By Ray Martin
The 43rd edition of the Tournament of Champions, Oklahoma’s premier boys high school basketball invitational tournament, tips off Thursday at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion.
Game 1 – Stringtown (class B) vs. Tulsa East Central (class 5A), 2 p.m.
Game 2 –Verdigris (class 3A) vs. McGuinness (class 4A), 3:30 p.m.
Game 3 – Pawnee (class 2A) vs. Jenks (class 6A), 7 p.m.
Game 4 – Sequoyah – Tahlequah (class 3A) vs. Bixby (class 5A), 8:30 p.m.
For the second consecutive year, the tournament is designed for
Verdigris’ Clarke and Pawnee’s Paige to face each other in the second round. Unfortunately for the T of C, and high school basketball fans who have been begging for that match-up since the two played together in seventh grade, Pawnee upset Victory Christian in the opening round. Midwest City edged
Verdigris by three to send the Cardinals to the losers bracket.
A FEW NOTES ON EACH TEAM:
Jenks: The Trojans are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive T of C titles. Jenks knocked off Midwest City last year, and outlasted Obi Muonelo and Santa Fe in double overtime in 2005. Though Jenks is without Nick Sidorakis, it can still get the job done.
Tulsa East Central: The Cardinals lost a thriller to Tahlequah Sequoyah last year. But East Central is much improved with nearly everyone back. Stringtown should be no problem in the opening round, but a rematch with Sequoyah likely awaits in the semi-finals.
Bixby: See my post on Bixby from Tuesday night. A 2-2 record, (1-2 in the Metro Lakes conference) and a home loss to Claremore make the Spartans the weakest and most undeserving team in the tournament. If they escape the Indians, I’ll be surprised.
Tahlequah Sequoyah: Sequoyah’s enormous fan base had made the Indians a shoe-in for the T of C once again. The Indians are notorious for pulling upsets in the T of C. They did it last year against East Central, and in 2003 against Tulsa Union. Beating Bixby would hardly be an upset, but Sequoyah could do some damage after the opening round.
McGuinness: IF Orton is healthy, the Irish are the best team in the tournament in my opinion. If they can keep Clarke at bay in the opening round (which is easier said than done), look for them in the finals.
Verdigris: The Cardinals would assume forget last year’s showing. After losing to eventual 6A champion MWC, Verdigris gave up a 20 point fourth quarter lead to Victory Christian in the second game, and lost to class B Stringtown in the seventh/eighth place game. A surprising loss to Clayton last week makes me doubt the Cardinals a bit. Even if big man Adam Hollon is healthy, he is no match for Orton. But with a shooter like Clarke, anything could happen.
Pawnee: It is an unfortunate draw for Paige and Pawnee to have two-time defending T of C champion Jenks in the opening round. The Black Bears’ chances of an upset are slim. A loss likely puts them against
Verdigris in the second round. Get your tickets early for that game.
Stringtown: The Tigers gave Jenks a run for its money in the opening round a year ago. But even with 6-9 Watson in the lineup, I doubt Stringtown can beat East Central. A consolation championship is not out of the question.
Jenks over East Central in the finals.
Verdigris over Pawnee in the second round losers bracket game.