The Smith-Cotton McDonald’s Classic girls basketball tournament will bring in two of the best teams in the state as well as several teams that are very evenly matched.
“The competition will be something,” said Lady Tigers coach Zach Vandevender. “Especially with two top-10 ranked teams with Nixa and Hickman. And you have other teams like Parkview and Bishop Ward and Center coming in who are playing really good competition throughout the year.”
Smith-Cotton (8-7) will open the tournament today against Parkview (6-5).
“They have a big dominant girl, 6-4, inside (junior Aubrey Buckley),” Vandevender said. “She’s been averaging about 21 points per game. It’s a different look for us.”
On Friday the Tigers will face either Nixa (12-3) or get a rematch with Southwest Early College Campus (0-10).
On the other side of the bracket, Rolla (7-5) will play Center (6-5) and Hickman (12-1) will face Kansas City (Kan.) Bishop Ward (3-6).
The Lady Tigers have played three teams in the tournament already this season, beating Southwest and Center and falling to Hickman. Smith-Cotton also played in the Rolla Tournament but did not face the host school, though Vandevender scouted Rolla when it played Warrensburg.
“They get up and pressure the basketball,” he said. “They play really good defense. I spent some time talking to their coach. They’re a team that gets after it. They put up quite a few points against Warrensburg.”
The Lady Tigers will end up playing three games over the next three days, but with the earlier tournament in Rolla that’s something Vandevender’s team has done before.
“We’re kind of still fresh from playing three games in a row,” he said. “We got after it on Monday and then (Tuesday and Wednesday) we got more mental preparation so we can hit the ground ready and hopefully have our legs.”
The Lady Tigers enter the tournament with a winning record. Smith-Cotton lost at Lee’s Summit North last week, but before that boasted a four-game winning streak.
“We relied on our defense,” Vandevender said. “We have to continue to play good, solid defense, relying on our defensive principles. We pick some points up in transition and we have to continue to work on our offense.”
S-C CLASSIC: Parkview at Smith-Cotton
6 p.m. Thursday