Leader Blues

Friday, December 22, 2006

SPORTS >> Beebe hosts holiday hoop tournament

Leader sportswriter

The White County Medical Center/First Security Christmas Classic will get underway on Thursday at the Badger Sports Arena in Beebe. It will be the sixth year for the tournament, and the fifth year under the current format. The tourney has quickly become a holiday favorite for basketball fans in the White County area, with a high number of fans camping out in the stands of the pristine new facility to watch a full day of games.

Fifth-year Badgers coach Chris Ellis says that hosting the tournament has been a labor of love for the past half-decade. He says that the tournament’s popularity seems to grow with every passing year. “People from other schools start calling about this time asking for reserve seating,” Ellis said. “We haven’t had the need for it so far, the arena sits 1,800 people. The response has been outstanding, though. A lot of people come and stay all day, they are off work for the holidays and love the fact that we have the tournament here.”

As far as his own team participating in this year’s tournament, he says the youth and inexperience of his squad concerns him heading into a tournament with some of the toughest teams in the state. “We’re so young, it would serve us a lot better if we didn’t play in a tournament at all over the holidays and just practiced for two or three hours twice every day,” Ellis said. “But with us hosting the tournament, that is not an option.”

Ellis says it is not one particular thing that needs polishing, but rather an all-around improvement, along with some much-needed aggressiveness on the court, particularly when it comes to the boards. “We’ve just been working to get better,” Ellis said. “We need to shoot better, we need to execute better, and be tougher. We’re kind of soft when it comes to going after rebounds; we just need to play like we are hungrier.”

The tournament will kick off Thursday morning at 10 a.m. with the Lonoke Lady Jackrabbits against Hazen. CAC will play Carlisle in the first boys matchup at 11:30 a.m., followed by the Carlisle girls against Drew Central at 1 p.m. Lonoke will take on Drew Central in the boys division at 2:30 pm., with the Southside girls against Riverview following that game at 4 p.m. Newport will face Harding Academy in the boys division bracket at 5:30 p.m., and the host teams will take to the court for the final two games of opening night.

The Lady Badgers will play Harding Academy in the final girls game of the night at 7 p.m., and the Badgers will cap off the night with a game against Batesville Southside. The losers of each game will play during the first four games on Friday, followed by four winner’s bracket games Friday afternoon through Friday evening.

The championship games will be held Saturday night after all of the consolation games. The girls championship will be held at 7 p.m., with the boys championship game wrapping up the tournament at 8:30 p.m.