Class 2, District 14 is packed.
The district basketball tournament, which will get under way on Saturday at Sweet Springs, features just one team out of eight boys basketball teams that has not won 10 games, while three — Sacred Heart, Green Ridge and Sweet Springs — have won at least 16.
And the girls district bracket is even tougher.
“Somebody good’s going to come out of it,” said Sweet Springs boys coach Tim Smith.
Smith’s Greyhounds enter the district against 10-14 Windsor.
“If we can get by Windsor — who’s got a nice ballclub — if the brackets play out we get another shot at Santa Fe,” Smith said.
The bracket is filled with potential rematches for Sweet Springs, and many of those matchups were close the first time around. Sweet Springs fell to Santa Fe 55-51 on Jan. 11, beat Green Ridge 66-58 on Dec. 10, fell to Concordia 68-66 on a Brian Meyer shot with 10 seconds left on Feb. 1, and beat Crest Ridge 68-55 on Tuesday.
The district’s No. 1 seed, Sacred Heart, is also looking at a lot of potential rematches. The 20-4 Gremlins have faced six of their seven district rivals, going 6-0 including a 76-40 win over La Monte on Jan 4. Sacred Heart will open against the Vikings at noon Saturday. A win in that game will lead to a rematch with either Green Ridge or Concordia; those teams will play at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin knows that even with rematches in the district, his team has to be prepared for anything.
“People put in different stuff and new things,” he said. “Somebody’s always got an ace up their sleeve.”
With four teams in the district with winning records and three more who are just a handful of games below .500, Goodwin said there is no weak side of the bracket.
“Obviously you just take it one game at a time because it’s win or go home,” Smith said. “If you get caught looking past the first opponent, you’re the one going home. It’s a loaded district so nobody will look past anybody.”
And that can mean facing one tough game after another.
“We’re pretty conditioned for it,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been in that position for well over a decade now. We enjoy it, we look forward to it and we can’t wait for the challenge.”
In the girls bracket, No. 1 seed Windsor will open at 10:30 a.m. Saturday against a La Monte team it beat 59-45 on Jan. 29. Like the Sweet Springs boys, the Windsor girls are facing potential rematches of their closest games of the season. The Greyhounds faced Sacred Heart twice, winning by three in the regular season and losing by three in the Kaysinger Conference Tournament. They beat Green Ridge by two and Crest Ridge by seven.
“We turn up the intensity at practice,” said Windsor coach Brad Forrest. “We played in tough games last year and we’ve got a lot of the kids back. We just make it tough in practice and carry on.”
The bracket features just three teams with losing records, and even then, just barely. La Monte — the No. 8 seed — is 10-13. Sacred Heart is 11-14. Concordia is 12-13.
“It’s pretty tough,” Forrest said. “Any time you have a No. 7 seed (Sacred Heart) that won a conference tournament, it’s pretty tough one through seven, maybe one through eight because La Monte’s better than they have been.”
The No. 7 seed Gremlins were 5-14 at one point in the season but then opened a six-game winning streak.
“I think once you start winning it’s just contagious,” said Sacred Heart center Sydney Smith. “You want to start winning more once you know what it feels like.”
Gremlins coach Shawn Bestgen said his team has gotten better at finishing games.
“Early in the season I was unsure,” he said. “It was my biggest problem, do I go with this player or that player? Who’s hot? It wasn’t working for us. Now we’ve found a rhythm that’s working for us when we need it. The girls have responded pretty well to that. Despite the record, we’re still playing hard.”
The Gremlins will face host Sweet Springs at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner will face the winner of the 4:30 p.m. Saturday Crest Ridge-Concordia game.
On the other side of the bracket, the Green Ridge girls are in a situation of having to play the same team in back-to-back games. After closing the regular season against Santa Fe on Thursday, the Lady Tigers will face the same team to open districts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This has kept me up since the district meeting,” said Green Ridge coach Donnie Mayes. “If we win Thursday I have to keep them level-headed. If we don’t win Thursday I have to coach them up. Whatever happens Thursday, we can come back and play anybody. I don’t care that we moved up to Class 2, we can play anybody.”
A win could mean a rematch with No. 1 seed Windsor.
Class 2, District 14 tournament
First-round games start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Sweet Springs