The two-day event features four girls squads and four boys teams — with Bowdon, Temple, Mt. Zion and Rockmart competing in the girls bracket, while the same local trio will mix it up with Cleburne County (Ala.) to make up the boy’s field.
Tournament play begins on Friday at 4 p.m. with the Mt. Zion girls taking on Rockmart, while the Mt. Zion boys will play Cleburne County at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Temple-Bowdon girls at 7 p.m. and the Temple-Bowdon boys at 8:30 p.m.
The third-place games are set for 4 p.m. (girls) and 5:30 p.m. (boys) on Saturday, followed by the girls championship at 7 p.m. and the boys title tilt at 8:30 p.m.
Bowdon girls coach Melissa Ring noted that one of the things she was most excited about with the new gymnasium opening last season was being able to host a tournament of this nature.
“You know, having a facility in which we could host a tournament and have everyone be comfortable and have the space for fans and whatnot. Then, of course, not have to travel. It’s a very beneficial thing for us. We enjoyed doing it last year,” Ring said.
“It was good for us and good for the kids going into the holiday to be here and to have those two games and then have some time to work on specifically what we wanted to work on. So instead of getting into a long, drawn-out tournament, like we have in the past, it’s short and compact. Two guaranteed games — and here at home — and then we get to free them up to have some time off into next week.”
Bowdon boys coach Vic Coggins noted that while it can make for a lot of work, he’d much rather stay at home and host a holiday tournament than deal with everything that entails with traveling.
“You know, we hope that the tournament’s going to continue to grow and get bigger and draw more local teams in it so we can draw big crowds and have some good basketball,” Coggins said.
Both Bowdon squads won last year’s first-ever holiday invitational and will try to repeat the feat this weekend.
The Red Devils (2-2), who are coming off a 54-45 road loss to Excel Christian in a Region 6-A Crossover game on Tuesday night, know what to expect from Temple on Friday night. The Tigers (7-1) knocked off Bowdon, 82-62, on Dec. 6 and Coggins expects another up-tempo affair the second time around.
“They’re going to try to get after us with their pressure. We think we’ve worked out some of our problems with handling pressure, so we hope to make it a big game. We think we’re going to be prepared,” Coggins said.
Temple coach Steve Robinson is also looking forward to a battle on Friday and believes the Red Devils will give his ball club a tighter game now that they’ve got a few more practices under their belt since that second game of the season.
“Oh, yeah. I know it’s a definite that they’re going to be prepared. Again, they’ve got a little time between now and the playoff run in football. Their guys are going to be ready to go, be well-coached like they always are and just be a tough team — especially when they’re playing at home,” Robinson said.
The Tigers have been lighting up the scoreboard early in the season — including Tuesday’s 97-64 home win over Central — and are averaging 79.5 points per game through eight contests. The only time the Tigers didn’t hit the 70-point mark came in their 77-69 loss to Central on Nov. 29.
Robinson said his team is playing well, but it still has plenty to work on before heading into the Region 5-AA slate come January.
“We’re playing the right way. Playing together. I think we’re sharing the basketball and playing with a good chemistry and staying focused as a team on our goals. But we’ve got a lot of things that we can work on. It’s always a work-in-progress. There’s a lot of little things that we have to do that we can work on. A lot of mistakes that we can’t be making on Friday that we made last Friday. To be good, you’ve got to continue getting better. There’s a lot of stuff that we can do to get better,” Robinson said.
The Mt. Zion boys (1-5) are coming off a 68-46 home loss to Trion in its region crossover contest, and Eagle coach Steve Lee has relied heavily on senior point guard Parrish Germany and junior forward Corey Loftin for the bulk of his team’s offensive production.
On the girls side, both Mt. Zion (5-3) and Temple (1-7) enter this weekend’s tournament short-handed, with the Lady Eagles missing senior point guard Hannah Wood — who has been sidelined for all three of the team’s losses following a 5-0 start — while Lady Tiger guard Charmin Moore is out of town due to a death in the family.
Rockmart is 3-7 on the year, including a 52-46 setback to Mt. Zion on Dec. 2, though that was when the Lady Eagles were at full strength.
As for the Bowdon girls, Ring noted that while she’s happy to see her team get off to a 4-0 start following Tuesday night’s 50-34 win at Excel Christian, she said it still hasn’t put a complete game together just yet.
“There are bright spots, obviously. There are some people who are stepping up and doing better everyday. But I need to see the whole team. That’s what I’m looking for is finding some consistency — effort-wise and performance-wise,” she said.
The Red Devilettes defeated Temple, 59-34, on Dec. 6, where they got out to a big lead in the opening quarter and then let the Lady Tigers battle back by half before putting the game away following the break.
“That’s kind of been our M.O. We’ve got to come with it, play exceptionally well against Temple. But, obviously, we feel confident going in that if we take care of our business and play with a high level of intensity, we’ll be OK,” Ring said.
Ring believes her team can repeat as tourney champs come Saturday night, but she said it’s got to come to play for all 32 minutes.
“I feel that all the people in our tournament are fairly evenly-matched. It’s just a matter of who’s going to want it the most and play the hardest, in my opinion,” Ring said.
Coggins is also anticipating a good showing from his ball club and an overall entertaining two days of hoops.
“We hope it’s going to be an exciting tournament. I think we’ve got some really good matchups. I think the girls games will be real competitive. And the boys games, we think it’s good matchups. So we hope to have a big crowd and some good basketball,” Coggins said.