Last updated: January 15. 2014 8:48PM -
By - eingles@civitasmedia.com

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The Smith-Cotton Tigers enter the 2014 Smith-Cotton. McDonald’s Classic knowing they will be tested.

“We’ve got tough teams coming in,” said Tigers sophomore guard Chance Johnson. “We’ve got to compete harder, practice harder, and do the little things better.”

The Tigers open the tournament at 9 p.m. today facing Parkview, the runner-up of last year’s tournament.

“They have 6-9 and 6-6 guys so we have to be physical down low,” said guard Spencer Ruckman. “We have to get their guards off too.”

On Friday, Smith-Cotton will face either Moberly or Kansas City East. On the other side of the bracket defending champion Rock Bridge will face Kansas City Southwest Early College Campus and Warrensburg will play Eldon.

With a lot of different teams playing a lot of different ways, the Tigers know they will be facing many different styles. During last year’s tournament KC East was looking to run and constantly pushed the tempo. Parkview was looking to slow things down, with one first-half possession in the final against Rock Bridge lasting 1:10 and featuring 20 passes.

“We watch film,” Johnson said. “We practice for who we’re going to play against, look at the scouting reports. We know what we have to do to win, we just have to execute.”

Though they face some tough competition, Smith-Cotton will get to do it on their home floor.

“One good thing about when you have your home tournament and you’re in your own bed, you have the opportunity to go through a regular routine,” said Smith-Cotton coach Ray Hughes. “It give you an automatic advantage in that capacity.”

Smith-Cotton knows it will play three games in three days and with the Tigers tipping off their first tournament game at 9 p.m. today and the seventh place game scheduled for noon Saturday, it is possible Smith-Cotton will have about 40 hours between the start of the first game and the end of the third.

“It definitely wears you down,” Johnson said. “We just have to stay hydrated and get good rest.”

Smith-Cotton enters the tournament looking to build on the last few games. Against Center last week the Tigers trailed by 17 at the half before cutting the lead to 11 by the end of the third quarter and getting to within eight midway through the fourth.

“I want to see a carry over from the second half,” Hughes said. “I want to see us take it to the next level, be able to maintain four quarters and see where we go. We’re excited about the opportunity. We think this is a great chance for us to play in a tournament atmosphere.”

The Tigers are 2-5 overall, 0-2 in the West Central Conference, but feel they are making strides.

“Since the first game until now, we’ve grown together, become closer,” Ruckman said. “It’s like we’re brothers now.”

One team the Tigers will keep an eye one during the tournament is Warrensburg. Joining the fray in place of Branson this season, the other WCC Tigers and Smith-Cotton are on opposite sides of the bracket, but Smith-Cotton will be watching Warrensburg play, even if the teams don’t meet this week.

“We’ve seen them play a couple of times and all conference teams we scout multiple times just so we are as prepared as we can be when we see them,” Hughes said.

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