Curtain rises on annual Holiday Classic

Monday, December 20, 2010

The area's premier high school girls basketball tournament begins today at the Show Me Center.

Although it doesn't draw nearly the crowds or attention of its boys counterpart -- next week's Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament -- it's still a must-see event for girls hoops fans.

The 15th annual Show Me Center Holiday Classic features eight teams, including most of the area's premier large- and small-school squads.

Notre Dame is the defending champion but not the top seed this time around. That distinction goes to 2008 winner Farmington.

Jackson, which lost to Notre Dame in last year's final, is seeded second. The Bulldogs garnered the third seed, with Central fourth.

Rounding out the bottom five seeds are Meadow Heights, Scott City, Perryville and Saxony Lutheran. Meadow Heights and Scott City were not in last year's field.

First-round matchups today are Farmington vs. Saxony Lutheran at 4 p.m., Central vs. Meadow Heights at 5:30, Jackson vs. Perryville at 7 and Notre Dame vs. Scott City at 8:30.

The semifinals will be played Tuesday, with the championship game slated for 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

It figures to be an interesting and fun tournament. The larger schools are favored, but smaller schools like Meadow Heights and Scott City are looking to make some noise.

Hopefully it won't be the last tournament of its kind, which is a very real possibility.

For the first time this year, the event lacks a corporate sponsor. Tournament director Mark Ruark said there will be no 16th edition in 2011 if a corporate sponsor is not found.

You can't say the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team has turned the corner yet, but the Redhawks definitely needed Sunday's 76-67 victory at Jacksonville State.

The Redhawks (2-10, 1-2) posted their first Ohio Valley Conference triumph and have a two-game winning streak after starting the season with 10 straight losses.

Three wins in a row will be tough because the Redhawks visit Tennessee Tech on Tuesday.

Southeast hasn't won on the Eagles' home court since the NCAA tournament season of 1999-2000, a string of 12 straight defeats in Cookeville, Tenn.

Former Southeast All-American Eugene Amano saw his NFL season end last week when the Tennessee Titans placed their starting center on injured reserve due to a neck injury.

Amano moved from left guard to center this season, and he had started all 13 games for the Titans.

This is Amano's seventh season with Tennessee after being drafted in the seventh and final round. He started 31 games the previous two years at left guard before being moved to center, a position he also had played in the past.

Amano, displaying impressive durability, had appeared in all but one game during his NFL career prior to suffering the recent injury.

Meanwhile, two other former Southeast stars continue to thrive at football's highest level.

New England offensive lineman Dan Connolly, in his sixth NFL season, never had started a game until he made four starts last year. Connolly has started every contest this season for the Patriots, who are regarded by many as a favorite to reach the Super Bowl.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, in the NFL since 2005 and in his second season with the Philadelphia Eagles, entered Sunday tied for 12th in the NFL with four interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.

Patterson had been primarily a backup before making several starts this year. He is a key defender for the Eagles, who like the Patriots rank among the NFL's better teams.

Connolly and Patterson originally made the NFL as undrafted free agents.

The football team that knocked Southeast out of the FCS playoffs is just one win away from a national title.

Top-ranked Eastern Washington beat defending champion Villanova 41-31 in Friday's semifinals despite being without one of the nation's top players.

Taiwan Jones, EWU's sensational All-America junior tailback, suffered a fractured bone in his left foot during a 38-31 quarterfinal win over North Dakota State. Jones rushed for a career-high 230 yards during that overtime victory.

EWU advances to play Delaware for the title on Jan. 7. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they again will be without Jones.

After watching the nationally ranked Chicago Simeon high school boys basketball team on ESPN last week, I say kudos to Scott County Central, a Class 1 school, for having the guts to schedule a powerhouse squad like that.

And after seeing the way Simeon -- which is loaded with Division I prospects -- totally dismantled another highly regarded club on national TV, I'd say the Braves' recent 76-50 loss was more than respectable.

Facing an outfit like Simeon and some of the other large-school powers the Braves have taken on early in the season will only help them as they shoot for a state championship three-peat.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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