The past few Bi-County Tournaments have seemed like something of a foregone conclusion, with Oregon-Davis topping the pile four straight years. With four-time tourney MVP Gabbi Minix and the rest of that dynasty long gone, however, this year’s 34th annual girls tilt could be the end of an era.
Just not if the Bobcats have anything to say about.
“After the game the other night against Argos we talked about how somebody was always going to want to knock us off, whether it’s a regular-season game or whatever. Now we’re going to play a tournament that we’ve won for the last four years, and we’re going to get everybody’s best game, and they understand it,” said OD head coach Terry Minix. “They obviously don’t want to be the group that stops that run, so they understand. We’ve got a good group of young girls. They’re motivated by just being around the last couple of years and seeing it.”
As the tourney opens Tuesday night, Culver will travel to Bremen, while Argos hosts John Glenn, Triton heads for New Prairie, and OD takes the court at LaVille. The winners of the Culver-Bremen match-up will take on the winners of the Argos-Glenn match-up at 6:30 p.m. at LaVille Thursday, while the winners of the Triton-New Prairie contest and the Lancers-Bobcats game will face off in the other semifinal at 8:00 p.m. Thursday at Lancerland.
The Lancers-Bobcats draw is a repeat of the Bi-County championship game the past two years, and while OD may have lost virtually all of its players from the 2010 championship squad, LaVille head coach Kevin McCullough isn’t expecting any dramatic drop-off from the Class A, No. 4 Bobcats.
“The thing that Coach Minix and his staff are able to do, they are very good coaches and teach very fundamental basketball, but they teach their girls to play without fear,” he said. “They might have a few more turnovers this year, but they’re playing with young kids. They go out there and they expect to win, and they’re fearless when they’re out there. That’s the thing I think I appreciate the most about them.”
The LaVille-OD game represents a classic clash of size versus speed, as the bigger, stronger Lancers (7-6) match up with the smaller, quicker Bobcats (10-3).
“Size is always a problem with us. That’s why we play the style that we play,” Minix said. “We’re going to get up and down the floor and press you all over the place. They have the size and they had more size on us last year as well. We don’t worry about other teams’ size and all that stuff. We just worry about what we’re capable of doing... They’re going to pound the ball down low, and we’re going to see which team wins: the speed or the size.”
Speaking of size advantages, no one in the Bi-County field enjoys a more significant one than Culver, which boasts a pair of strong frontcourters in 6-1 senior Gwen Zehner and 6-3 senior Patrice McBee. Bremen (6-8) is coming off a solid win at Glenn over the weekend, but the competitive Lions will need to put their best game together if they hope to avoid a second loss to Class 2A, No. 8 Culver following a convincing loss there in early December.
“Bremen and Argos are in our bracket. We played both of them, so we have stuff on them; we had success against both of them, so that’s good,” said Culver head coach Tony Scheub. “We haven’t John Glenn, but with the way they’re playing they have a chance to get past that first game.”
“The girls are excited,” he added. “I’m looking forward to being in that atmosphere. It seems like every game on our schedule is a big game; this is the Bi-County or this is a conference game or this is a rival. I love that intensity that comes with each game. I’m excited as a coach.”
While the state-ranked Cavaliers and Bobcats are the frontrunners at this year’s tourney, the rest of the field looks fairly well balanced between Argos (6-8), New Prairie (5-9) and Triton (6-7), and while the Trojans may have a slight record advantage on paper, head coach Adam Heckaman said his team can’t afford to overlook anyone.
“We play New Prairie first, and they have a good team. They have a lot of girls that can score points,” he said. “They’ll be tough to get by, and if we do, we’ll have to play another good team. We’re just trying to get better day by day.”