Bates, Vilonia Lady Eagles vying for state championship

Levi GIlbert
Vilonia High School’s Reagan Bates is a member of this year’s 501 Basketball Team, sponsored by Conway Regional Health System, First Security Bank and Conway Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center. (Mike Kemp photo)

After 25 wins and a 5A quarterfinals finish a season ago, Reagan Bates and the Vilonia Lady Eagles have been on a mission for a year to make it back to the state tournament and finish the job of winning a state championship. 

“As a team, we’re always trying to motivate each other during the good and the bad, push each other to be the best players we can be, and to be team players, supporting each other in any role we may find ourselves in throughout the season,” Bates said. “If we do this, we have a great chance to win the 5A state championship.”

Bates and the Lady Eagles (22-2, 10-1) made a statement win on the road at Greenwood last Friday, 62-60, giving them sole position of first place in the 5A West. On Tuesday, the Lady Eagles beat county rival Greenbrier.

“This rivalry is very important to me and our entire community,” Bates said. “I’m always excited to play Greenbrier because I know that there will be a lot of people that will come out and support us.”

Bates was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 41 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Regional Health System, First Security Bank and Conway Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center. The senior guard was nominated by her head coach, Alvin Riley.

“Reagan played a backup role last year and did a really good job of being able to come in the game and give other players some rest,” Riley wrote in his nomination. “She also was able to hit some big shots in a few games last season. This year, Reagan [has] a much bigger role and is one of the team leaders.”

The increased expectations this season haven’t always been easy for Bates, but she’s used both the failures and successes as learning and growing experiences.

“So far this season, I’ve learned that I must have confidence in myself even when I don’t play as well as I had hoped or planned,” Bates said. “On the court, I have had to overcome the difficulties of maintaining a positive attitude when I have given my best effort and it didn’t work out like I had envisioned. Your performance in sports doesn’t define you as a person, but sports can bring you so much joy, give you something to be passionate about and give you friendships that will last a lifetime.”

After basketball wraps up in March, Bates will lace up her cleats for the Vilonia softball team. Beyond athletics, Bates is involved in Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. After high school, she plans to attend the University of Central Arkansas and pursue a degree in elementary education. 

Bates and Vilonia return to action playing host to Russellville at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21.