J. Frank Parnell: Rhodes Delivers Colossal Night


Rhodes Delivers Colossal Night

By J. Frank Parnell

We’d be fools to believe a second Sports Desk trip to Rhodes Field House at Searcy’s Harding University could top last year’s triple-overtime match against Southern Arkansas University.

Then again, we’re pretty foolish.

Thursday night’s Harding-Arkansas Tech University melee may have topped that three-OT game, at least for intensity. Harding, mired in the middle of the Great American Conference standings, popped three-pointers and led its rivals by as many as 17 points in the first half. Tech, clawing for the top of the league standings, gradually gained ground and led 45-44 with 10:30 to play in the game. Harding got the stroke back and appeared to have it wrapped up with a 65-60 advantage with 53 seconds left.

A couple of missed free throws opened the door for the Wonder Boys and, down by a point, Marshawn Arnold squirreled his way under the basket and behind the backboard to somehow put back a miss before the red light flashed. Tech’s win disappointed the Rhodes Rowdies and ruined senior night for Weston Jameson and Hayden Johnson, who scored 21 points and became the GAC’s all-time scoring leader.

In the opener, the Harding women dropped Tech, 61-54, and moved to 26-1 overall, 18-1 in the GAC to win the conference title. They tied the team record for wins in a season and won their 17thstraight home game to set a team record.

Not only are they great this year, they’ll be hard to beat next season. This was senior night for six players but most starters will return.

Buzzer Baffler

Arnold’s final shot beat the buzzer – there was no doubt from our vantage point – but confusion set in for about 10 seconds.

Referees indicated the shot counted and one of them indicated “game over” as he walked toward the Tech bench. Coach Doug Karleskint, his staff and players briefly became hysterical when they thought the basket was disallowed.

 “(The referee) said ‘game over’ and I looked at the scoreboard but the bucket hadn’t been added,” Karleskint said. “For a second, we thought they weren’t going to count the basket, which was good.”

The Rhodes Rowdies, watching the reaction of the Tech players and coaches, thought the same thing and roared, believing the basket was no good. In seconds, emotions swung back and Tech realized it was victorious, 68-67.

But enough about basketball – we go to Rhodes for the atmosphere.

Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz

Kids I grew up with enjoyed sliding a bag of peanuts in their favorite sodas, usually RC, King Kola or Coke. I hadn’t seen this practice in years until I spotted a Harding fan with peanuts floating in a Diet Dr Pepper. Not quite the same thing, but the spirit’s there.

Gotta Love It

The Rowdies are so effective at Rhodes because they’re organized.Rhodes Delivers Colossal Night rhodes rowdies

As the Tech starting five were introduced, the student section held up newspapers, pretended to read and chanted, “Who cares?” as each player was announced. They wadded up and tossed the papers, and began cheering as Harding’s players took the court.

Linebacker’s Attitude

We noticed immediately that A’ndrea Haney, @and1haney, a 5-6 freshman guard from West Plains, Mo., played with the mindset of a linebacker. She was fearless on drives and flashed across the court several times for steals. Her enthusiasm, however, was almost costly when she received a technical foul with about 50 seconds to play and Harding holding a 6-point lead.

Early in the game, a Harding player came off the bench and reminded us of a slightly lighter version of Haney. A check of the roster revealed it was her sister Tabitha, a 5-6 junior guard.

Keep an eye on 10 and 14.

Turn It Down!

Maybe it’s the configuration of the old hangar, maybe it’s where I was sitting, but I’m begging the folks at Rhodes to turn down the buzzer.

I realize the buzzer must be loud enough to be heard over the crowd and the band – both of which can be deafening – but this buzzer is beyond adequate. It’s not a sound, it’s a feeling. The last time I heard something that loud was in 1986 when I felt/heard Black Flag at the old S.O.B. in Little Rock. Thanks, Henry.

Buzzer or no buzzer, Rhodes is L-O-U-D – sometimes loud enough to remind us of the booming Barnhill Arena’s glory days at the University of Arkansas. If only Harding’s band, The Thundering Herd, could find a way to race around the field house during time outs a la Jim Robken.

Speaking of Noise

What’s up with the song selections at Rhodes? This is not a critique of music and no disrespect is meant, but we found some of the tunes odd for a faith-based university.

As we walked in, The Thundering Herd was blasting Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 1.” Nothing strange there; that song is played at every sporting venue in the world. But given Glitter’s legal problems regarding children, perhaps something else would be more appropriate.

We noticed other tunes played by the band or through the public-address system didn’t seem to match the school’s mission: Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” (carefully presented without vocals), “Ironman” by Black Sabbath, Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and a remix featuring C&C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat,” better known as “Everybody Dance Now.”

Just an observation.

But there is one song at Rhodes Field House you can’t find a better version of anywhere…

First Time

Every team in every sport has senior night. It’s a way to recognize players who have given their all for a team, whether they were stars or pine-riders. It’s an emotional moment when players and coaches realize this is the end of the ride. No more games, no more practices, no more locker room camaraderie. It’s tough; we’ve been there.

But we also went somewhere we’d never been before during senior night at Rhodes. Several members of The Thundering Herd and Rhodes Rowdies were recognized for their efforts. A school pointing out bandies and fans is pretty cool, and part of what makes Harding a special place.

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