The Column: Vermilion County basketball tourneys tip off Saturday

The passion.

The camaraderie.

The community involvement.

Those reasons are why first-year Armstrong-Potomac boys basketball head coach Mike Twidwell wanted to get back into Vermilion County basketball.

Even though the first two months of the season have probably left him befuddled more times than not because of the Trojans’ 0-14 start, Saturday marks a return to what the former Salt Fork boys and girls basketball head coach wanted when he returned to the high school ranks after a six-year absence.

“It’s county basketball,” Twidwell said in mid-August shortly after he was hired. “I just love it.”

The 94th annual Vermilion County boys basketball tournament tips off on Saturday at Danville’s David Palmer Arena.

The Trojans have dealt with a handful of blowout losses (five by 25 points or more) but have lost their last four games heading into Tuesday night by a combined 24 points.

The Trojans will come in underdogs in their first game against Westville at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday, and most likely against Bismarck-Henning at 5 p.m. next Tuesday.

A-P will need to avoid a last-place finish in its pool (translation, beat Hoopeston Area at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17) if it wants to play on Jan. 19, the tournament’s last day.

“It’s a real good time to have it, and the kids look forward to it so much,” Twidwell said. “I just know what they’re capable of. I just have to find a way to get it out of them. That’s on me.”

The A-P girls basketball team has to like its chances to win the 33rd annual Vermilion County girls basketball tournament.

A-P (11-7) will only have to win two games in order to play in the championship game on Friday, Jan. 18.

A-P has to contend with Bismarck-Henning next Monday at 8 p.m. (a team it beat 31-15 on Dec. 17) and Salt Fork at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 16 (a team it beat 46-38 on Dec. 10) in pool play.

“We want to win the tournament this year,” said A-P head coach Nick Hipsher, after his squad placed third at last year’s event. “Going into it every year, the girls really like playing (at Palmer Arena). More people seem to be at the games. The girls always get psyched up for this tournament.”

Defense has carried the Trojans — winners of six of their last eight — so far this year.

In its 18 games this season, A-P had held six opponents to 20 points or less, including first-quarter shutouts of Chrisman, Oakwood and Bismarck-Henning.

“The intensity is there,” Hipsher said. “This is their third year under me, so they’re really understanding the concepts that we want to do. We get out and guard.”

If A-P follows the formula it has established all season — solid post production from senior Erika Sieberns and junior Johanna Bruens, good guard play from junior Morgan Zindars, steady scoring, rebounding and defense from juniors Rachel Miles and Courtney Hambleton and pesky defense from senior guard Kirsten Newnum — it should find itself playing for the championship at Palmer Arena.

Let the games begin.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor of the Rantoul Press newspaper. Like the column, love the column or hate the column? Let him know at mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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