PANAMA CITY BEACH — Arnold High School will host the 10th annual Marlins Classic boys and girls basketball tournaments next week, with the Marlins gunning for their first boys tournament title since 2009.
Four teams from Tennessee, two from Kentucky, and one from South Carolina round out the eight-team boys field, with first-round games starting Monday and the championship game taking place Wednesday night.
The Marlins open with Moore County (Tenn.) Monday at 7:30 p.m. If victorious, they will take on the winner of University School (Tenn.) vs. Webster County (Ky.) Tuesday at 6 p.m.
With a loss, Arnold would slip into the consolation bracket and play the loser of University School-Webster County on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. and would be assured at least one more game, win or lose.
Arnold was 1-2 in last year’s tournament, but the Marlins have looked like an improved team so far this early season. Coach Bobby Britton said he’s looking for his team to make a deeper run this year.
“I like where we’re at. I think we started at one point at the beginning of the season and we’ve moved to a further point,” Britton said. “We’re looking to definitely try to come out on the winning side this year.”
The coach said he likes bringing in teams from out of state that Arnold doesn’t normally compete against.
“It gives you a different level of competition and a different style of play,” Britton said. “The teams in our area are really athletic and get up and down the court quick. These teams are more basketball savvy. They know how to slow the game down and they’ll know how to run their offensive sets and slow you down.
“The idea is to get a different taste of basketball, a different brand. I think we match up well. This is one of my most athletic teams I’ve ever had as a coach and we definitely want to use our athleticism.”
Among the benefits of playing in a three-day tournament format is its resemblance to the district tournament that the Marlins will compete in following the regular season. Britton said the Marlins Classic gives his players an opportunity to test the stamina and mental focus they’ll need to make a run in the playoffs.
“I think it really helps us out a lot,” Britton said. “Every basketball team is trying to compete for a district tournament title and things change when you get to a tournament. You can go 8-0 or 7-1 in district during the season and then get in a tournament and lose the first game and be out.
“It kind of gives you the idea that you have to be on point. The thing that tournament play teaches kids is that you have to be ready to play every day or it could be over.”
Marlins Classic Schedule
• Monday – Game 1: Wren (S.C.) vs. Columbia Central (Tenn.), 10:15 a.m., Game 2: University School vs. Webster County, 1:15 p.m., Game 3: Marshall County (Ky.) vs. Cannon County (Tenn.), 6 p.m., Game 4: Arnold vs. Moore County, 7:30 p.m.
• Tuesday – Game 5: Game 3 loser vs. Game 1 loser, 10:15 a.m., Game 6: Game 4 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 1:15 p.m., Game 7: Game 1 winner vs. Game 3 winner, 4:30 p.m., Game 8: Game 4 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 6 p.m.
• Wednesday – Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 10:15 a.m., Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1:15 p.m., Game 11: Game 7 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 4:30 p.m., Game 12: Game 8 winner vs. Game 7 winner, 7:30 p.m. for tournament championship.
—By DUSTIN KENT, Panama City News Herald