Brian Johnson Special Correspondent
A loaded field is the customary setting for the Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic, and the 2013 version of this girls basketball tournament, set for Dec. 26-28, is no different.
The eight-team field for the 37th Mid-America Classic features two top-ranked teams (Class 5A No. 1 Shawnee and Class A No. 1 Cheyenne-Reydon), along with four other teams ranked in the top 10 of their respective classes, including two local favorites — Ada, No. 7 in Class 4A, and Latta, No. 6 in 2A.
“We’re very pleased with the field. There are some quality teams and several local teams with Ada and Latta,” said Bruce Plunk, president of the Mid-America Classic board of directors and director of athletics at Byng High School. “Sulphur and Tishomingo are fairly close as well, so we should have huge fan bases from four schools.”
Plunk said as loaded as the field is, it will be a challenge to match last year’s success stories of the teams. All eight teams reached their respective state tournaments as Sulphur, the defending Mid-America Classic champion, and Georgetown, Texas, the runner-up from last year’s event, were crowned state champions.
Sulphur, ranked 12th in 3A, is back in this year’s field as well as Class 4A No. 5 Mount St. Mary, Class B No. 3 Lomega and Class 3A No. 13 Tishomingo.
The 2013 tournament will feature a “Pink Out Night” on the final day, Saturday, Dec. 28.
“The last couple of years we’ve raised funds and donations for the American Cancer Society, but this year we wanted to target a more specific area with it being a girls tournament. So we are trying to raise funds for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and Play4Kay Sports Program,” Plunk said.
Yow was a former head women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State and founding member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and passed away in 2009, after facing her third bout with the disease.
Oklahoma head women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale, who serves as a frontrunner for the state’s Kay Yow Cancer Fund and Play4Kay Sports Program, is hoping the state can raise $214,000 for the funds by Feb. 14, 2014, and the Mid-America Classic will play a part in those efforts, according to Plunk.
Coale’s assistant at OU, Jan Ross, is scheduled to speak to the teams at a brunch at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 27, at Trinity Baptist Church. Ross, an 18-year assistant under Coale, is a breast cancer survivor.
On the final day of the classic, all players will be receive white socks adorned with pink ribbon to wear during their games, and pink T-shirts, with the Mid-America Classic logo on front and the Play4Kay logo on the back, will be sold to fans as another fundraising endeavor. Also during halftime of the third-place game on Saturday, cheerleaders from Ada and Latta will be passing buckets for donations. Chances will also be sold for special items such as Nike backpacks and sunglasses with the Play4Kay logo.
The first-round tournament schedule on Dec. 26 is as follows: Mount St. Mary vs. Sulphur at 3 p.m.; Tishomingo vs. Shawnee at 4:30 p.m.; Latta vs. Cheyenne at 6:30 p.m.; and Lomega vs. Ada at 8 p.m.
The title and corporate sponsor for the tournament, Vision Bank, not only supports the event financially but uses employee volunteers for various tasks throughout the three-day run.
“Without Vision Bank, this wouldn’t happen. They staff it. They are an outstanding group of people to work with,” said Plunk.