Ursuline coach John Noonan doesn’t know what to expect in the top bracket of the Diamond State Classic girls basketball tournament.
So the Raiders try to be ready for anything.
“You just try and prepare in practice to see just about everything,” Noonan said. “You work against man, you work against zone, you work against pressure. We’ve always kind of done that.
“We put a lot of stuff in that we don’t necessarily use a lot. But we do it because we know probably down the line, we’re going to see it.”
Ursuline and host St. Elizabeth are certain to see some top competition in the St. Francis Healthcare Cup, the tournament’s eight-team national bracket, when the 23rd annual Diamond State Classic begins its four-day run Friday at the St. E Center.
Ursuline, 3-1 and ranked No. 2 in Delaware, will open against Oregon City (Ore.) at 5:45 p.m. Friday. The Pioneers have won 11 Oregon state titles overall and are 131-15 over the last five years.
Oregon City is 4-2 this season, with losses coming to powerful California teams in the Nike Tournament of Champions last week in Phoenix. But the Pioneers have been to the Diamond State Classic before, in 2008 and 2010, so Noonan feels like he knows them a little bit.
“They’re one of those national programs,” the Ursuline coach said. “As I remember, they like to play really fast, shoot the 3, push the ball and pressure.”
St. Elizabeth, 2-0 and ranked first in Delaware, will meet Central Dauphin (Pa.) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Rams are 6-1 and rated among the top 10 in Pennsylvania’s Class AAAA in most rankings.
“I know most of the teams they bring in from out of state to play in the top bracket are really top-notch teams,” Vikings coach Frank Aiello said. “I’m sure we’ll have our hands full, us and Ursuline.”
St. E had preseason scrimmages against four Philadelphia-area powers – Germantown Academy, Cardinal O’Hara, Academy of Notre Dame and Archbishop Ryan. Aiello said last week’s 53-47 victory over No. 4 Sanford also hardened his team.
“I don’t know how we’ll do, but I just want our kids to be really competitive and support each other,” Aiello said. “That’s all I’m looking for in this tournament, to use this to make us a better team.”
The top bracket also includes Coeur d’Alene (Idaho), which has finished in the top three of the Idaho 5A tournament each of the last eight years and is 117-21 over the last five seasons; Wilson (Pa.), which went 27-3 and won a smaller Diamond State Classic bracket last year; McDonogh School (Md.), which was 21-11 last year; and Hoover (Ohio), which went 21-5 and reached the Ohio Division I quarterfinals last season.
“I could practically fill next year’s lineup right now,” tournament director John Gretchen said. “We have so many requests. We look at the team records and talk to the coaches, because it’s not only basketball. We want them to buy our whole program with our charities and everything.”
Gretchen already has booked Narbonne High of Harbor City, Calif., and St. Anthony of Long Beach, Calif., for next year’s tournament. The event, which primarily benefits the B+ Foundation and Special Olympics, is coming off a major milestone last year when it exceeded $1 million in lifetime charitable contributions.
Much of that is made possible by the work of IAABO Board 11, a local basketball officials group that calls the games for free. Board 11 members also keep score, announce, sell tickets and work concessions during the tournament.
“You’ll see them doing everything,” Gretchen said.
Several other Delaware teams also are involved in the tournament. No. 3 Caravel and No. 8 Padua will join Damascus (Md.) and Franklin (N.J.) in the First State Orthopaedics Cup, which is considered to be the tournament’s second-toughest bracket.
Delaware Military Academy, St. Thomas More and Caesar Rodney will join Harriton (Pa.) in the New Castle Insurance Cup. No. 5 Concord, Tatnall and St. Mark’s will join John Carroll (Md.) in the Delaware Cup.