Both Ada High School basketball teams will be top seeds at the 2013 Bison Invitational, which tips off Thursday at Oklahoma Baptist University.
The Lady Cougars will open the tournament against Chandler Thursday at 4:30 p.m., with the Ada boys to follow against Chandler at 6 p.m.
Ada won the tournament in 2011 against Tecumseh, but the Savages got revenge last year, rallying from a late 13-point deficit to upset the Cougars.
“Opening the season with a three-day tournament is odd, but I like it. You’ll find out pretty quickly what your team is made of,” said Ada head coach Ron Anderson.
It will mark the third year in a row that Anderson’s club has entered the OBU tournament as the top seed.
“It’s certainly a compliment that your fellow coaches feel you are the best team in the tournament,” he said. “It’s actually a little comical that each year when the coaches meet to seed the tournament, I have said the same thing: ‘This will be my best team since I’ve been at Ada.’”
Anderson said his team can ill afford to overlook any of the teams in the tournament field.
“From what I understand, Chandler is down from a year ago and they have a new coach,” he said. “Thank goodness Tecumseh lost most of their players to graduation from that very good team a year ago. But they will play very hard and are expected — according to the projections — to make it to the finals.”
Anderson said Newcastle will be much improved from a year ago, and he feels like Bethel could pull off an upset or two during the weekend in Shawnee.
“We cannot take anyone lightly in this tournament because all of those teams would love to beat the No. 1 seed. We will have to stay focused and stick to what we do best,” he said.
Ada girls coach Christie Jennings said the tournament is filled with good teams and good coaches.
Perkins-Tryon, the team that defeated the Lady Cougars in the 2012 Bison Invitational championship game, is the No. 2 seed.
“Perkins lost a couple of good starters off that team, but they’re still going to be solid,” Jennings said. “Coach (Jerry) Burnett is a really, really good coach, and they’ll be well prepared.”
A first-round Ada victory would match the Lady Cougars with the winner of an intriguing game between Bethel and Newcastle.
“I think the two sleepers in that tournament are on our side of the bracket. Bethel and Newcastle will both be better,” Jennings said.
According to the second-year Ada coach, Bethel has a solid group of young kids who should all be improved this year. And when you add the fact that Jace Johnson, son of legendary Bethel coach Jerry Johnson, is now the new head coach, the Lady Wildcats could be a contender in Class 4A by the end of the season.
“The Bethel kids will have another year to grow up. They’re going to go back to their run-and-jump style and will play more up-tempo,” Jennings said.
“Newcastle had great athletes last year when we saw them. They have one of the two best basketball coaches in Oklahoma in Brett Sanders. I thought the seeding of the tournament was kind of strange because those two teams ended up getting the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds and will play each other in the first round.”
No. 3 seed Meeker could also be dangerous.
“That’s five really good teams. We’re not going to go up there and get handed the trophy. We’re going to have to show up and play every night,” she said.
Jennings won’t suit up any of her four freshmen at the Bison Invitational. Ada’s ninth-graders will compete in two freshmen tournaments and the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic Dec. 26-28 at ECU’s Kerr Activities Center. Sophomore Devanee Simmons is also questionable this weekend due to an injury.
“We have some juniors and sophomores that are going to contribute, but at some point, our four freshmen are going to have to find a way to help us,” Jennings said.