This week’s Randolph County Tournament promises more than hot rivalry basketball over several cold evenings.
It also could be a showcase for two eye-opening Union High School programs that have an opportunity to grab county bragging rights on their home court.
The Rockets boys have opened at 8-1 after winning their Class A sectional last season and the girls’ team is a state-leading 11-0 in Class A.
“What’s better than that? It’s perfect timing,” said boys’ coach and athletic director Jeff Holloway. “Both teams are playing well. There’s a lot of excitement here.”
There should be a lot of excitement, too, for the first game at 6 p.m. today. It matches a pair of 10-2 girls’ teams in Randolph Southern and Winchester.
The Golden Falcons were ranked third in Class 2A heading into the holidays.
The winner of that game plays Union in the opener of a girls doubleheader on Thursday night. The second game matches Monroe Central (3-9) and Union City (5-7).
“It’s going to be a neat atmosphere,” promises Union girls coach Lee Taft. “I am happy for the community.”
He said Union would have to play its “absolute best” to beat Winchester or Randolph Southern. “Those teams are really, really tough. They are strong and fast, but we know we are capable of playing with them. We have to play our game.”
The Falcons feature senior guard Jill Morrison, one of the best all-around players in Indiana. She averages 28 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“It’s a lot the same as playing Southern with senior point guard Anna Franklin,” Taft said. “If you don’t control those guards, you are in trouble.”
Union, well-balanced and defensive-minded, is led statistically by 5-8 freshman DeAnn Kaufman with averages of 13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
The Union boys, who were 16-7 last season, are led this year by senior Willie Eviston, who averages 17.5 points. “He does a lot for us and we do a really good job of filling roles, playing team basketball,” Holloway said. “They just want to win.”
The athletes at the school had to change their attitudes and not accept being a team that others viewed as an automatic win on their schedules, Holloway said. “They know now that they are supposed to be on the floor, just like the other kids,” he said.
The girls team made a mindset change after going 7-13 last season, and that helped lead to the surprising string of victories, Taft said. “We talked from summertime about how we have to become more defensive- minded,” he said. “The girls bought into that. It’s become our calling card.”
The girls watched what happened with the boys when they won the sectional at Blue River in 2012. “They were standing on the floor and saying, ‘We want that to be us,’ ” Taft said.
Today’s late game features a boys contest between Union City (0-8) and Monroe Central (2-4). The winner of that game plays Winchester (3-4) at 6 p.m. Friday. Randolph Southern (2-6) meets Union in the second boys semifinal.
The girls final will be played at 6 p.m. Saturday, followed by the boys. Winchester is the defending champion for boys and girls.