For high school basketball fanatics, next week's holiday tournaments offer a small piece of sporting bliss.
Monett, Verona, Pierce City and Purdy high schools will compete in three different tournaments playing a combined 32 games in a short 96-hour period.
|The Cubs and Lady Cubs basketball teams head southwest to play in the 57th annual Neosho Holiday Tournament.|
"I like the Neosho Tournament, because you are usually guaranteed four games," said Monett head coach Ty Goetz. "We get to see some different competition, and that is always a plus."
For the coaches, the tournaments give them a chance to get a clear snapshot of their teams.
|"We have played well at times and pretty average at times this season," said Goetz. "I have been proud of our effort, especially on the glass, and we get an opportunity to assess our team against other styles of play we don't usually see. If we can put it all together, we could be a pretty good club."|
Monett will choose to define its own success.
"Every coach has to determine what a 'success' is during the season," said Goetz. "We will feel good about ourselves if we can go 2-2 or even 3-1 in the tournament. Playing against the quality of competition in this tournament should help us going into our conference schedule after Christmas."
The Monett Lady Cubs open play in the Neosho Holiday Tournament against a tough Bentonville, Ark., squad.
"I know they are one of the better teams in the northwest Arkansas area," said Monett coach Derrek Uhl. "We are looking to get better, so we can compete in our conference and playing teams like this helps you. We need to improve offensively. You see upsets in tournaments when teams are shooting well. We are young, but we play hard."
The Verona Lady Wildcats opened the Walnut Grove Tournament with a loss to Marionville last Saturday. Verona prepares to face Halfway on Tuesday.
"This is our third year in the tournament," said Verona head coach Ryan Yates. "We got in the Walnut Grove Holiday tournament because it offers a lot of small school competition. We get an opportunity to play or see teams that we could meet later in the state playoffs."
A good showing in this holiday tourney would mean a lot to the Lady Wildcats.
"We are still growing as a team," said Yates. "The girls are still learning their new roles, and we are adjusting to the way people are playing us."
The Wildcats enter the Walnut Grove Tournament boys division as the second-seed and will play the winner of the Marionville -Niangua game on Tuesday.
"The boys wanted to get in a holiday tourney that was competitive, and with the girls already in this tourney, it was a perfect fit," said Verona coach Brad Stewart. "We are playing well, having won four of our last five contests. But we are short handed heading into tournament action with three players out with injury so getting healthy is important."
For the Wildcats, the keys to success are simple.
"We need to execute better offensively, continue to be aggressive on defense and most important continue to rebound," said Stewart. "We have shown the ability to fight through tough times. Our inside play has improved, and our zone defense is much improved over the last few games."
Verona has five different players averaging double figures. Seth Losack leads southwest Missouri in assists per game. Cody Ernsberger set a Pierce City tourney record for three-pointers in a game with eight, and Wesley Kissinger should reach the 1,000-point mark in his next full game.
The Pierce City Lady Eagles will also participate in the Neosho Holiday Tournament, while the Eagles head south to Washburn to compete in the Southwest Holiday Tournament.
"We have been in the Neosho Classic for quite a few years," said Pierce City Lady Eagles head coach Tiffany Dirks. "The competition is very steep. We will be challenged and see some of the toughest teams of our season in the tournament."
Preparation will be a key factor if the Lady Eagles are to have a productive tournament.
"We need to play under control to have success in this tournament," said Dirks. "We have the speed, but sometimes we let it get away from us. Our starters have to stay out of foul trouble. With our main group on the floor, we greatly improve our odds of success.
"Our team is a strong, fundamentally sound team," continued Dirks. "We have the potential to do well in our portion of the bracket. Our schedule has given us several great games already this year, which I believe have prepared us for the upcoming tournament."
When it comes to speculating on how Pierce City will fare, winning would be huge for the team.
"These girls are fighters and have been behind in a few games and have remained under control and have fought back to win," said Dirks. "They are not quitters and are driven, competitive and they hate to lose. They are terrific athletes with a passion for sports, which makes them very coachable and a great team to watch."
The Pierce City Eagles are looking to build for the future in the Southwest Tournament.
"This is a tournament that we have been in since I started coaching at Pierce City," said Pierce City head coach Matt Street. "We stay in it, because it is a really tough 10-team tournament. This year, the top six seeds have a record that's above the .500 mark. There aren't too many tournaments that can say that. Southwest has a great facility and creates a great playing environment."
The Eagles take a very young squad into the tournament. Pierce City's team consists of two seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and six freshmen.
"We are a young team that is getting better every day," said Street. "We aren't making the same mistakes that we were early on. As the season goes on, we continue to improve and become a tougher match-up for other teams.
"To be successful in this tournament, we will need to play with some confidence," added Street. "We need to do a better job keeping other teams off the boards and finish more of our shots. We have to force teams out of their comfort zone and take advantage of any mistakes they make."
The Purdy Eagles also travel to the Southwest Holiday Tournament and the Lady Eagles will play in the Neosho Holiday Tournament.
The Eagles like the fact they don't have far to travel.
"This tournament gives us a chance to stay close to home and get a number of games under our belt," said Purdy coach Tommy Egan. "We will be seeing equal and at the same time tough competition. It's a good chance to find out where we are at as a team. Plus, we like the idea of being able to play over the holiday and not get out of synch."
Purdy is still trying to gel as a team.
"We need to find more consistency and start putting together four solid quarters of basketball," said Egan. "We are not shooting the ball as well as we would like to see and hope this improves. The boys are playing aggressive on both ends and are getting to the basket and the free-throw line quite a bit. Defensively, we are active and causing turnovers, but we breakdown and give up to many easy baskets at times."
Egan is hoping a simple recipe will lead his squad to tournament glory.
"We need to share the ball and have good shot selection," said Egan. "Defensively, we need to play hard and smart without silly fouls. We also need to rebound the ball well on both ends of the floor."
The Lady Eagles will head to Neosho and reinsert themselves into the holiday tournament.
"Last year, we were given a one-year invitation to the Pink and White Tournament in Springfield," said Purdy coach Grant Young. "Neosho was gracious enough to let us out for one year and return this year to its tournament. We finished third two years ago and are excited to get another chance at the honor of playing in this tournamnet."
Purdy will have to continue to improve to have success in Neosho.
"We have really adjusted well to new personnel and have played well together early," said Young. "Starting the season 8-1 has given us a big confidence boost. We have much room for improvement offensively but have lots of season left to get better. We need to play off our defense and rebounding. Our two-three hybrid-zone has caused many fits, and with our rebounding from our frontline, we have made it tougher for teams to get extra chances."
The Monett wrestling team will also participate in a holiday break tournament traveling to Springfield to participate in the Kinloch Classic Holiday Tournament Wednesday and Thursday.
"The Springfield tournament is a good challenge for us," said Monett wrestling coach Daryl Bradley. "There are 24 teams in the competition from three different states. We are one of the smallest teams in the tournament, and we usually fare pretty well."
With such a large tournament, the wrestling Cubs will see plenty of action.
"This tournament can beat you physically as well as mentally," said Bradley. "It is definitely a marathon. Each kid should get around 10 matches in two days.
"We have two goals heading into the tourney. First, we want to get kids wrestling in the right weight class, and second, we need to see where we are at individually," continued Bradley. "Right now we are pretty beat up, and we are looking to survive. We need to be ready for the January push, and this tournament gets us headed in the right direction."
Editor's note: Check www.monett-times.com for holiday tournament updates throughout next week's games.