GREENFIELD — School is out but court is still in session for most of the county’s high school boys and girls basketball programs this week.
An annual tradition every December, teams are taking advantage of their built-in breaks from the classroom and shifting their lessons to the hardwood by participating in various multi-day and multi-game holiday tournament events.
This holiday season, the Mt. Vernon girls travel the farthest, trekking to the two-day Twin Lakes Tournament, beginning today at 4:30 p.m. against Carroll (Flora).
The team with the shortest trip is the Greenfield-Central girls, who are hosting a round-robin holiday classic over two days, starting today.
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The Greenfield-Central boys are at the two-day Lebanon Tournament on Thursday and Friday as one of eight teams vying for the team title.
The New Palestine girls face a tough challenge at the four-team, one-day Noblesville Tournament on Friday. The Dragons boys will compete at the Tri-West Tournament as one of four teams during the one-day event Friday.
The Mt. Vernon boys cap a busy week at the one-day, four-team Martinsville Tournament on Saturday.
“I’m excited. It my first holiday tournament,” Mt. Vernon junior Keith Rupert remarked. “We’re going to go in and fight it out and try to win a championship.”
Greenfield-Central Holiday Classic
The fifth rendition of the annual Greenfield-Central Holiday Classic will have a new look this year.
While following more of a traditional format previously, the classic has been cut down from an eight-team tournament field to four and has adopted a round-robin setup.
Two games will take place tonight with Class 3A Indianapolis Herron (3-6) and 2A No. 6 Winchester (13-1) opening the first day at 6 p.m. The 4A host Cougars (4-10) play Class A Hauser (2-10) at 7:30 p.m.
On Thursday, the Cougars will face Herron at noon and finish up at 7:30 p.m. against Winchester, which is 33-7 overall dating back from last year. Winchester plays Hauser at 1:30 p.m. and Hauser takes on Herron at 6 p.m.
Greenfield-Central has finished runner-up the past two years in their tournament, falling to Westfield in the title game in 2016 and East Chicago Central in 2017.
“I don’t know if it’s less pressure with the round robin, but the way that we prioritize stuff, I don’t know if we’ll feel that during the holiday tournament,” Greenfield-Central head coach Joshua Means said. “Everything we talk about is about giving ourselves the chance to win the conference. That’s what we’re trying to do, so we’re going to use those games as opportunities to get better and try to win the conference.”
The Cougars have been hit hard by injuries this season after the graduations of 2016-17 Indiana Miss Basketball finalist Madison Wise (Iowa State) and Katie Helgason (Ball State). However, they remain in the Hoosier Heritage Conference chase at 3-1 in league play.
Greenfield-Central sophomore Hannah Farrell has supplied 14.6 points per game in her second varsity campaign while combating lingering ankle injuries. Kate Real, a junior, has provided 10.7 points per game despite being less than a year removed from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The biggest hurdle for three of the four teams invited to the classic will be Winchester, which is riding a five-game winning streak and opened 8-0 before losing to unbeaten 2A No. 4 Monroe Central, 58-47, on Dec. 2.
Sophomore Madeline Lawrence leads the Winchester Golden Falcons with 19.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 3.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Juniors Shelby Miller (12.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg) and Kira Robinson (10.7 ppg and 7.2 rpg) are two of another three potential double-digit threats. Sophomore Becca Chamberlin is averaging 9.3 points.
“I think we can win it if we focus and play as a team,” Farrell said. “It should be fun. It’s Christmas and you’re on break. It should be a good a time.”
Greenfield-Central boys basketball coach Lukas Haworth sees holiday tournaments as an opportunity to stay competitive through a potentially complacent stretch.
At the Lebanon Tournament, the Cougars won’t have time to relax.
As one of eight teams at the two-day event, which begins Thursday with Marquette Catholic (2-7) playing Indianapolis International (4-4) at 10 a.m., the Cougars (3-4) draw a tough first-round opponent in Gary 21st Century at 6 p.m.
“It’s loaded,” Haworth remarked on the tournament. “It should be a good challenge for us and a great opportunity.”
Regional champions last season, the 21st Century Cougars are 8-3 this year and have won four straight since losing to Marquette Catholic, 74-62, on Dec. 9.
No. 16 2A Heritage Christian (3-3) plays 4A Kokomo (3-4) at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, while 3A Indianapolis Herron (0-5) and host 3A Lebanon (2-4) compete at 7:30 p.m.
The Greenfield-Central Cougars will play at 11:30 a.m. Friday, win or lose Thursday, with the consolations and semifinals running simultaneously beginning at 10 a.m. The placement games start at 4 p.m. with the title game set for 7:30 p.m.
The New Palestine girls basketball team opened its season on a historic nine-game winning streak but have cooled a bit since, losing two of its last three.
The Dragons’ (10-2) first loss was against rival Mt. Vernon, 60-47, Dec. 12. On Dec. 22, they lost to Class 4A No. 17 Whiteland (12-1), 68-63.
Against Whiteland, the 4A Dragons contended with four-star Illinois recruit Mackenzie Blazek. At the Noblesville Tournament on Friday, they draw the host 4A Millers (7-7) and another top Division-I signee in the first round at 10 a.m.
Emily Kiser, a four-star Michigan recruit, is the focal point for the Millers, averaging 19.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. A potential Indiana All-Star, Kiser, who stands 6-foot-1, has poured in a season-best 26 points on four occasions.
No. 2 3A Greensburg (12-2) and 4A Southport (3-10) play at noon on Friday with the third-place game set at 6 p.m. and the championship at 8 p.m.
The New Palestine boys basketball team mirrors the girls program with a one-day, four-team tournament Friday.
The 4A Dragons head to the Tri-West Tournament 4-3 overall on the season after opening the year 4-0. They will look to snap their three-game skid against 3A Beech Grove (5-2) at noon.
Class 4A Decatur Central (2-4) plays host 3A No. 3 Tri-West (5-0) at 10 a.m. The third-place game is set for 2 p.m. and the title game is at 4 p.m.
Twin Lakes Tournament
The Mt. Vernon girls basketball team faces a grueling task this week with three games in two days on the road at the Twin Lakes Tournament.
The 4A Marauders (5-8) open against 2A Carroll (Flora) (4-9) today at 4:30 p.m. after 4A Valparaiso (10-4) vs. 4A Logansport (6-6) at 3 p.m.
Class 4A Crown Point (6-7) and 3A Western (2-12) play at 6 p.m. followed by 4A Cathedral (5-6) and 3A Twin Lakes (4-7) at 7:30 p.m.
The games continue Thursday with the consolations and semifinals running at the same time in two different locations, beginning at 11 a.m. The Marauders will play in the first game Friday, win or lose Thursday.
Placement games begin at 4:30 p.m. with the championship at 7:30 p.m.
The Mt. Vernon boys team heads to the Martinsville Tournament on Saturday, facing the host 4A Artesians (5-2) in the first round at 10:30 a.m.
The 4A Marauders (5-3) have lost three of their past four — all HHC games — but opened the year 4-0.
Damari Gatewood, a senior guard, is leading the team with 14.6 points per game for Mt. Vernon, while senior Logan Smith is contributing 12.1.
Class 4A No. 13 Lafayette Jeff (7-0) and 4A Castle (6-3) play at 12:30 p.m. The third-place game is at 6 p.m. followed by the title game at 7:30 p.m.
The Lafayette Jeff Bronchos are the favorites, entering the tournament unbeaten and with four players averaging double figures in sophomore Avery Beaver (15.5 ppg), senior Marell Jordan (14.5), senior Alex Cotton (10.3) and senior James Burns (10.3).