TERRE HAUTE —
Gathered at Rick’s Smokehouse and Grill on Thursday afternoon for the luncheon/drawing to determine first-round matchups in the upcoming Terre Haute Savings Bank Tip-Off Tournament for girls high school basketball, coaches involved sounded cautiously confident about the outlooks of their teams.
The eight-team tournament will begin Tuesday, Nov. 12, at West Vigo with defending champion Terre Haute North facing Greencastle at 6 p.m. and South Vermillion battling the host Vikings at about 7:30.
The next day, the Nov. 12 losing teams will square off at 5 p.m., then Terre Haute South will battle Northview at 6:30 and Owen Valley will take on North Central at roughly 8.
After three more games Nov. 14, the 2013 champion will be determined Nov. 15 with a clash starting at 6 p.m.
Following the formal part of the luncheon Thursday, North coach Mike Allen told the Tribune-Star that he knows little about Greencastle, but that doesn’t mean the Tiger Cubs won’t be formidable.
“We’ve played them a couple times in this tournament in the past,” he recalled. “I know their coach [Bradley Key] does a great job on getting his girls ready to play. They’re going to show up on Tuesday [Nov. 12] and they’re going to be ready to play us.”
As for his own team, Allen described it as “not too bad for three days [of practice].”
“We’re fortunate enough that we’ve got four kids coming back who started a lot of the season and had a lot of playing time last year,” he continued. “I’m relying on my four seniors to give us great leadership and I’ve got some young kids that I hope will fill some spots for us.”
Allen isn’t shying away from the “defending champions” label that his squad will carry into the tourney.
“I’m sure it’s going to put a bull’s eye on our backs a little bit,” he admitted. “But like I said earlier … everybody’s coming in looking to get a championship. We just happen to have one from last year. We have the same expectations this year. We’re looking to come in and be a repeat champ.”
Meanwhile, South coach Cara Stuckey offered a slightly more detailed evaluation of her team’s first-round foe.
“We know that Northview is bringing back a lot of its players from last year,” she mentioned. “They’ve improved a lot, so we know right from the very beginning [of the tournament] we’ll have a tough challenge.”
Regarding her Braves, Stuckey isn’t sure what to make of them yet.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces and new players playing together,” she said, “so each day our goal is to get better and hopefully get a good start to the season in this tournament.”
Asked to assess the tournament, Stuckey singled out Allen’s Patriots when she said: “North’s the defending champs, so they’re the ones with the target on their backs this year.”
From the West Vigo perspective, veteran coach Ryan Easton will bring an experienced group into the 2013 version of the Tip-Off Tournament.
“Promising,” he said of his Vikings, measuring his words carefully. “We didn’t lose anybody from last year, so we’ve got everybody back, which is usually a good thing. … I’ve seen maturity from the group as a whole. Their strength has improved. Promising.”
Easton said South is probably the favorite to capture the tourney title Nov. 15, then he warned not to rule out several other schools.
So basically, he summarized, anybody can win it.
“It’s a good way to start the season,” Easton said of the four-day affair. “You get a chance to scout almost everybody on your schedule. We play a big conference rival in South Vermillion [in the first round]. … It’s always a battle. … They’re not as young as they were last year, but they’re pretty young. They’ll come in and compete every time.
“This time of year, you’re more worried about what you can do than the other team. That’s for sure.”
Terre Haute Savings Bank
At West Vigo
(last season’s records in parentheses)
6 p.m. — Terre Haute North (15-8) vs. Greencastle (15-10)
7:30 — South Vermillion (3-18) vs. West Vigo (5-16)
5 p.m. — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser
6:30 — Terre Haute South (16-8) vs. Northview (8-14)
8 — Owen Valley (15-7) vs. North Central (7-15)
5 p.m. — Game 4 loser vs. Game 5 loser
6:30 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner
8 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner
6 p.m. — Championship game