Seventh Region Tournament Preview
With the Male Bulldogs and the Ballard Bruins drawing into opposite brackets of the Seventh Region tournament, things are set up for Seventh Region fans to get what they have been hoping for, a Male-Ballard final. Since Male beat Ballard 76-67 on January 31 to avenge an earlier a 71-58 loss to the Bruins, many fans have been impatiently waiting for those two to play again. Male comes in at full strength and has not lost since the first Ballard game on January 17. Ballard has lost a few times down the stretch, all to quality teams, and I have little doubt the Bruins will be ready to play if and when they face Male again.
Of course, there are six other teams in this week’s tournament. This year the Seventh Region tournament again has six teams that have participated in the tournament every season since the Sixth and Seventh Regions were realigned before the 2011-12 season: Ballard, Central, Eastern, Manual, St. X, and Trinity. Those six repeat participants are joined by two other teams who also are not strangers to the Seventh Region tournament: Eastern, who has missed only one Seventh Region tournaments since 2011-12, and Seneca, who has played in three Seventh Region tournaments in that time frame.
Might the champion be someone other than Male or Ballard? Seneca just beat Ballard, so yes, there are other teams that might prevail. But other than those other teams and their fans, I don’t know too many people who are thinking it won’t be Male v. Ballard in the final, which could be another Seventh Region classic.
Male Bulldogs (28-4)
Male is playing like the juggernaut most expected them to be this season. Its only loss this season to a Seventh Region team is a 71-58 loss to Ballard on January 17, which turned out to be the last of the Bulldogs’ 4 losses. Two weeks ago Covington Catholic came down to play Male and the Bulldogs took care of the Colonels by a 79-63 margin. Seventh Region Player of the Year Tyren Moore leads the way offensively, but what makes the Bulldogs so good is the number of really good players they can put on the floor. Illinois State signee Howard Fleming’s return late in the season has only increased that number. Male faces Seneca in the first round on Tuesday. Male beat the Redhawks 69-60 way back on December 9.
Ballard Bruins (26-6)
allard, the highest scoring team in the state at 82 ppg, can beat Male, and in fact did just that on January 17 by a 71-58 margin. Male avenged that defeat two weeks later when they beat the Bruins 76-67, but the Bruins will come into this tournament believing they can win it. And they can. Like Male, Ballard can throw a lot of players at you, as evidenced by the fact that there are seven Bruins averaging at least 9 ppg. One of the keys for Ballard is its outside shooting; for example, while the Bruins are shooting 35% on 3’s for the season, they were only 5 for 21 (24%) in a late season 83-80 loss to Seneca. Ballard opens against Manual on Tuesday. Ballard beat Manual by a slim 68-62 margin on January 10.
Trinity Shamrocks (18-14)
Remember all those close games defending state champion Trinity played early in the season, some of which Trinity won and some of which they lost? Well, perhaps the young and inexperienced Shamrocks got something out of those games; they played two close games in the 27th district tournament last week and won them both, beating Waggener 52-50 and Seneca 43-40. While this was not a typical year for Trinity basketball, here we are in the post season with the Rocks standing as district champions. And their opening game in the Seventh Region tournament on Tuesday is against a familiar opponent, the St. X Tigers. St. X beat Trinity 69-54 when they played on January 5.
Central Yellowjackets (10-20)
Kudos to Coach Bibby and the Central Yellowjackets. After losing to Manual 86-63 on February 7, Central turned the tables on the Crimsons in the 25th district tournament final and beat Manual 57-55 in overtime. It was Central’s third district championship in a row. Central will continue to battle in the Seventh Region tournament, but it will be an uphill battle; its district final win over Manual is the Yellowjackets’ only win over any other participant in this week’s tournament. Central’s opponent in the first round, the Eastern Eagles, beat Central 61-49 in the first week of the season.
Seneca Redhawks (21-9)
Seneca is a dangerous team coming into the Seventh Region tournament. The Redhawks have beaten Ballard, Eastern, and St. X this season. Delshawn Simms has had a tremendous season, averaging 16.9 ppg and shooting 52.4% from 3-point range. Along with Ballard, Seneca has the best chance to beat the Male Bulldogs, which they will have the chance to do on Tuesday in the tournament’s opening round. Seneca fell to the Bulldogs 69-60 when they played on December 9.
Eastern Eagles (21-10)
Eastern is young (it has no seniors on its roster) and has had a terrific season. Can it make some noise this week? Well, the Eagles’ 21 wins this season include 3 wins over teams participating in the Seventh Region tournament, including an early season 61-49 win over their first round opponent, the Central Yellowjackets. Beyond that, Eastern may need to step up a little bit, but that’s what young teams sometimes do in the post season.
St. Xavier Tigers (18-11)
The Tigers shot 43% from behind the 3-point line and looked really good in beating Collegiate 84-59 in the 26th district tournament semi-finals to secure their spot in this week’s Seventh Region tournament. And they face a familiar foe who they beat 69-54 earlier in the season, rival Trinity, in the first round. St. X has two sharpshooters in Nick Mosley and Ben Varga who can make the Tigers competitive against a lot of teams.
Dupont Manual Crimsons (14-13)
The Crimsons had some good wins early in the season, beating Seneca (65-56) and Fern Creek (69-61), and they also beat Central 86-63 on February 7. And while some might suggest that drawing Ballard in the first round of the Seventh Region tournament is not ideal, Ballard beat Manual by only a 68-62 margin on January 10. Can Manual turn the tables on the Bruins on Tuesday? We’ll see.