Herald Staff Report
ERIE, Ill. —
Erie hosts Stockton tonight at 6 in boys basketball action.
The Cardinals (9-4) will then take the court three days later, hosting Mercer County at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 26. Those are Erie’s first two games of the Cliff Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic, with play following Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well. The tournament usually runs five consecutive days, but with Christmas falling on Tuesday this year, that had to change.
“We really debated what format to use,” Erie boys coach Ryan Winckler said. “We think this is better. Now we don’t have to worry about everyone playing two games in a day or starting the games at 8:30 a.m.”
With 11 teams in this year’s Classic, two teams — West Carroll and Bureau Valley — will have to play twice in one day. Both the Thunder and Storm are in the five-team Pool B.
“It’s really tough,” Winckler said. “We were disappointed Kewanee left and we couldn’t fill the spot. It caused a little bit of a problem.”
West Carroll doesn’t play today and then faces Knoxville and Kewanee Wethersfield on Dec. 26. Bureau Valley has Wednesday off.
“We’re excited that Peoria Heights will return next year and we’ll be back to 12 teams,” Winckler said.
The girls field has a full complement of 12 teams, with Fulton in Pool A and Morrison joining the host Cardinals in Pool B.
Erie plays Galva today right before the boys get their home tournament started.
“Stockton is really starting to play some good basketball,” Winck-ler said. “We’re approaching it just like it’s a regular home game. We’re preparing with our scouting report like it’s a standalone game. Then we’ll turn our attention to our other opponents like normal. I’m excited to see where we are.”
The Cardinals are coming off winning the West Carroll Holiday Tourna-ment for the second consecutive year.
“We’ve had a really interesting season,” Winckler said. “Starting with the Orion Tournament at the beginning of the year until the West Carroll tournament we played a lot of 2A schools. That tested us and showed us our weaknesses. The guys have worked hard to improve.”
Erie is 7-0 when holding its opponents under 45 points and 2-4 when the opposition tops that mark.
“We’ve talked about defensive intensity,” Winckler said. “But it’s not just defense. We need to take care of the basketball so there are no easy buckets. We need to box out so we don’t allow offensive putbacks.”
Winckler said Orion was the team to beat since it’s won the title five years in a row, but it’s a pretty deep pool this year.
“This is one of the more competitive tournaments we’re going to see,” he said. “I don’t see any team that’s really going to distance itself from the other teams. I’m really excited about the level of basketball we’ll have.”
Morrison kicks off the boys tournament at 3 p.m. today against Toulon Stark County. Morrison’s girls open at 1:30 p.m. against Knoxville, while Fulton plays Monmouth-Roseville at noon today.
The championship games are scheduled for 6 and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 29, with the girls first.