buren. Smith is averaging 21 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot per night. Jason Harms is back after missing five games due to a wrist injury. Jaylynn Dye, the move-in from Northside, is also solid for the Pointers.

"They have Mitchell Smith inside, but they are well rounded," Flenor said. "Jaylynn Dye gives them a different outlook as far as a penetrator and is a real good athlete."

Alma is paced by the inside-outside duo of Austin Lee and Jake Folkerts. Lee averages 20 points per game while Folkerts averages 14.3 points per outing, but 20 points per game over the past seven games.

One thing that has changed a lot of the last 23 years is that both schools now play in basketball palaces.

Alma completed Charles B. Dyer Arena in November, 2007 and seats 3,097. Construction took 2-1/2 years to complete.

Van Buren completed Clair Bates Arena in 2009.

"Everybody needs to come from both communities because no one is going to get a bad seat no matter which gym you’re in," Loyd said.

Girls, Too

The Airedalettes and Pointerettes also renew their conference rivalry for the first time in 23 years. Games are scheduled to tipoff at 6 p.m.

Alma finished off the conference rivalry in 1991, winning, 56-31, in February at Alma and forcing 32 turnovers. In January, the Airedalettes won, 67-33, after scoring 26 points in the fourth quarter and hitting 11 of 20 shots in the quarter.

Both teams opened conference play with losses on Friday.

Alma lost at Russellville, 47-40, while Van Buren lost at home to defending Class 7A state champion Conway, 66-28.

Games Matter

Greenwood opened the conference with a split at home against Class 7A Bryant

The defending Class 6A state champion Lady Bulldogs rolled to a 71-42 win, shooting exactly 50 percent from the floor by hitting 23 of 46 of their field goals.

Megan Hartness scored 25 points. Hartness was 8 of 15 from the field and 8 for 11 from the foul line.

The Bulldogs fell to Bryant, 48-35, after trailing just 25-22 at the half.

"We were only down three at the half and were pleased with the way the game was going, and had it to our tempo," Greenwood head coach Brian Martin said. "Bryant did a good job the first four minutes of the third quarter of speeding things up. We had some costly turnovers and they turned them into baskets."

Greenwood led 14-12 after a quarter with Dustin Lunsford ripping a pair of 3-pointers from the corner and adding driving the baseline for another basket.

"We hit some shots early and was able to pressure early," Martin said. "We had a nice crowd. All in all, we’re getting better. We want to make strides game by game this time of year."

Greenwood travels to Siloam Springs on Tuesday to play the first of six conference games against Class 6A teams spread throughout the 14 conference teams. Only games against Siloam Springs, Alma, and Russellville determine berths and seedings for the Class 6A state tournament, which will be held in Siloam Springs March 4-7. Sites will officially be selected on Thursday by the Arkansas Activities Association but Siloam Springs was the only school to submit a bid in Class 6A.

"The way I see it right now, we can 1-13 and make it to state or be 9-5 and not make it to state," Reeves said. "I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Any conference game you play ought to have some bearing on the state tournament. That’s the way I see it."

To Reeves, the opponent, whether Class 7A or Class 6A doesn’t affect how his Lady Bulldogs will approach each game especially since a conference champion will still be crowned.

"We’re going to play every conference game like it’s the most important game," Reeves said. "Obviously, the 6A ones are more important, but we’re going to play like they’re all important."