Union High School’s boys basketball team ended a drought in 2013. They also ended a reign.
The Rockets won the Randolph County tournament for the first time in 50 years and were the first team not named Winchester to take the title in six years.
The Falcons host this year’s tourney, looking to return to the top, while Winchester’s girls look to extend their reign of four straight titles.
“I think it’s going to be a balanced tournament,” Winchester boys coach Rick Owens said. “I think Monroe Central, they’re playing well, Union again, they’re playing well — I think it’s going to be tough. We’ll have to go through both of them to win it.
“Union, they’re the defending champion, and champions go down hard.”
Play begins Wednesday with Union’s girls (9-2) facing Monroe Central at 6 p.m., followed by Randolph Southern’s boys (0-7) opposite Winchester (4-3).
Winchester opened its season with a 66-35 victory over Randolph Southern.
“I think coach (Scott) Beaman’s doing a good job in trying to start building a program,” Owens said of Randolph Southern. “One thing about it is, he’s got the kids playing hard. When kids play hard, good things can happen.”
The winner plays Monroe Central 6 p.m. Thursday, followed by Union (5-4) opposite Union City (4-4).
Union is the reigning champion of the county, and also of two straight Class A sectional tournaments.
However, the Rockets return just two players in Spencer Shore and Nick Glaser — and they face the Union City team that defeated them 46-40 to open the season.
“I think that Monroe Central, they’re going to be tough, hungry, wanting to win,” Union coach Jeff Holloway said. “Winchester’s at home. They’re going to be wanting to protect home court, and Union City, they beat us the first game of the season. They’re going to be fully expecting to win again. I think it’ll be a good tournament.”
The Rockets followed that loss with four straight victories and are 5-4.
The winner of the opening girls game plays Union City on Friday at 6, while Randolph Southern (7-3) faces Winchester in the other semifinal.
Union City’s girls are one of three teams with TEC records of 3-1.
“We had some time off and we need to be ready to go,” Indians coach Sarah Hines said. “Both teams (Union and Monroe Central) are playing well right now. Both have proved they’re good teams, and we need to make sure we do what we can to prepare.”
The Falcons (2-11) edged Randolph Southern 51-49 in last year’s opening round, before winning the championship 45-20 over Monroe Central.
“Winchester’s had some bumps and bruises, but it’s the county. It’s at their place, so whenever they play us, it is one of those rivalry games,” Randolph Southern coach Jerimy Stephan said. “… It’s one of those games where it’s just going to be one of those knock-down, drag-down heavyweight fights. And that’s OK.”
Randolph Southern defeated Winchester 58-47 about two weeks later in a rematch of the 2012-13 final.
“We need to cut our turnovers down,” Winchester girls coach Ed Geesaman said. “We can be competitive down if we can cut our turnovers down. That’s what’s been bothering us all year. They’re (the Rebels) going to press. They’re a full-court pressing team.”
The championships are scheduled for Saturday, starting at 6 with the girls.
“There’s a big target on our back, because we have won it four, five years straight,” Geesaman said. “It should be interesting.”