Riverbend to feature new teams but same tough competition
By Brent Shipman
NEW MADRID -- While most of southeast Missouri will spend the day after Thanksgiving searching for Black Friday deals, area sports fans will get their first taste of high school basketball action.
That's when the 15th Annual Riverbend Classic Shootout kicks off the usual blend of top local teams going against top-tier, out-of-state competition.
"The thing about the Riverbend is it's one of those events that let's everybody know that the start of high school basketball is here in Missouri," New Madrid County Central head coach Travis Day said. "We had some teams that couldn't make it back this year. A couple teams got new coaches, but I think the teams we're bringing in are going to be just as good."
As Day referenced two of the out-of-state squads from previous shootouts won't make it back this year in Pine Bluff, Ark., and North Little Rock, Ark., making room room for new blood this season.
They'll be replaced with Liberty Tech, Tenn., and the not-so-out-of-area Cape Central Tigers while both Covington, Tenn., and West Memphis, Ark., are back for another year.
"Liberty Tech is a team out of Jackson, Tenn., and from everything I know about them they are a tough-minded team," Day said. "They'll come in here and bring a physical style of play and they'll get after it."
NMCC will get the chance to face Liberty Tech on Saturday, but also have the unenviable task of opening the shootout against SEMO Conference rival Cape Central.
"It was one of those things where I don't think either one of us wanted to play each other, but it lined up that way with team they replaced," Day said of playing the Tigers. "I think it's good for the area for us and Cape to start off the season against each other."
Among the other local squads competing are the usual favorites, including Kennett, Charleston and Scott County Central. Both Charleston and Scott Central are coming off trips to the quarterfinals in Class 3 and 1 respectively.
NMCC and Cape Central will open play Friday at 2 p.m. with Covington and Scott Central playing directly after at 3:30 p.m.
Charleston then plays West Memphis, at 5 p.m. before Kennett and Liberty Tech close out the first night with their game starting at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Scott Central will play Kennett at 2 p.m., followed by Liberty Tech squaring off against NMCC at 3:30 p.m. Covington then faces Charleston at 5 p.m. with West Memphis and Cape Central closing out the weekend with a game at 6 p.m.
After a resurgent 2012 campaign that saw his team make their first appearance in the Class 3, District 1 championship game in several years, Day is excited to see how his team follows up with a markedly different lineup.
"For us we don't have a lot of varsity experience," Day said. "We only have two guys back from last year that played a lot of varsity in Willie Jimerson and Mikael Walker.
"So we're going to be new in that aspect. It will be interesting even for us how we can start off the season."