By CHUCK HATHCOCK
It's tournament time for the Kirk Raiders and Raiderettes.
After the grind of a 10-game district schedule, the six District 1-AA boys and girls team will gather beginning Thursday at Bayou Academy in Cleveland. At stake, the teams will be playing for a berth in the North AA Tournament next week at Canton Academy.
This season, there will be a decided different look with just three teams advancing instead of four.
Both the Kirk Raiders and Raiderettes enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the field. Dennis Sims’ crew led the standings for a large part of the season winning their first five league games before going 2-3 in the final five. They ended in a tie for the top spot with Indianola. The Colonels get the top seed by virtue of downing Kirk by more points than the Raiders beat them during the regular season.
On the girls’ side, the Raiderettes are one of the hottest teams in the league. Kirk, 19-12, closed strong to finish second in the league behind North Delta. The Raiderettes big win was a 44-39 decision over the Lady Green Wave at Batesville.
Now, the teams set sights on opening games Friday. The Raiderettes will play the winner of the Indianola/Clarksdale Lee contest. Kirk is set to take the floor at 6:30 p.m.
On the boys’ side, Kirk faces the winner of the Winona Christian-Clarksdale Lee match up. That game is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.
Most feel like the Raiderettes will face Indianola in the semifinals. The two teams split their games in the regular season. Kirk lost by nine at Indianola and won by seven at home.
“We know going into the game that we need to control the tempo of the game and play good defense,” Coach Amy Carroll Hudspeth said. “Rebounding will be crucial. We need to keep the off the boards as much as possible.”
Hudspeth is pleased at where her team is now at this point, but knows that there is always room for improvement.
“I feel like we have improved as the season has progressed,” Hudspeth said. “The girls are getting more comfortable playing with each other and understanding their role. We know that we need to continue to work hard and get better.”
First-year Coach Dennis Sims has the Raiders at 17-8 on the season. His main focus for the tournament will be on his team.
“Truly, we will be focused more on ourselves,” Sims said. “We will prepare for whoever we play, but we will have to play well to win. Defensively, we will have to guard and offensively make shots.”
If Kirk faces Winona Christian, it will be the third match up this season with each team winning once.
“Winona has a very talented basketball team with four good guards and a post that can score,” Sims said. “I thought they were more under control in the second game than the first.”
Sims sees anyone of the six teams has a chance to get hot and win the tournament.
“I don’t think there is one team that stands out above the rest,” Sims said. “Indianola may be playing the best, but any of the six could get hot and win it.”
Finals are at 3:30 and 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Consolation games will be played at 1 and 2:15 p.m.