Jets draw Bluffton, Stars Woodlan in ACAC opener

    Pairings for the 88th annual boys ACAC basketball tournament and the 37th annual girls ACAC event were announced Tuesday in a luncheon meeting held at the Back 40 Junction restaurant.
    The opening night for both the boys and girls tourneys will be on Tuesday, January 11 with Adams Central, Leo, Woodlan, and Heritage hosting games that night. Selected via a blind draw, the Jets will host Bluffton while Southern Wells will travel to Leo, South Adams is at Woodlan, and Heritage will host Garrett. The semi-finals and final round will be played at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
    The boys game will be played first starting at 6 p.m. with the girls game following at approximately 7:30 p.m. ACAC officials said the boys will play first on Tuesday since their semi-finals at the Coliseum will be on Wednesday, January 12 while the girls play on Thursday, the 13th. The title game for the girls will be at 10 a.m. Saturday and for the boys will be played at noon.
    The boys pairings appears to have the stronger teams in the top bracket with the Bluffton-Adams Central game the most interesting. Bluffton is currently ranked fifth in class 2A and is undefeated with a 5-0 slate while the Jets sport a 3-2 record.
    Bluffton coach Kevin Leising looked at the draw with a jaundiced eye noting "we probably got the toughest draw in the tournament. Adams Central has a very talented team this year and they have a lot of size but so do we. The winner of our game will probably play Leo and that will be a tough game as well. I've been pretty pleased with our play so far this year and especially so with our back court."
    Adams Central coach Aaron McClure said the Jets "look forward to the tournament. It was an exciting draw, we're happy to have a home game in the first round. We're hoping it will be a real competitive game."
    McClure said that while the Jets don't have a height answer for Bluffton's 6'10 center Keith Cochran "we match-up pretty well with the rest of the team. Defensively, Bluffton is a very strong, sound team." He added that Adams Central appears to be getting healthier with several injured players soon to be back in playing roles and that will greatly aid the AC performance.
    South Adams coach Ryan Biegel pronounced himself happy with the draw noting "you won't get any whining from me over the draw."
    South Adams has a 2-3 record so far this year but ironically both wins have been on the road while they are 0-3 at the Stardome. Woodlan is hosting the Stars in the opening game but is only 1-5 on the season so Biegel sees the match-up as a real opportunity for the Stars to advance to the Coliseum.
    "It's always a goal for the team to be able to make some noise in the tourney and be able to play at the Coliseum," he said.
    Garrett will be a solid favorite to capture the girls ACAC tournament as they are ranked second in class 2A and currently have a 10-0 slate. The Railroaders are beating teams by an average of 20 points per game this year and play Heritage, now 1-7, in the first game. They will likely play Woodlan in the semi-finals as the 4-4 Warriors go against the 1-9 South Adams team.
    In the upper bracket, Adams Central is just 1-7 but Bluffton isn't much better at 2-8.
    "I think we match-up pretty well with Bluffton even though they're a little more experienced than us," said AC coach Sam Beer, adding "it's a big advantage for us to have the game at home. It's a different mentality to play at home and I think that will help us. We're going to focus solely on Bluffton, though, and not the second game."
    The two teams will get a preview of the ACAC tournament as they play each other this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Monroe in a regular season contest.
    South Adams won its first game of the season against Daleville but has since lost nine in a row.
    SA coach Brandon Bradley said for the Stars to be successful against Woodlan, they'll have to "avoid mental mistakes. We have to go out and play 32 minutes and play one game at a time. Playing away from home is a little bit of an advantage for us because there won't be any distractions."
    Bradley noted that inexperience has been a problem for the Stars this year but that "on the whole, I think they've handled the pressure well. Every day the girls come to practice with a smile on their face and are ready to work harder."