By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Christmas is coming a week early for fans of Miami County sports.
Beginning with Friday night’s usual slate of boys basketball games — with a number of key conference showdowns among those — the weekend will lead into a giant Saturday, with a pair of annual holiday tournaments going on in the county as Miami East hosts its Barnball Classic girls basketball tournament and Tippecanoe wrestling hosts its Red Devil Holiday Invitational.
It all kicks off Friday night — a critical one for the area’s boys basketball teams in both the Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division and the Cross County Conference.
Entering the week, Butler, Sidney and Greenville lead the division after winning their openers last week, with Tuesday’s action not complete at time of press for this preview. The Trojans will travel to Butler Friday — a team that they swept in last year’s two meetings and own a four-game winning streak against.
Tippecanoe, meanwhile, will face Greenville — which defeated Troy in a closely-contested game in its opener. The Red Devils played their first ever GWOC American North game the previous week at Sidney, falling 80-73. And the Piqua Indians will travel to Sidney to round out the night.
Atop the CCC, there are a pair of big matchups.
Miami East, which shared the conference championship with an 11-1 record last season, is off to an undefeated start this season and will put that on the line Friday when it hosts Arcanum. The co-champion, Tri-Village, will also be playing in the county, as the Newton Indians will host the Patriots.
Bethel and Franklin Monroe — a pair of teams looking to jump into the discussion as contenders for the crown this season — will also face off Friday night at Bethel. That matchup will go a long way to deciding who the frontrunner is this season heading into the next calendar year. And Covington will play host to local rival Bradford after facing Newton in a girls-boys doubleheader on Tuesday night.
Troy Christian rounds out Friday’s action with a matchup against Metro Buckeye Conference rival Legacy Christian — formerly Xenia Christian, and a team the Eagles swept last season.
And while Saturday has its share of quality matchups — like a Miami County boys basketball rivalry matchup between Miami East and Milton-Union — the premiere events of the day are the two local tournaments.
Miami East’s Barnball Classic girls basketball tournament will take place for the fourth season, with host Miami East winning a pair of championships in that time. The Troy and Covington girls basketball teams will also compete in it again, with the Buccaneers finishing as the runner-up last season and the Trojans taking third.
Unlike last year when Miami East, Troy and Covington were in the same pool, though, this season the three local schools will be split into separate pools, with two championships being awarded.
Miami East and Troy will meet in the first round of play in Pool B at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, with the winner facing the winner between Tri-Village and Meadowdale for the championship at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Meanwhile, Covington will open Pool A play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Woodward, with the winner facing the winner between Urbana and Stivers at 5 p.m. Sunday.
Saturday also marks the annual Red Devils Holiday Invitational wrestling tournament, a chance for Tippecanoe to put this year’s team — as well as a few of the county’s other tough teams — on display early in the season.
Tippecanoe finished sixth in the tournament last season and had two champions — graduate Jack Peura (160) and returner Caleb Blake (145). Blake, now a junior, defeated a wrestler from the tournament’s team champion Mason for his title and will be back to defend his crown.
Miami East finished second a year ago, 31 points behind Mason in the team standings. Two of the Vikings’ four individual champions will be back to defend their titles, as well, as juniors Graham Shore (120) and Alex Isbrandt (126) won championships at last year’s tournament along with graduates Daniel Everett (182) and Ben Ferguson (285).
Troy Christian was right behind the Vikings in third place, and the lone individual champ for the Eagles last year — junior Jacob Edwards (106) will be back to defend his title. And this season, the Troy wrestling team will also send a small contingent to the Red Devil Invitational, with the rest of the team competing in the Versailles Duals.
All just in time for the holiday break the following weekend.
Merry Christmas, sports fans.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter