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story.lead_photo.caption Photo by Mike Eckels Decatur’s Marck Guadarrama (24) goes for a lay up against a Highlander player during the second game of the Decatur Summer Classic at Peterson Gym in Decatur June 14. Guadarrama is one of six seniors that are returning for their final season with the Bulldogs.

DECATUR -- Over the years, the Decatur Bulldog basketball program has produced some of the most fast-paced and exciting sports in the Decatur area.

In 1923, the Decatur Bulldog boys' basketball team went undefeated, playing more than 30 games in four states and winning the northwest Arkansas and state championships.

In more recent times, the Bulldog boys have won two district 2A 4 West championships and a regular season championship in 2015. This year promises to be another exciting season.

Earlier this year, the Arkansas Activities Association reorganized its conference platforms, placing bigger schools in a higher conference and moving smaller schools into a lower conference. In basketball, the Decatur Bulldogs were one of the smaller teams that was moved from the 2A conference, which it has been a part of for five years, to the 1A Northwest Conference with Kingston, Alpena, Omaha and Lead Hill.

Decatur returns five seniors this season. Leng Lee, Bracy Owens, Jay Porter, Marck Guadarrama and Wyatt Bingham will make up the heart of the Bulldog team.

"These guys have been here for four years," said head coach John Unger. "They've been on winning teams, so they know what it takes to be competitive."

During the off season this summer, the team participated in several summer camps including the John Brown University team camp in Siloam Springs on June 3 and 4 and the West Fork Tournament in July. It also hosted the Decatur Summer Classic at Peterson Gym in mid June.

"We played 25 games this summer," Unger said. "We have already played a whole season's worth of games getting ready to start a second. But these experiences show them how to win, how to compete and how to become a better team."

The summer schedule gave Unger's younger players a chance to grow, mature and become more proficient in the sport. Taylor Haisman, Levi Newman, Ryan Ross and Jimmy Mendoza all gained valuable experiences and built their confidence, something that will aid the basketball program to win more this season.

"It all starts with the seniors," said Unger. "They have matured so much since last season and their confidence level is there. For example, Bracy Owens doesn't talk much, but he gets in and gets the job done for us. Bracy, Jay, and Leng are very good at helping our younger players to be more effective basketball players."

With all these elements in place, the Decatur Bulldogs are expected to have a winning season this year. But one more element is needed to make this a successful season: fan support. In years past, the bleachers at Peterson Gym were filled to near capacity. And when the stands are full, the gym comes alive and is very loud, which creates an intimidation factor. This causes opponents to lose concentration and make more mistakes giving the Bulldogs the up hand.

"We want the community to come out for the guys and get involved," Unger said. "We want them to get to know us, get to know me and the team and be a part of Decatur basketball."

The Decatur Holiday Hoops tournament is coming up Nov. 28 through Dec. 3. Nine teams from Arkansas and Missouri will be competing for the annual Holiday Hoops trophy. Make plans to support Decatur in its quest to bring the trophy home this year.

For more information on the Decatur Holiday Hoops tournament or to see a complete list of boys' and girls' basketball schedule, go to decatursd.com/athletics/schedules.

Sports on 11/09/2016

Print Headline: Bulldogs ready for basketball season

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