PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — The 10th annual Marlin Classic commences next week with Arnold and Mosley girls each chasing a tournament championship.
Four schools from Tennessee and one other school from Florida and another from South Carolina round out the eight-team bracket, with the first games taking place Monday leading up to Wednesday’s title game.
Mosley opens with a game against University School (Tenn.) at 3 p.m. and with a win would play the winner of Arnold vs. Moore County (Tenn.) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in a winners’-bracket semifinal.
With a loss, the Dolphins would play the loser of that game Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. The host Marlins open at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
First-year Arnold coach Ray Ezell said he’s looking forward to seeing how his team fares in the tournament, especially given the Marlins’ recent improved play after a slow start that included losses in five of the first six games of the season.
“We’re playing a lot better, obviously,” Ezell said. “We started off kind of inexperienced as a basketball team. We’re pretty young overall with only one senior, but the problem is that we’re inexperienced. But we’ve had great effort so far this season.
The Dolphins, 15-1, had a very different beginning to the season, winning their first nine games and looking the part of one of the two best teams in District 1-5A along with Choctawhatchee. They have won six straight since suffering their only loss, by two points, to Choctaw.
Mosley beat Arnold 74-43 in the first regular-season meeting between the teams Dec. 11 in Lynn Haven and could meet the host Marlins again next week.
Ezell said that his team may not be ready yet to match up with clubs as strong as Mosley from a talent perspective, but he said the experience of facing a field of teams this strong should be positive for the Marlins’ growth.
“These teams coming in are very good. Very few people go to a Christmas Classic unless they have an opportunity to win,” Ezell said. “It would be great to be competitive. We might be untalented in certain aspects of the game, but the effort is always there. If we’re competitive, then maybe we can sneak out a couple of wins and that would be outstanding for us.
“But it’s also great just for the spirit and morale of the team that we’re competitive and can continue to improve. I hope this Marlin Classic can be the trampoline into the last part of our season and we can finish strong.”
Marlin Classic Schedule
• Monday – Game 1: Archbishop vs. LaVergne (Tenn.), 8:45 a.m., Game 2: Wren (S.C.) vs. Cannon County (Tenn.), 11:45 a.m., Game 3: Mosley vs. University School (Tenn.), 3 p.m., Game 4: Arnold vs. Moore County (Tenn.), 4:30 p.m.
• Tuesday – Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 8:45 a.m., Game 6: Game 4 loser vs. Game 3 loser, 11:45 a.m., Game 7: Game 2 winner vs. Game 1 winner, 3 p.m., Game 8: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7:30 p.m.
• Wednesday – Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 8:45 a.m., Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 11:45 a.m., Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 3 p.m., Game 12: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 6 p.m. for tournament championship.
—By DUSTIN KENT, Panama City News Herald