Setting the brackets went smoothly, with the Bradley Central girls having wrapped up the top seed a couple of weeks ago, while the Ooltewah boys survived a one-point scare at McMinn County Tuesday to nail down the No. 1 spot on that side of the event.
Unlike the last couple of years where the opening round games were played at the home of the higher seeds, all games this time around will be played at a single site.
“We will start Wednesday (Feb. 15) and run straight through (with the exception of Sunday) the following Tuesday (Feb. 21),” explained BCHS athletics director Turner Jackson. “Our expenses will run a little more since we’ll have 14 games instead of eight, but the gate should be better.”
Play will feature two games a night with the exception of Saturday, when all four semifinals will be played. The first three nights are elimination games with the winners advancing to the Region 3-AAA Tournament and the losers packing the equipment away for the season.
The opener will feature the second-seeded teams facing the No. 7 seeds Wednesday. On the girls side, Cleveland (15-8, 9-3 District 5-AAA) will tangle with Soddy-Daisy (11-13, 1-11) at 6 p.m., while the host Bradley boys (22-5, 9-2), who missed out on the top spot due to a tiebreaker, will battle county-rival Walker Valley (9-17, 1-11).
On Feb. 16, the Nos. 3 and 6 seeds will take the hardwood with the McMinn County girls (10-16, 6-6) taking on Rhea County (11-17, 3-9) at 6. In the nightcap, Cleveland (13-8, 8-4) will square off against Soddy-Daisy (8-15, 1-11) in a boys battle.
The following night (Feb. 17), the fourth-seeded Ooltewah (14-10, 6-6) girls will take on No. 5 Walker Valley (9-15, 5-7) in the opener while the Rhea County (14-10, 6-6) and McMinn County (14-12, 5-7) boys will cap the evening.
In the Feb. 18 semifinals, the host Bearettes (27-1, 12-0), ranked fifth in the state AP poll, will open the day’s play at 3 p.m. against the Ooltewah/Walker Valley winner from the previous night. At 4:30 the Wednesday and Thursday victors will complete the back-to-back girls’ games.
The boys semifinals will start at 6 with top-seeded Ooltewah (23-3, 10-2) facing either Rhea or McMinn, while a possible Bradley-Cleveland matchup could highlight prime time at 7:30, barring an opening round upset.
The girls’ consolation and championship game will be held Feb. 20 at 6 and 7:30 respectively, while the boys title and third place will be decided at the same times on Feb. 21.
The only concern that came out of Wednesday’s meeting at Mountain View Inn was the long layoff for several teams before the action begins.
“We normally have a makeup game or two we have to get in, but the weather has been so nice this winter we didn’t have any cancellations,” commented coach Jason Reuter, whose Bearettes have a 10-day break between their final regular season game earlier this week and their first tournament game.
“It’s going to be tough. You get in a routine with two or three games a week and then all of a sudden to have a week off at this point might throw us out of rhythm,” added Bears head coach Kent Smith.
Ooltewah’s boys’ coach Jesse Nadaley is in the same boat as the Bearettes. “I don’t like having this much time between the end of the season and the tournament. A lot of things can happen.”
Unlike Bradley, Ooltewah and Walker Valley, Cleveland still has two more games scheduled, hosting Knoxville West Friday night and Polk County Monday. “That should help us be ready,” commented Blue Raider head coach Jason McCowan.
Rhea County also has games still to play at Hixson tonight and hosting Sequoyah Monday. McMinn County will finish the regular season Friday against county rival McMinn Central in Englewood.
The Region 3-AAA tournament will begin Feb. 24 and 25 with opening round games at the homes of the higher seeds, before going to the central site at Cumberland County High School Feb. 27 to March 1.