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No clear favorites in ACAC

The ACAC might be as competitive – on both the girls and boys side – as it has been in years, which makes for a wide-open conference tournament this week.

No team has distinguished itself from the rest in regular-season play, making for some unpredictable action, especially once the basketball tournament reaches Memorial Coliseum for the semifinals and finals.

“This is a year that a lot of people would say is very, very balanced, and I would agree with that,” Bluffton boys coach Kevin Leising said. “When you look the teams in the field, the majority of the teams have a realistic chance.

“No one has set the world on fire, but it is still balanced, and there are some talented teams in there.”

The Leo girls and Bluffton boys are the defending tournament champions.

“It does help us because our kids have traditionally gotten to the Coliseum and to the championship game,” Leo girls coach Carrie Shappell said of being the defending champions. “There is almost an expectation. It is not a stressful expectation; it is just one of our goals.

“There is a lot of things that have to be taken into consideration when playing on a bigger court, and shooting in the Coliseum is a lot different than shooting in a regular gym. There are a lot of factors that come into play that you are not used to.”

For the girls, half the conference teams are 4-1 in regular-season league play: Garrett (9-4), Leo (10-3), Southern Wells (10-2) and Woodlan (8-4).

“I said before the season that the ACAC was wide open on the girls side, and going into the tournament, nothing has happened to prove me wrong on that,” Shappell said. “The tournament brings with it its own drama every year, but this year could be one of the best years for it.

“We are going to have to bring our A game for every game for this tournament.”

The big first-round girls matchup will be Southern Wells at Garrett tonight, eliminating one of the big four teams right away.

Three boys teams, Adams Central (6-3), Bluffton (6-4) and Leo (5-4), have yet to lose an ACAC game and are 3-0, while Heritage (5-6) is still in the mix at 2-1.

Bluffton brought back four starters from last year’s team but is missing its 7-footer in the graduated Keith Cochran.

The Tigers open the tournament at Heritage.

“We don’t run from it nor do we sit around saying ‘look at us,’ ” Leising said of being the defending champs. “Each year is special for the kids.

“We are the shortest team in the history of mankind, but that’s just part of high school. We are not where we want to be, but we are finding out a lot about our team.”

ACAC tournament

First round
Boys at 6 p.m.,
girls at 7:30
Adams Central at Woodlan
South Adams at Leo
Bluffton at Heritage
Southern Wells at Garrett
At Memorial Coliseum
Boys semifinals, 6 p.m.
Girls semifinals, 6 p.m.
Boys finals, 10 a.m.
Girls finals, noon

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