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story.lead_photo.caption Magnolia junior Kyle Carver battles with a Morrilton Devil Dog during state tournament action. He and the Panthers will face the Little Rock Mills Comets in tonight’s championship game at Hot Springs.

Tonight, the Magnolia Panthers (23-5) will go after their second state basketball title in more than 20 years when they square off against the Little Rock Mills Comets (24-4). Action tips off a 5:15 p.m. inside the Bank OZK Arena at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Both teams have at least three common opponents in Jonesboro Westside, Blytheville and Camden Fairview. The Panthers defeated Westside by 27 points, Blytheville by two and Camden Fairview three times by an average of 14 points. The Comets downed Jonesboro Westside and Blyethville by identical five-point margins, and flew past Camden Fairview by 34 points.

The Panthers enter tonight’s contest as the third-seed from the South, losing only once during their 4A Region 8 Conference season. The Coments are the top-seed from the East and didn’t lose in 4A Region 5 Conference action. The Comets are also riding an 18 game winning streak.

The Panthers’ five losses were to Nevada (twice), Monticello (twice) and Ashdown. Nevada (Class 1A) and Ashdown (Class 3A) reached the finals in their classifications. Mills lost to Little Rock Hall and beat Marion, two teams in the Class 5A Finals.

Raymond Cooper’s Comets are ranked second among all classifications in the state, while Dyun Long’s Panthers are 10th overall. To reach the championship game, Mills earned a first-round bye before knocking off Dardnelle and Little Rock McClelland. Magnolia had to play three games, defeating Morrilton, Blytheville and Jonesboro Westside.

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