By Kevin Wilson
It’s not too hard to understand why homecourt advantage is important for regional basketball tournaments.
“Homecourt advantage is huge,” Floyd boys coach Jeff Gillespie said. “Would you rather play in a gym you’ve been to three time a year, or a gym you practice in?”
The Broncos get the latter of the two for this weekend’s Class 1A Region B tournament. Floyd faces Monte Del Sol at 6 p.m., following by Melrose taking on Desert Academy.
Winners earn a berth in the state tournament next week and will face each other Saturday at 6 p.m. for the regional championship, also at Floyd.
District 3-1A fans are hoping for a rematch of Saturday’s title game between the Broncos (19-7) and the Buffaloes (18-8), won by Floyd 54-52.
“As long as we take care of business, we should be playing Melrose on Saturday,” Gillespie said. “That’s the matchup everybody wants.”
The regional championship is also the game everybody wants to win. While both title game participants will have already punched their tickets to state, the Region B champ will most likely avoid a first-round matchup with 2003 state runnerup Temple Baptist.
Temple Baptist is 27-0, and both Gillespie and Melrose coach Casey Pack expect it will be 29-0 after regionals.
“This (weekend) is huge,” Pack said. “You’re going to have to face (Temple Baptist) sooner or later, but you’d rather not face them in the first round.”
To get that chance, both Floyd and Melrose have Friday opponents to deal with. The Broncos hope to exploit a thin bench for Monte Del Sol, a charter school out of Santa Fe.
“Our goal is to get their two big kids in foul trouble,” Gillespie said of 6-foot-3 Kelly Mercker and 6-foot-4 Tim Sablo. “As long as we shoot well, we’ll be all right, but I guess that’s true for everybody.”
It’s the opposite for the Buffaloes, who look to use their size against Desert Academy.
“They’ve got some good 3-point shooters and they like to run the ball,” Pack said. “Their tallest kid is 6-foot-2, so hopefully (the post) is where we can get them.”
Floyd last hosted a regional tournament two years ago, with Pack as the coach. That turned out to be the last of five seasons at Floyd, as he went to coach the Buffaloes the following year.
“It’s really hard,” Pack said of returning to Floyd. “There’s a lot of kids I still enjoy and there are a lot of great memories. It’s tough, but you’ve got to move on and I’ve got a great bunch of guys this year.”
At Santa Fe
District 3-1A teams will head on the road for this weekend’s regionals at St. Michael’s High School. Elida faces Desert Academy at 5:30 p.m., while District 3-1A champion Fort Sumner follows against Victory Christian.
Vixens coach Brian Fortner thinks that Victory Christian is a “pretty balanced” team overall, but is confident that his team will play well even without the services of Kelly Fortner.
His daughter, a junior, tore her ACL in Saturday’s 41-32 win over Elida. Kelly’s surgery will be performed after the state basketball tournament.
“She’s pretty crushed by it,” Brian Fortner said. “It hurts as far as our team speed. I feel we’re still probably the fastest team in the state, but it hurts.”
Without Fortner, the Vixens (23-4) are without their No. 2 scorer and rebounder. However, the Fort Sumner coach feels that Shannon Wilson, Laurel Herrera and Kayla Britain have stepped up over the last few weeks.
“The other girls have improved enough,” Fortner said. “If this had happened early in the year, this would have been devastating.”
Fortner expects to see Elida in the 6 p.m. Saturday title game. The winner would most likely avoid defending state champion Des Moines until a potential state title matchup.
“We’d like to step up and win that game,” Howard said, “but it’s not going to be an easy task in any bracket. Grady’s playing really well, and Des Moines is playing really well.”