MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Prep Sports

January 5, 2014

Shrine tourney returns with new leadership; bracket breakdown; schedule tweaks

The 34th Bedouin Shrine Classic basketball tournament has new leadership and a new schedule twist.

Keith Olmstead takes over as tournament director, though former director Leonard Branan still has a role as part of the board and will be part of things, Olmstead said.

“It’s really not that he’s gone away but he needed to limit his role a little and you might say I got stuck with it,” Olmstead said with a laugh. “But believe me, Leonard will still be very visible.”

Also clear is the schedule changes for the first four nights of the tournament. The small school divisions will occupy the evening sessions (7:30 and 9 p.m.)  and the large school divisions the matinee slots (4:30 and 6 p.m.) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Part of that is some of our large school entries felt it was so late to get back during the week with their kids,” Olmstead said. “We’re trying it out this way and will look at the option of rotating it each year. But we also think this will make the early crowds bigger since some of the small schools tend to bring more people.”

That change will tend to help McAlester boys and girls and Enid girls, easily the farthest schools among  the large schools. Yet Santa Fe South out of Oklahoma City is in the small school division.

Jenks boys, Muskogee girls and Spiro boys and girls are the defending champions. Muskogee will go for a fifth consecutive title when it begins play on Tuesday against Tulsa Hale at 4:30 p.m. at the Civic Center.

Rowland not only finds himself in a new time frame, but with a squad with one starter back but so far this season is off to a 5-1 start.

“This is something new to me but whatever the powers that be say. We’ll play any day, any time. I just hope our crowd is there,” Rowland said.

“These girls haven’t been in this situation before but I don’t know if that’s going to be a factor or not because they don’t play afraid. All they do is get after it and play. It’s probably one of the best groups I’ve had in terms of their heart and love for the game and I like how they’ve dome together.”

Enid, who Muskogee beat in last year’s final, is seeded second. Hilldale is fourth but beat McAlester, which ended up with the third seed, in last year’s tournament.

The Muskogee, Sequoyah and Coweta boys could challenge Jenks, who is 1-2 so far this season. Muskogee’s only loss was 60-48 against Broken Arrow, which also knocked off the Trojans 71-67. Sequoyah has the core back from a 3A semifinal run last year and Coweta is ranked in the 5A top 10.

Sequoyah’s girls are playing out of a small school division that includes an unbeaten Oktaha team and Spiro, which ended Oktaha’s three-peat bid in overtime a year ago.  The 3A quarterfinalist from last season should make this a three-team race and drew the top seed this year, making this arguably the most competitive of the three brackets and boosted by prime-time 7:30 p.m. starts during the week.

“We’re going to have a bigger crowd, there’s no doubt about that,” Oktaha coach Chester Pittman said. “We normally draw well anyway but when you’re talking 4:30, a lot of people are still working.”

Off to a 7-0 start, Spiro appears to be a clear favorite in the Small School Boys division. Oktaha, a finalist a year ago after winning the previous season, hopes to make this a third straight matchup with Spiro in the finals but has struggled to a 1-4 start. Haskell (4-2) might have something to say about that. The Haymakers have knocked off Oktaha and earned another quality win against Beggs. Hulbert’s schedule hasn’t been too difficult but the Riders at 4-2 could also mount a challenge.

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