PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: BHRA goes for fifth straight county title

Jan. 13—DANVILLE — The Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin boys basketball team are going on a drive for five.

But to get their fifth straight Vermilion County Tournament title, the Blue Devils will have to go through a field where county teams have stepped up this season with the four top seeds in the 10-win or more column.

"We played Oakwood already and we know the size and talent they have and Hoopeston have a lot of players back. They have won several competitive games," BHRA head coach Gary Tidwell said. "I think there is a little more parity this year than in the past. Armstrong is a better team and they did well against us last week and Westville has had a good start. It should be a fun tournament.

"We've had a lot of success in the last few years. It is something that the team and all the teams are looking forward to. It is a great showcase that highlights the talents of each team and the communities come together and show that community spirit. It's a fun time of the year and we look forward to playing."

The Blue Devils have kept going with stalwarts like Ayden Ingram, who just reached the 1,000-point mark, and newcomers like Keison Peoples — who has brought a new dynamic.

"Every player brings a different skillset, so Keison has made us a better team with what he brings to the table," Tidwell said. "It is not too common to have a team with two point guards who can handle the ball and take the pressure and create shots for themselves and their teammates and we have both in Keison and Micah (Stanford). We like our team and they are doing a great job."

The Blue Devils will start the tournament on Tuesday against Salt Fork, who they beat for their fourth straight title last year.

"We've had our battles over the years," Tidwell said. "They are struggling this year, but coach (Andrew) Johnson does a great job with his teams and I know he gets the best out of his players. We have to be prepared and ready to play because they are going to be ready to play on Tuesday."

For today's first three games, Tidwell will be a spectator and seeing the future competition.

"It's nice to have the first-round bye and I am ready to look at all the teams," Tidwell said. "It will be good to observe these games in person because it is something I rarely do in the year. It is a fun opportunity to see how teams play and how they adjust to different situations. I don't think you can overlook any teams. There are some teams that got better this year and have some talent. We can't take anything for granted."

The No. 2 seed is Oakwood. The Comets took third last season and would like to finish a little higher this season.

"You always want to strive to win the tournament," Oakwood coach Jeff Mandrell said. "That first game is the most important one and it is not easy because there are some good teams. You just play the games and see what happens."

The Comets have an inside presence with players like Alec Harrison and have outside threats with Carsen and Jackson Dudley.

"We have our senior point guard Brody Taflinger and the Dudley's have scored well for us,"Mandrell said. Alec has the size and another kid that has played well for us has been Cort Vermillion. He played well in the game against Hoopeston Area on Wednesday. We have some help off the bench with Bryson McDaniel and Brandt Hobick, so we have a good group that are playing better than earlier in the year and we are getting better every game."

The Comets will start action today against Georgetown-Ridge Farm at 6:45 p.m.

"I have seen them on video. They are a scrappy team and they play hard," Mandrell said. "We have had good games with them in the past and they have always played hard against us, so we need to come to play."

Action starts at 3:45 p.m. today when Salt Fork plays Westville and Armstrong-Potomac will play Hoopeston Area at 5:15 p.m.

The Comets will play Armstrong-Potomac on Tuesday and then Hoopeston Area on Thursday. That game will be a rematch of a game on Wednesday that was moved from last week and it saw the Comets win 68-52.

"The game was changed because of an issue with their floor," Mandrell said. "It was a good, tough game and we were happy to come out with a win. It happens a lot in the tournament, when you play someone earlier in the week and then you turn around and play them again."

The tournament returns to Danville Area Community College's Mary Miller Gym and all of the teams are ready to return.

"DACC does a great job hosting it and everyone enjoyed it last year," Tidwell said. "There were a lot of positive comments from people and we are looking forward to a great tournament.

"I think everyone was really happy with things last year," Mandrell said. "Everything ran smoothly and they did special things like the screen and photos of the players and they enjoyed that. It's a quality tournament and a great environment."