(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
The lobby of the bank was decorated with a picture log of the state tournament games as the BIC Mustangs captured the state title. Decorations, refreshments, hats, and other souvenirs were provided by Southern Bank of Commerce and a pizza luncheon was provided by Corner Mart of Leachville.
The photo display will be exhibited through April 15 for the public to view. There are pictures of each member of the team as well as several of the newspaper accounts of the individual games.
Debbie Kirby, Southern Bank of Commerce branch manager, John Steele, senior vice president, and Greg Miller, president, were among the fans to congratulate Coach Bill Taylor, Coach Mark Hurst, and the Mustangs on their successful season finishing 43-3 and bringing home the state championship trophy.
Also on hand for the celebration were area mayors, Norman Williams, Black Oak; Ralph Wells, Leachville; and David Fletcher, Monette.
A proclamation was prepared by the mayors declaring Thursday, March 31, Mustang Day on Buffalo Island.
A second proclamation was also prepared for the Buffalo Island Central cheerleaders who won a state title, also.
"Watching these guys perform this year has been wonderful," Wells said. "I love basketball, I always have, but I have never seen anyone play like these boys did. In their character and their sportsmanship, they are first class. Our fans are also first class. Seeing these boys win the state championship is one of the greatest things in my life.
"I want to thank the Southern Bank of Commerce for honoring them today. From the first day the bank came to Leachville, they have been part of our community and always willing to help. When I went to the games I would see Greg and John come in."
The mayors read the proclamations and Mayor Wells presented the team with the key to the city. Mayor Fletcher had presented them the key to Monette when they arrived home from Little Rock after the championship game.
Among the fans present were members of the sixth grade BIC basketball team, coached by Bryan Kirby. Kirby was part of the BIC team which won back to back state championships in 1991-92 and 1992-93. The sixth grade boys each had a basketball for the high school team to autograph.
Coach Taylor's wife, Linda, was presented a dozen red roses.
Miller then presented Coach Taylor and the team with a check for $3,200 to start an account to purchase state champion rings for the players.
"This is a unique group of young men," Miller said. "This team is very special and we are proud to make a contribution to their championship rings."
Miller said an account has been set up at Southern Bank of Commerce and he invites all other businesses on Buffalo Island to contribute on the rings.
"We will make sure all donations are property recognized," Miller said.
"It has been a magical year," Steele said. "The way this team excelled, they set a high standard. I'm not sure Coach Taylor has gotten the recognition he deserves. He led his team to beat some very good teams this year."
Coach Taylor expressed his appreciation to the bank and the fans for everything.
Brandon Ballard, Arkansas State signee, expressed his appreciation for the day.
"It's just awesome knowing they are behind you. It has finally sunk in that we are the best team in AA in the whole state of Arkansas," Ballard said.
Ballard said the state championship had been his goal ever since he started playing basketball.
Brooks Taylor was named most valuable player. He also expressed his appreciation to the fans for their support. Taylor averaged 30 points a game for the regional and state tournaments.
Taylor and Ballard were named to all-state.
Coach Taylor said it has been a great year from start to finish.