Martin with senior trio Blackmon, Jones and Lewis achieve basketball honors for 2019-2020

CONFERENCE COACH OF THE YEAR: Malvern Leopards basketball head coach Jess Martin observes the flow of ball movement from the bench during game action. Martin received unanimous 7-4A Conference Coach of the Year honors following the Leopards capturing the conference title with a 10-2 record.FINISHING STRONG AT THE BASKET: Senior Aaron Jones powers strong under the basket to score in the paint area for the Leopards during game action.ALL-STATE PERFORMER: Senior Dakovon Blackmon rises up to shoot from behind the arc to drill one of 81 three-pointers made during the 2019-2020 basketball season. Blackmon led the Leopards in scoring to earn All-State and All-Conference honors.SOARING TO SCORE: Senior Dallas Lewis soars to score a basket for the Leopards to showcase productive play on the hardwood.
Gerren Smith
Staff Writer

MALVERN — The hometown Malvern Leopards basketball team created noise of success this year on the hardwood. Following Malvern’s historic accomplishments —capturing the 7-4A Sr. High Boys District Tournament and 7-4A Conference titles, head coach Jess Martin and seniors Dakovon Blackmon, Aaron Jones and Dallas Lewis received postseason accolades for the 2019-2020 basketball season.
Blackmon, Jones and Lewis each received 7-4A All-Conference honors. Blackmon earned 4A All-State honors and Martin received 7-4A Conference Coach of the Year.
This is the first conference title won by the Leopards since D-I standout Andre Jones played in Malvern. It’s also the first conference title for Martin as head coach of the senior high boys team. Martin has two back-to-back state championships as head coach of Malvern’s senior high girls teams—2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. As head coach of the girls senior high teams, Martin has received coach of the year honors five times. Martin is proud to achieve success as head coach in Malvern’s senior high boys basketball program. He hopes to continue to build the boys basketball program and establish a good culture to keep the tradition progressing in Malvern.
Martin has stated during the season how much he appreciates the community and their support for the Leopards basketball program. During the 7-4A District Tournament hosted at the Leopard Center, the fanbase really came out to lift Malvern in the semifinals and the championship game to create an exciting atmosphere for the hometown Leopards. Martin was very proud of the Leopards performance, but appreciative to everyone in the community for their support.
“I really want to say thanks to the community for coming out and supporting us,” Martin said.
The seniors really stepped up to contribute to Malvern’s success for a 20-4 overall record and 10-2 conference finish to add more title hardware for the senior high boys basketball program.
Blackmon was amongst one of the top performers in the entire 4A state classification. Blackmon scored 774 points, averaged 31 points per game and made 81 three-pointers from behind the arc. In the semifinals of the district tournament, Blackmon scored a career-high 53 points and made a season-high 10 three-pointers in Malvern’s 79-72 victory against Bauxite. Blackmon finished the first quarter with 19 points and went on to finish the first half with 32 points of his 53 points for the contest. This season, Blackmon has recorded multiple high-scoring games to surpass career-high performances of 45 points vs. Episcopal (December 19, 2019), and 51 points vs. Hope (January 21)— which all were wins at home for Malvern.
Jones scored 355 points during the season. He averaged 14 points per game as Malvern’s second leading scorer. Jones produced several high scoring nights. He stepped up to play productively in several big rivalry games that led to victories for Malvern. Jones scored 20 points in Malvern’s 10-point victory 86-76 against rivals’ Arkadelphia, January 31. Arkadelphia hadn’t suffered a conference loss at 8-0 and Malvern ended their eight-game winning streak that propelled the Leopards to capturing the league title.
Lewis was the Leopards third key player this season. He scored 231 points and averaged 10 points per game for double-figures.
Lewis also came up big in key victories for the Leopards and knocked down trifectas (3-pointers) from behind the arc at crucial moments during close games.
These seniors also contributed in other areas for Malvern—rebounds, assists, steals and blocks with their Leopard teammates during the season.
During the Christmas holiday break, the Leopards were victorious in all three battles to finish 3-0 in tournament competition to capture the 2019 Goldfish Classic title in Lonoke.
The Leopards had to play with a 35 second shot clock during the tournament. The Leopards senior trio of Blackmon, Jones and Lewis fulfilled their leadership roles productively during the tournament. Blackmon led all scoring in all three games for a total of 103 points scored during the tournament. Blackmon posted a 20, 30 and 40 plus point scoring performances to help lift the Leopards in all key victories. He also was only two points shy from tying his career-high 45 points in the championship game. Jones and Lewis also posted in double-figures throughout the tournament and made crucial baskets to produce victories for the Leopards.
Martin will miss these seniors, but appreciates their work ethic to represent the Leopards productively for outstanding high school basketball careers.
Martin also appreciates assistant coaches’ Nick Brumfield and John Strange for their contributions to the accomplishments achieved by the Malvern Leopards basketball team this season.
The Leopards anticipate another big season on the hardwood next year and hope to make more noise of success for the 2020-2021.