Teams making the most out of limited tourneys
There will be fewer fans in the stands to cheer for Cailey Barney’s team during Centre’s Cougar Classic next week, but she is just happy to play this year.
Barney, a Centre senior, suffered a severe ankle sprain last year and missed the entire season, so she isn’t taking this season for granted.
“This year it will be very different, playing and not being able to have a lot of fans,” she said. “I’m definitely excited to be able to be back out there on the court playing.”
Centre’s Cougar Classic and Hillsboro’s Trojan Classic both will be next week, but the tournaments will be pool-play only with no bracket play.
The Trojans decided to forgo bracket play because there were too many risks, Hillsboro activities director Robert Rempel said.
“We want to play the games, but in the normal tournament format you’re mixing eight different communities,” he said. “I think it’s the responsibility of schools to help with not spreading COVID-19.”
Centre’s games before winter break were canceled, and basketball practices only started after Christmas break.
“It’s just weird to know we only have two weeks to prepare,” Barney said.
Coach Alan Stahlecker spoke to Barney and her teammates about playing small but mighty.
“People don’t expect us to be much or be made of much,” “I’m excited to show everyone what we’ve got.”
With 12 players on the girls team, Centre has more than last year. While that is helpful, Barney understands the need for her to be a leader because many of her teammates are younger players.
“We have a lot of younger players,” she said. “I think a lot of it is stepping up and being a senior, being a role model.”
Athletic director Tim Vinduska is glad he doesn’t have to worry about getting teams for the Cougar Classic or where to play.
There are eight teams that compete, with Centre joined by Marion, Peabody-Burns, and five teams from neighboring counties. Having a consistent pool of teams meant Vinduska didn’t have to scramble to field a tournament.
“It really helped,” he said. “Each new cycle I ask guys if they want to come back.”
Most of the teams at the Cougar Classic are from Centre’s league, which Vinduska said helps if other league games are canceled.
Barney faced several of those teams every year she played. She knows which players might have graduated recently, as well as tendencies to watch for.
“Who did they graduate last year?” she said. “Do they have the same team members? It definitely helps.”
Unlike Vinduska, Rempel had a challenge trying to find venues for the Trojan Classic.
With Clay Center and Republic County visiting from the north, and Holcomb from the west, Rempel had to find locations that worked for all teams.
“I can’t really just send games to Holcomb for sake of travel,” he said.
Both athletic directors hope to revisit a typical tournament format next year.
“I love seeing the communities just come together,” Rempel said. “There are a lot of people from all the schools who come every year.”