It’s almost time.
The seventh annual Bob Wettig Memorial Tournament opens Thursday, bringing 16 teams to Tiernan Center and Earlham College for three packed days of boys basketball.
Play begins at 10 a.m. Thursday with Indianapolis Metro taking on Fort Wayne North.
Seven more games follow Thursday, with Richmond meeting Rock Creek Academy at 7:30 p.m.
“I just don’t think you can overlook the hard work it takes to put something like that together,” said RHS coach Joe Luce. “The amount of talent, and the great teams (Richmond athletic director) Chad Bolser makes an effort to bring into our community and into the Tiernan Center is really second to none. It has become an elite tournament, in my opinion, in the state of Indiana.”
Four Wettig teams are currently in the Associated Press Class 4A poll — defending tournament champion Columbus North (No. 7), host Richmond (No. 10), Fort Wayne North (No. 11) and Jeffersonville (No. 16).
Indianapolis Tindley, matched up against Columbus North in the first round, is ranked sixth in Class A.
Columbus North upended Jeffersonville 61-55 to win last year’s tournament and repeat as champion. Richmond took third for the second straight year.
“The field is outstanding,” Luce said.
“The trip to Richmond for so many teams is an unbelievable growing experience and one that has been a key for successful season for a lot of teams.”
Jennings County meets Connersville at 11:30 a.m. in Thursday’s second game, followed by Columbus North vs. Tindley (1 p.m.), Bedford North Lawrence vs. East Central (2:30), Jeffersonville vs. Fox Creek Christian of Kentucky (4), Norwell vs. Greenfield-Central (6), RHS vs. Rock Creek (7:30) and Portage vs. Floyd Central (9).
The tournament’s quarterfinal round starts at 4 p.m. Friday. The final quarterfinal game, featuring the RHS-Rock Creek and Portage-Floyd Central winners, is at 8:30.
Semifinals are 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, with the championship scheduled for 7:30 that night. All teams will play four games over three days.
“Each year we’ve tried to expand the field,” Bolser said. “We continue to have really what we think are great matchups.
“We think the field is really well-rounded.”
The first Wettig Tournament was played in 2007, and was a four-team, one-day affair that featured host RHS, Northeastern, Fall Creek Academy and South Newton. Richmond, then coached by Bolser, defeated South Newton 68-44 in the final.
The tournament stayed at four teams in 2008, and grew to eight in 2009. Richmond won the first three Wettig titles.
The Wettig expanded to its current 16-team, 32-game format in 2010. That tournament was won by Hamilton Heights, a 66-61 winner over Tipton in the final.
“It’s very fun. We’re playing for that trophy,” said Richmond junior Davious Webster.
The tournament is named for Bob Wettig, the former longtime equipment manager at RHS who died in 2007 after a long battle with cancer.
Cost is $15 for the entire tournament, $8 per day or $5 per session.
There also is a JV tournament this year to be played at Dennis and Hibberd middle schools.
Tickets for the JV tournament are $5. Participating teams are Richmond Red, Columbus North, Floyd Central, Wapahani, Northeastern, Connersville, Richmond White, Greenfield-Central, Union County, East Central, Jeffersonville and Indianapolis Marshall.
“We have a 12-team JV tournament that we’re excited to host also,” Luce said.
For Richmond, the return to Tiernan Center ends a four-game road trip for the Red Devils that saw them go 3-0, with one game suspended after three quarters because of condensation on the gym floor at Upper Arlington in Columbus, Ohio.
“Just overall, we’ll be glad to be back home and playing in our gym,” Luce said.
“It will be an exciting three days.”