E.A. Sports Today

County tourney has a Friday date

Basketball tournament starts and ends on Friday to avoid conflict, ensure everyone plays at JSU

Oxford’s bench erupts after the Yellow Jackets won last year’s Calhoun County Basketball Tournament title. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
 
This year’s Calhoun County Basketball Tournament is bound to have an historic start and equally historic finish.
 
For the first time in anyone’s memory the tournament this year will have a Friday start and – definitely a first – a Friday finish.
 
The principals unanimously approved the plan to work around Jacksonville State’s conference schedule and ensure every team has a chance to play in Pete Mathews Coliseum.
 
“That’s the change we’re looking at and if it works out, well, it might be the norm,” said Pleasant Valley principal Mark Proper, this year’s host principal. “I want everyone to get a chance to play at JSU. I hate when teams get put out and haven’t gotten to set on that floor. I’m sure in the county there’s been a team put out before they ever got to play there.”
 
Two years ago, the tournament’s first round was moved to Oxford because of weather issues and eight teams (four boys, four girls and both of Donoho and White Plains’ teams) were eliminated before the field moved to JSU. Last year the tournament was scheduled for a Saturday start at Piedmont and six teams (three each, including both of Wellborn’s) were gone that day.
 
For the tournament to be played in its entirety at JSU this year it will start with the girls and boys 12-vs.-13 seed games Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. There will be four semifinals games Wednesday, no Thursday games and the championship games on Jan. 24.
 
“JSU’s OVC schedule, once they get it they can’t change it; they have games on Thursday night and Saturday,” Proper said. “The ones on Saturday we will not be able to get into the gym until at least 7:30. We don’t want to have the boys championship start at 11 Saturday night.
 
“We want all teams to play at JSU and we’re hoping this will increase attendance at the championship night on Friday, too.”
 
The Calhoun County Basketball Tournament is the most lucrative in the county tournament series and one of the most respected operations in the state. Last year, the 15 county schools shared a revenue pool of $24,276. During the snow year the teams split $16,966 and in 2017 the split was $1,833 per school.
 
Because the change took place after schedules were made, county officials have waived the rule preventing outside play during the county tournament – for that first Friday only. On the positive side, teams will get to play on the Saturday following the championship game where they hadn’t been able to in the past. The 12 and 13 seeds will play in the county tournament opener.
 
Proper said the principals have been working on the plan for about three weeks and this was “the best plan” they could come with.
 
“I think the bracket we’ve got now is an excellent bracket,” Oxford athletics director Larry Davidson said.
 
“I think whatever the county schools need to do to continue our relationship with Jacksonville State and add to the rich tradition and the atmosphere that Pete Mathews Coliseum creates for our county tournament we should encourage,” Oxford coach Joel VanMeter said.

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