Nettleton Girls Basketball Team: Still Champions

Team picture of Nettleton Girls Basketball team on the side of a yellow school bus.
The Nettleton Lady Raiders. Photo by Laila Eliotti.

Jonesboro was pumped to see the local high school basketball team, the Nettleton Lady Raiders, prepare to compete in its first-ever state championship.

Around town, there were billboards celebrating the Nettleton High School girls’ basketball team. People in town treated the team members like celebrities. They had finished the regular season with a 27-5 overall record along and had won their fifth consecutive conference championship. In mid-March, a few days before the team was to board a bus to Hot Springs for the championship game, the competition was canceled due to COVID-19.

“I was upset,” said Alexa Jackson, a rising junior on the team. “I was really looking forward to cheering on my teammates, and especially the seniors!”

 All was not lost, however. After six weeks, Nettleton and the opposing team, Greenwood Lady Bulldogs, were named state champions. Although they really wanted to play for their first championship, the decision to award the championship to both teams made the players smile. They received their championship rings on July 6 at a ceremony in Raider Gym at Nettleton High School.

Close up of the state girls basketball championship ring.
The championship ring. Photo by Laila Eliotti

The cancellation of on-campus school on March 13 was another loss for students at Nettleton, which has more than 1,000 students, with 40% being Black. Students were looking forward to finishing off the year strong. By going to online teaching, the students missed the conversations and interactions with friends and teachers.

Some students, like Justin Livingston, have spent some time cleaning their houses. Twins Jalen and Jarrod Graham have spent their time working out and playing basketball. Berkeley Landrum, a junior, said the isolation has been driving her insane.

While Nettleton students dealt with a pandemic, several also have been fighting for change by protesting against racism. Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the citizens of Jonesboro gathered May 31 on Carraway Road to protest against police brutality and racial inequality in our country.

Young man raising the Black fist at the Nettleton High School graduation.
Jarrod Graham, a recent graduate from Nettleton High School, at the #BlackLivesMatter protest in Jonesboro, May 31, 2020. Photo courtesy James Bickham Visuals.

“The protest meant a lot to me,” said Katrynity Jones, a senior at Nettleton High School, who attended the protest along with other high school students.

“On top of my safety, I know when a cop stops my little brother, they see his skin as a weapon, and that’s what I am fighting for,” Jones explained. “I really appreciate (Jonesboro Police Department) for allowing us to show our emotions and keeping us out of harm’s way. I believe that with more protests, we will change the country’s ongoing problem with discrimination.”


Laila Eliotti is a rising senior and a member of the Nettleton Lady Raiders Basketball team. This article was a winning entry in the Arkansas Soul 2020 Summer Digital Writing Challenge.