BCT PREVIEW: Most tournament teams relying on juniors, underclassmen

Members of the Bloomfield cheerleading squad present the championship trophy to members of the Hayti Indians following the championship game of the 62nd Bloomfield Christmas Touranment last year at Bloomfield High School. The Indians beat Twin Rivers 43-41.
DEXTER STATESMAN/Kyle Smith

BLOOMFIELD — High school athletics goes through cycles when it comes to experience and youth.

The field for the 63rd Bloomfield Christmas Tournament boys basketball tournament illustrates this point.

Seventeen of the tournament’s 28 players who averaged double-figure scoring last season graduated.

Eleven of the 12 players named to the all-tournament team graduated. Only Kennett’s Quayv’aun Harrell returns.

Harrell’s Indians are the exception. Six Indians are seniors and because of that experience, they drew the top seed for the tournament that begins Thursday and runs through Monday.

“We were in that situation last year with our kids,” Kennett’s second-year Andrew Halford said of having a young, inexperienced roster. “We’re fortunate to have those kids return with that experience from last year. Playing all four nights (last year) is a big deal. These kids have a little bit of experience seeing this place on the final night, seeing the atmosphere. Hopefully, that translates to this year.”

The Indians carry a 6-2 record into tournament after beating No. 8 Malden and No. 6 Doniphan last week. Both losses occurred in the SEMO Conference tournament.

“We’ve played a difficult schedule starting the year out,” Halford said. “Started out fairly well with the exception of these last couple of games against Cape Central and Charleston. We’re excited to come here and get a chance to compete in this tournament.”

First-year Dexter coach Chad Allen is a believer in Kennett’s team.

“Kennett is definitely deserving of the top seed,” Allen said. “They’re an extremely good team, well coached. They’ve got a lot of players back from last year. They looked really good in the SEMO Conference tournament. I know they’ll do well here in the Christmas tournament.”

Kennett finished fourth in the SEMO Conference tournament after upsetting second-seeded Notre Dame in the first round and won the Gideon tournament the previous week.

Jason Long, first-year coach of second-seeded Bernie, doesn’t pay too close attention to a team’s seed.

“Our main goal is we want to play all four nights,” Long said. “Seeds are just part of the process. We want to keep working hard, keep practicing hard, keep trying to play as well as we can play. Everything else will take care of itself.”

For Allen, the tournament offers an opportunity for his young squad to get experience. The Bearcats have only two seniors — Garrett Henson and Logan Wyman.

“We’ve still got work to do,” Allen said. “The more games we get underneath our belt, we’ll get better and better as the year goes on. We’ve got a lot of new guys this year that haven’t had any varsity experience.”

The Bearcats have won two of their previous three games after an 0-3 start.

Defending tournament champion Hayti drew the fifth seed despite winning four of its first five games.

First-year coach Travis Day said his team doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience. Contributors from last year’s championship team, Damarri Reed and Tyliek Moore, are ineligible until the new year.

Demonstrating the youthful rosters, only six tournament teams have winning records — Bernie, Gideon, Hayti, Kennett, Portageville and Van Buren.

No. 1 Kennett

Coach: Andrew Halford, second year

Record: 6-2

First-round opponent: No. 16 Richland, 10 a.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished sixth

Key players: Seniors Jackson Henfling, La’Quez Pulliam and Quav’aun Harrell and junior Kobe Gates

Notes: Harrell averaged 13.8 points in four games in the 2018 tournament. … The Indians are 2-0 against the tournament field, beating No. 6 Doniphan 59-43 and No. 8 Malden 56-37. … They won the Gideon Bulldog Classic and finished fourth in the SEMO Conference tournament. … Kennett has won nine BCT championships.

No. 2 Bernie

Coach Jason Long, first year

Record: 6-0

First-round opponent: No. 15 Holcomb, 11:15 a.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished third

Key players: Seniors Andrew Geohagan, Blake Harty and Landon Zoll.

Notes: The Mules won their own invitational, knocking off a pair of state-ranked opponents, including a 67-62 win over No. 10 Campbell in the title game. Bernie is ranked No. 8 in the most recent Class 2 state coaches poll. … Bernie has been a 3-point shooting machine this season, making 11 or more in three games including 18 in a lop-sided win over Woodland.

No. 3 Dexter

Coach: Chad Allen, first year

Record: 2-4

First-round opponent: No. 14 Puxico, 12:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in fifth-place semifinals

Key players: Senior Garrett Henson, juniors Jackson Allen and Andrew Ellinghouse.

Notes: Henson averaged 11.7 points in three BCT games in 2018. … Ellinghouse leads the Bearcats with a 12.5 points-per-game average, scoring in double figures in four of six games. … The Bearcats have won a BCT-best 11 championships

No. 4 Portageville

Coach: Jason Irby, 10th year

Record: 4-2

First-round opponent: No. 13 Bloomfield, 2 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished eighth

Key players: Senior A.J. Hicks and juniors Brendan Garmon and Drew Irby.

Notes: The Bulldogs return three starters and are relying on sophomores to be role players. … Hicks averaged 11 points over four games in last year’s tournament. … The Bulldogs are 2-0 against the tournament field, beating No. 9 East Prairie 71-61 and No. 15 Holcomb 62-44.

No. 5 Hayti

Coach: Travis Day, first year

Record: 5-2

First-round opponent: No. 12 South Pemiscot, 3:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Won tournament

Key players: Seniors TreCharles McCoy and Damarri Reed, juniors Tyliek Moore and Trevontae Stevenson and sophomore Tray’von Thomas.

Notes: In last year’s tournament, Moore averaged 12.8 points in four games and Reed averaged 10, but both are ineligible until the new year. … The Indians finished third in the Gideon Bulldog Classic. … Hayti lost 83-68 to top-ranked Dora on Thursday.

No. 6 Doniphan

Coach: Daniel Cagle, second year

Record: 4-6

First-round opponent: No. 11 Twin Rivers, 5 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished fifth

Key players: Junior Orie Owen and sophomores Nolan Czerwonka and Ethan Jones.

Notes: The Dons feature no seniors on a roster that has only five upperclassmen. … They have faced four tournament opponents so far, compiling a 2-2 record, beating No. 7 Van Buren (50-48) and No. 10 Gideon (52-39) and losing to No. 1 Kennett (59-43) and No. 5 Hayti (58-51). … They finished fourth in the Gideon Bulldog Classic.

No. 7 Van Buren

Coach: Jacob Black, second year

Record: 4-1

First-round opponent: No. 10 Gideon, 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in fifth-place semifinals

Key players: Seniors Jacob Brown, Connor Jackson and Trey Nicholson and junior Haden Barnes

Notes: The Bulldogs may be the most experienced team in the field because four of their top six players from last year are back. … Jackson posted the tournament’s top scoring average last season. He scored 58 points in three games, averaging 19.3. … Van Buren has faced one tournament team so far, losing 50-48 to No. 6 Doniphan.

No. 8 Malden

Coach: Cole McBroom, second year

Record: 2-5

First-round opponent: No. 9 East Prairie, 8 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation semifinals

Key players: Junior Coy Wade and sophomores Marques Jones and Sientez Lerma.

Notes: Lerma averaged 10 points in three tournament games last season. … McBroom calls his team much improved. … The Green Wave are 2-2 against BCT teams this season. They beat No. 11 Twin Rivers 54-49 and No. 16 Richland 64-58 and lost 53-37 to No. 1 Kennett and 70-40 to No. 3 Dexter.

No. 9 East Prairie

Coach: Casey Knight, 11th year

Record: 2-3

First-round opponent: No. 8 Malden, 8 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished fourth

Key players: Seniors Trea Cade, Harrison Moore and Jack Scruggs.

Notes: The Eagles have played only one of the tournament’s 16 teams, losing 71-61 to fourth-seeded Portageville. … The Eagles are coming off three straight winning seasons. The last time they had that type of success was five straight winnings seasons from 1982-86.

Coachspeak: “Most balanced team I’ve ever coached offensively,” Knight said.

No. 10 Gideon

Coach: Jordan McGowan, fourth year

Record: 5-3

First-round opponent: No. 7 Van Buren, 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation quarterfinals

Key players: Seniors Gage Stover, Sam Williams and Logan Woodard and junior Brevin Vires.

Notes: Williams averaged 15.5 points in two tournament games last year and Stover averaged 10. … The Bulldogs are 2-1 against BCT teams, beating No. 13 Bloomfield 60-56 and No. 16 Richland 80-62 and losing 52-39 to No. 6 Doniphan.

No. 11 Twin Rivers

Coach: Seth McBroom, third year

Record: 4-4

First-round opponent: No. 6 Doniphan, 5 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Finished second.

Key players: Seniors Brent Trout and Parker Watson and junior Brandon Tompkins.

Notes: The Royals have already faced six tournament opponents this season, going 3-3. They beat No. 14 Puxico twice (49-48 and 70-65) and No. 15 Holcomb 51-45. They lost to No. 5 Hayti 61-50, No. 8 Malden 54-49 and No. 13 Bloomfield 53-47 in overtime. … Twin Rivers won the consolation championship of the Bernie Invitational.

Coachspeak: “We have some size but we’re not scoring the ball well right now,” McBroom said. “We rebound OK.”

No. 12 South Pemiscot

Coach: Bill Tyer, first year

Record: 3-3

First-round opponent: No. 5 Hayti, 3:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Won consolation championship

Key players: Seniors Terryon Johnson, Khalal Rogers, Patrick Rollings and Noah Willingham.

Notes: The Bulldogs are 1-1 against the field. They beat No. 4 Portageville 43-32 to win third place in the Clarkton Holiday Tournament, and No. 5 Hayti beat them 69-49. … The Bulldogs received the top seed for the Clarkton Holiday Tournament but lost 44-42 to fourth-seeded Neelyville in the semifinals.

No. 13 Bloomfield

Coach: Brandon Crook, fourth year

Record: 1-4

First-round opponent: No. 5 Hayti, 2 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation semifinals

Key players: Seniors Jamison Dodd and Gage McNeil and junior Colton Hyslop.

Notes: The Wildcats’ first four opponents are competing in the BCT. They beat No. 11 Twin Rivers 53-47 in overtime and lost 71-31 to No. 2 Bernie, 60-56 to No. 10 Gideon and 56-54 to No. 14 Puxico. … Post Jamison Dodd has been the Wildcats’ most consistent performer this season, averaging 13 points per game and is the only player to score in double figures in every game.

No. 14 Puxico

Coach: Jim Jones, first year

Record: 2-5

First-round opponent: No. 3 Dexter, 12:30 p.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation quarterfinals

Key players: Seniors Matt Caldwell and Ethan Helm and junior Lucas Plunkett.

Notes: Jones said that his team has played defense OK but his team is average right now. … Helm averaged 15.5 points in two BCT games last season. … The Indians are 1-2 against the tournament field, beating No. 13 Bloomfield 56-54 and losing twice to No. 11 Twin Rivers 49-48 and 70-65.

No. 15 Holcomb

Coach: Michael Snider, first year

Record: 0-5

First-round opponent: No. 2 Bernie, 11:15 a.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation quarterfinals

Key players: Junior Eli Bader, sophomore Nate Rhew and freshman Dylan Bradshaw.

Notes: Rhew averaged 15.5 points in two tournament games in 2018. … Bradshaw has been making an impact at the varsity level this season. … The Hornets have faced two BCT teams this season: No. 4 Portageville (62-44) and No. 11 Twin Rivers (51-45).

Coachspeak: “We have a lot of experience but we’re very young,” Snider said. “Our best players are freshmen and sophomores. Our upperclassmen are role players.”

No. 16 Richland

Coach: Matt Cline, first year.

Record: 1-4

First-round opponent: No. 1 Kennett, 10 a.m. Thursday

Last year: Lost in consolation quarterfinals

Key players: Senior Andrew Partenberry and juniors Jackson Bell and Tanner Freeman.

Notes: Bell, the team’s 6-4 post, will be out until February with a partially torn knee ligament and leading returning scorer, Tanner Freeman, has been slowed by injury. … The Rebels are 0-3 against BCT teams, losing 95-45 to No. 3 Dexter, 64-58 to No. 8 Malden and 80-62 to No. 10 Gideon.

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