By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Now in its third year, Miami East’s Barnball Classic girls basketball tournament is hitting its stride.
This year’s tournament — to be held Saturday and Sunday at Miami East High School — again features eight local teams in two four-team pools, but this year Miami East coach Bruce Vanover was able to add more Miami County flavor to the show, welcoming Troy and Covington into the mix.
“It’s a good chance to get everyone some experience playing in a tournament atmosphere, in front of some bigger crowds,” Vanover said. “We moved the tournament to Saturday-Sunday this year because it was tough with different schools going on Christmas break at different times the past couple years. People and fans were working on Mondays and couldn’t make it to the games, too, so we wanted to try to make it easier for people to attend.”
Miami East will play in the same pool as Miami County rivals Troy and Covington — who face each other at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Vikings will take on Urbana in the first round at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, with the winners playing for the tournament title at 5 p.m. Sunday in Miami East’s main gym, while the losers of Saturday’s games will meet in the consolation final in the old gym at 5 p.m. Sunday.
For Troy, which in recent years played in season-opening tournaments at Oakwood and Wapakoneta, it was a chance to get back into that atmosphere.
“It was nice of Bruce to invite us into the tournament. It was a nice fit,” Troy coach Nathan Kopp said. “Whether at the beginning of the season or at Christmas, I am in favor of getting the kids some tournament experience. Playing back-to-back nights is a win-win situation, too. If you win your first game, you get to play for a championship the next day. If you lose that first game, you get the chance to get right back on the court and get that bad taste out.”
Covington, meanwhile, had played in the Piqua Holiday Tournament the past few seasons — but with Piqua holding two boys divisions at its tournament this year, the Barnball Classic was the perfect chance for the Buccaneers to continue getting midseason tournament experience.
“We’d played in Piqua’s for the last three years, but with them going a different direction this year, it’s nice to still have the opportunity to play,” Covington coach Craig Maschino said. “It’s a nice test halfway through the season for the girls to play for a tournament championship. It’s a good way to see where we’re at right now.”
Miami East (4-3) faces Urbana (3-5) in the first round, a non-league foe that the Vikings play once a season and have not lost to in the past eight years. Last season, the Vikings defeated the Hillclimbers 53-43 during a regular season game. The Vikings lost to defending Division III champion Versailles on Dec. 12, but freshman Morgan Haney is emerging as a payer to watch, topping the 20-point mark in that game.
Before that, though, Troy (2-5) will take on Covington. The Trojans, who won two straight after dropping their first four games of the season, are coming off an overtime loss at Northmont on Dec. 12. On Dec. 9. A senior-laden team normally focused on defense with another talented freshman in Kiyha Adkins, Troy scored 64 points in a win over West Carrollton over West Carrollton, the most points the team has scored in one game since the 2012-13 season.
Covington (7-2), meanwhile, will be in search of its fifth straight win after a hard-fought 60-57 overtime victory on Tuesday at conference rival Newton. Led by Jessie Crowell, who scored her 1,000th career point earlier this season, the Buccs also boast a talented freshman in Sammi Whiteman, who had a breakout performance with 23 points in the Buccs’ win over the Indians.
“Troy’s a couple of divisions above us, and they’re going to bring a little pressure,” Maschino said. “We’ve got to take care of the basketball and value every possession, because if we turn it over against Troy, that could turn into a four-point swing.”
“It’ll be an interesting matchup,” Kopp said. “We’ve competed well all season, but breaks haven’t gone our way. In four of our five losses, we’ve held the lead in the fourth quarter.”
The earlier pool will have interesting matchups, as well, with Tri-Village facing Greenon and West Liberty-Salem taking on Meadowdale on Saturday, with the winners meeting at 6:30 p.m. Sunday for the pool championship.
Including JV games, the action begins at noon on Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.