This time of year, Jackson County’s hardwood heroes look forward to two big events: the holidays, and the tournaments around them.
Some of the best basketball teams in southern Indiana will gather at various locations, for a chance at glory before the new year.
Jackson County’s programs will commence play starting today up until Dec. 30.
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When the chance to enter the East Central Holiday Tournament arose for the Seymour girls basketball team, the program quickly accepted.“We felt like this was a better opportunity for our kids at the midway point to kind of see where we’re at in a tournament-style situation,” Seymour coach Jason Longmeier said.
In previous seasons, the Owls played a round-robin style tournament at Bedford North Lawrence with teams like Carmel, BNL and Jasper.
“It’s a true tournament (at East Central) where if you win you get to advance and get a chance to play for a championship,” Longmeier said. “Over at Bedford we basically played three games and at the end of the day it almost felt too much like summer.
“We don’t want our kids to relax in this type of thing. We want them to take this as ‘Let’s approach this as if it’s a sectional tournament,’ and get an idea of where we’re at, playing three games in a short period of time, just like you have to in the sectional.”
The tournament will be held Dec. 29 and Dec. 30, and games will be played in two gyms.
The event will begin at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 with Rushville facing Jac-Cen-Del, and Southport taking on Wapahani.
At 4 p.m. that day, Seymour (9-3) will battle Hamilton Heights, and Danville will play East Central.
“I’ve looked at Hamilton Heights a little bit,” Longmeier said. “They’re not a high-scoring team, but they don’t give up a lot of points, either. They want to slow some things down and I think they want to slow us down as well.”
The losers of those games will play that evening, while the winners won’t play their second games until the following day.
The finals of the winners and losers bracket will be held on the evening of Dec. 30.
Longmeier said he feels like the Owls have momentum on their side going into the tournament following the victory over Columbus North last Tuesday.
Seymour has won seven of its last eight games.
The North Daviess Classic — better known as the Graber Post Buildings Tournament — never disappointments those in admittance.Each year, ranked teams from across all four classes meet in Elnora looking for bragging rights.
In 2016, the class 3A No. 9 Brownstown Central boys basketball team aims for a third-straight championship.
On Dec. 27, the Braves will open play against Class 4A No. 14 Evansville Reitz at 7:30 p.m.
Brownstown comes into the tournament at 6-0, but coach Dave Benter believes the team’s best performances are ahead of them.
“Reitz is a great team for us to pick up,” Benter said. “They’re very athletic and long. They’ve been a top-5 team in the state for about the past five years. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but it’s going to be good for us to see that type of team.”
Other games on Dec. 27 include: Clay City versus Class 3A No. 16 Pike Central at 3 p.m., South Knox against Class 2A No. 1 Barr-Reeve at 4:30 p.m. and Rising Sun versus Class A No. 10 North Daviess at 6 p.m.
“We’re going to play some different styles,” Benter said. “After that game, we’re (likely) going to play a team that will press and trap us. Then, we turn around and play a team that will likely hold the ball and will want to have a low possession game. That’s good for us, we’re going to play teams like Silver Creek late in the season that will play that way. There are some good basketball teams.”
Due to Park Tudor dropping out of the tournament, the Braves and Panthers will automatically advance to the winners bracket on Dec. 29. Princeton gets a bye and plays its first game on Dec. 29.
Semifinals for both the winners and consolation bracket will take place on Dec. 29 and the finals will be played on Dec. 30 with the championship set for 7:30 p.m.
Benter said he likes the direction the team is heading into the new year.
“We finally saw in the third quarter (against North Harrison) our ball movement,” he said. “Besides a couple guys, we don’t have a lot of size or length. We’re really depending on our ball movement, dribble penetration and finding open shooters.
We have to make shots, too. I think this team has a high ceiling defensively. When we’re playing the way we’re capable of, we can be a really good defensive team. In order for us to be good offensively, we have to move the ball and attack the lane. That’s really what we need to get better at as the season goes on.”
Brownstown, Trinity girls
Trinity Lutheran and Brownstown Central will play in the gauntlet that is the Eastern Greene Toby Yoho Classic on Dec. 26 and Dec. 27.Both teams will play two games each day.
Trinity faces Salem at 9:30 a.m. and Owen Valley at 1 p.m. while the Braves are set to play South Knox Edgewood and the same times on Dec. 26.
On the first day, the Cougars will play at the elementary school while the Braves are at the high school in Bloomfield.
There will be four total pools in play.
“The first day is going to be hard for us,” Braves coach Karla Rieckers said. “We play at 9:30 Monday morning the day after Christmas. I don’t really like playing Monday games — especially after a holiday. Hopefully we get everyone up and going early. The good thing is that we will get done early and will be able to relax at the hotel.”
The Braves are back on track at 8-6 on the season, riding a three-game winning streak after dropping five consecutive games.
Consistency will be the key for continued success for the Braves.
“We have to put together four, solid, consistent games,” Rieckers said. “Free throw shooting is something we will need to have. It’s a mental thing. Owen Valley and Forest Park are both very good. We have some quality teams in the tournament we will have to have four games where we play start to finish.”
By the end of the tournament, Rieckers hopes to have the entire roster back. Injuries have plagued the team throughout the season.
“Hopefully, we can get everyone back healthy,” Rieckers said. “We want to get into a rotation. We will have a kid play one day and not the next game. Our rotation hasn’t been anything smooth or consistent. We want to get those kids playing together. Sometimes, I think when they’ve been out so long they’re tentative and hesitant. Hopefully we can get through that and start the year off healthy.”
The Cougars played in the tournament for the first time last year, and plan to keep coming back.
“We’re going to keep going back (to Toby Yoho) for as long as they will have us,” Lang said. “In my opinion, it’s one of the best holiday tournaments you’re going to find in southern Indiana. There aren’t any weak teams there whatsoever. You’re going to see quality play day in and out.”
Trinity is now 4-8, winning three of their last four.
“We’re learning the mentality of how to win,” Cougars coach Mike Lang said. “We’ve talked a lot about how we’ve lost five games by four points or less or in overtime. We need to continue to have that mentality of learning to win: as crazy as that sounds. Sometimes, it isn’t as easy as it seems. They need to have confidence down the stretch to put a team away. We want to continue having that kind of growth.”
Other teams in attendance will be Clay City, Paoli, Owen Valley, Riverton Parke, Boonville and Eastern Greene.
The matchups on Dec. 27 will depend on Monday’s results.
Medora, Trinity boys
Both Trinity Lutheran and Medora’s boys basketball teams will head back to Edinburgh in 2016.All teams in the tournament will play two games on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28.
At 1-5 on the season, Trinity wants to see improvement and execution on tired legs.
“We want to see some more confidence and chemistry playing together,” Cougars coach Brian Stuckwisch said. “We want to see if they can implement what we’ve worked on so far into a game.
“It’s more like getting ready for sectional. It’s more of a sectional atmosphere where you play to advance. There will be bigger crowds. In the sectional, you could also play two games in one day.”
Trinity opens against South Decatur, at 4 p.m., who they lost to 63-47 in their season opener.
“They’re a size matchup for us,” Stuckwisch said. “We played really well for half of the game against them. Now that Kendall White is back, our bigger post player, we’re hoping it will match up better in the post.”
Medora coach Mark Morin said his team needs to play with more consistency than what it has shown to date.
“Right now I’m not worried about who we’re playing,” he said. “We just need to try to get better. We’ve just got to take it a possession at a time, and put together as many good possessions as we can.”
The Hornets are 0-8, while their first-round opponent — to be played at noon — Jac-Cen-Del is 0-5.
Morin said his team needs to reduce its turnovers, and by averaging over 20 a game that has cut down the Hornets’ scoring opportunities as they are averaging only 36 points per game while giving up 66 per contest.
Other teams in the tourney include, Hagerstown, Indianapolis Lutheran and the host school.
Crothersville’s boys basketball team will stay busy this week.The Tigers are playing at the one-day Henryville Tournament today and the newly formed Scott County Invitational on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23.
Today, the Tigers will play Assumption (Ky.) at 11:45 a.m. while Henryville open with Cornerstone Christian (Ky.) at 10 a.m.
The losers play for third place at 6 p.m. and winner square-off at 7:45 p.m. in the championship.
At Scott County’s first-ever tourney, eight teams will take the field: Cannelton, Austin, Christian Academy, South Central (Elizabeth), Scottsburg, Crothersville, Rock Creek Academy and Orleans.
At 2-5, Crothersville’s young team looks to finish games and take care of the ball.
“I’m looking for us to keep taking care of the ball,” Tigers coach Greg Kilgore said. “We’ve kept the turnovers down. I would like to see us to have focus and intensity with multiple games. We’re going to play in an tournament atmosphere.”
Austin and Scottsburg will serve as the host schools for competition.
Crothersville opens at Scottsburg at 10 a.m. on Dec. 22.
Teams will play two games on Dec. 22 and one the following day.
“I feel we have a pretty good shot at wining both of them,” Kilgore said. “We need to go in with a mindset that there will be runs. we need to sustain composure to make a big run of our own.”