Players looking forward to another 'crazy' Vermilion County Basketball Tournament

Jan. 12—DANVILLE — This time last year, the Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin boys' basketball team was in the middle of a Vermilion County Tournament run, a run that ended with a 40-35 championship win over Salt Fork for the Blue Devils' fourth consecutive county title.

This past November, BHRA seniors Ayden Ingram and Landon Leigh and junior Chaz Dubois sat around a conference room table to talk about that tournament at The News-Gazette's Faces of the Winter event. As soon as the word "atmosphere" was brought up, all three had the same reaction.

"It was crazy," they said in unison, reminiscing on the championship game with smiles and wide eyes.

"DACC did a great job with it," Leigh continued. "Everybody was there. The whole stadium was filled."

Danville Area Community College hosted last year's Vermilion County Tournament at Mary Miller Gymnasium, and there wasn't an open seat for the boys' final. The stands were filled from front to back and wall to wall on both sides.

It was the same for the girls. Salt Fork bested Armstrong-Potomac 45-24 in the championship for the Storm's second title in a row. The only difference in the stands was the color of the fans' T-shirts.

"It was pretty amazing," Salt Fork senior Macie Russell said. "The environment was so cool. The energy in the gym was crazy. I enjoy it at DACC. I think it's cool how you can have all the schools there together."

The atmosphere of those tournaments is thanks to the sheer number of fans, students and community members alike, who pack the gym. It's especially impressive when you take into account the average enrollment for the seven schools participating is just 282.

"All of us are kind of smaller schools, but one thing we do have is community," Russell said. "Everyone supports their schools."

That was evident in this fall's Vermilion County Volleyball Tournament, where BHRA and Westville fans once again filled the stands and sent vibrations through Mary Miller Gymnasium after every point.

It's a conscious attempt by the students to bring as much energy as possible to as many athletic events as possible because, as BHRA senior Marleigh Schmitt put it, "Without energy, you don't have anything."

"When we all come together, it's pretty fun," BHRA senior Ella Myers added, "and we can be loud."

That passion bleeds into the players on the court, and there's a sense of pride they have in playing for bragging rights for the county's top team.

"It's a very competitive county and conference," Salt Fork junior Alexa Jamison said. "Everyone goes out each game and is playing their hardest."

The BHRA boys and Salt Fork girls will be the favorites to win their fifth and third consecutive titles, respectively. The Blue Devils (17-3) have won seven games in a row and have aspirations of making it to the state finals. The Storm (16-5) have also won seven in a row and are even more dangerous now that Jamison is back to her top-scorer performances after undergoing knee surgery.

Winning this tournament has become an expectation for the BHRA boys, but the goal hasn't changed.

"County champs again," Ingram said. "Definitely."