By Bryan Bloodworth
BLOOMINGTON - Both Kyle Bobbitt and Matt Winkler know what to expect when the McLean County Basketball Tournament begins its week-long run Saturday at Ridgeview High School in Colfax.
"It's a special time of the year," said Bobbitt, whose El Paso-Gridley girls are seeded No. 1 with an 18-1 record. "To hear my girls talk about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who played in the tournament, you know it's a special thing for anyone to be part of."
Winkler, whose Fieldcrest boys' team is favored to win its second title in a row and third in four years, had similar thoughts.
"It means a lot to those schools, who have been in the tournament for a long time," said Winkler, whose team has a 14-3 record. "Everybody gets up for the tournament. You have to go out and match the other team's intensity and play well because if you don't, they are. They want this as much as a state championship."
The boys tournament begins at 11:30 a.m. when No. 4 Lexington faces No. 13 Deer Creek-Mackinaw. Other first round games find No. 5 Ridgeview against No. 12 GCMS at 1 p.m. with No. 7 Flanagan-Cornell meeting No. 10 LeRoy at 2:30 p.m.; No. 5 Blue Ridge battling No. 11 Fisher at 4 p.m. and No. 8 Heyworth meeting No. 9 Tremont at 7.
The tournament shifts to Illiniois Wesleyan's Shirk Center Monday for the remainder of the event. Fieldcrest starts play at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Heyworth-Tremont game. No. 2 Tri-Valley faces the winner of the Flanagan-LeRoy game Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. followed by No. 3 El Paso-Gridley playing the winner of the Blue Ridge-Fisher game at 8.
"There are a lot of good teams," added Winkler. "Anyone of the top eight could win the tournament. There is a lot of history and tradition with the tournament, so everyone wants to be successful."
Bobbitt, whose team is ranked second in the state in Class 1A, believes the girls tournament is wide-open. The Comets have won the last two tournament championships.
"Our biggest obstacle is going to be everybody," he said. "We have a big target on our back because everyone is out to get us. We've seen the majority of the teams and played against them, so they have an idea what we're going to do and what we want to do."
The girls tournament begins at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the South Gym when No. 4 LeRoy battles No. 13 GCMS. That game will be followed by No. 5 Heyworth against No. 12 Deer Creek-Mackinaw at 1 p.m.; No. 7 Flanagan-Cornell against No. 10 Lexington at 2:30 p.m.; No. 6 Tri-Valley against No. 11 Blue Ridge at 4 p.m. and No. 8 Fisher against No. 9 Ridgeview at 7 p.m.
El Paso-Gridley faces the winner of the Fisher-Ridgeview game at 6 p.m. Monday at Lexington. No. 2 Tremont meets the winner of the Flanagan-Lexington game Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Lexington followed by No. 3 Fieldcrest opposite the winner of the Tri-Valley-Blue Ridge game at 7:30 p.m.
The girls third-place game will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 26 with the championship game at 6:30 p.m. at IWU. The boys third-place game is at 3:30 p.m. with the title game at 8 p.m.
Bryan Bloodworth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org