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Ever since Barnes County North girls basketball coach Randy Hooey was in the third grade, he's been around the Barnes County basketball tournaments in various roles.
He's watched it, he's played in it, and today when the Bison tip off against Griggs County Central at 4:30 p.m., it will kick off his third year coaching in it.
"The Barnes County tournaments always provide a great atmosphere," Hooey said. "It's absolutely phenomenal."
It's an atmosphere provided by a change of scenery for the seven Class B schools that are participating in the tournament, along with Valley City High School.
Rather than the intimate gymnasiums used by many of the Class B schools, the tournament is played at the Osmon Field House on the Valley City State University campus, which has plenty of seating, plenty of room and won't have a crowd only inches away from the action.
Hooey said the sheer size makes a difference in how teams play.
"It's alway fun when you can play in a college facility," he said following his team's loss to Maple Valley Saturday in Rogers. "It's very hot in that gym (in Rogers) right now, where it's not going to be overly hot in the bubble, so you can do things, but the court's a heck of a lot longer and you have to be used to passing in open spaces because there's a big open space in there."
This year's tournament will provide plenty of competition amongst teams too.
Valley City is the top seed and the only Class A school in the tournament. The Hi-Liners open against Litchville-Marion/Montpelier.
Northern Cass enters the tournament as the second seed and is undefeated this year. The Jaguars open against Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page.
Maple Valley, which finished seventh in last year's tournament, is the third seed and enters the tournament with a 6-1 record. The Raiders only loss was to Valley City in overtime and open the tournament against Enderlin.
Barnes County North is the fourth seed and plays Griggs County Central in the opening round.
It makes for a tournament that the coaches expect to be wide open.
Even with his team's hot start to the year, Maple Valley coach Jeff Miller said his team has a tough path if it wants to play in the championship.
"It's a tough draw," Miller said. "Enderlin's a good team. They're not the sixth ranked team out of those eight, I don't think. They're tough."
Assuming the Raiders win, the bracket would potentially pair them with Northern Cass in the semi-finals.
"We're having a good year, but that's a tough road to climb," he said.
Though the experience is slightly different for Valley City, a team used to larger gyms and tougher, Class A competition coach Jim McDaniel said the tournament experience that comes in handy later in the year.
"It's a tournament atmosphere and that's what I like," he said. "The regular season you're playing for the end of the season. By having a tournament in the middle, you've got something that you're playing for.
"If you're playing for a championship, it doesn't matter what tournament it is, you're playing for something."
Plus, the tournament brings in numerous fans, especially for late games.
"Our goal always is to play in the night cap," Hooey said. "You want to win so you can play in the night cap. It's fun playing in front of crowds, period."
The total experience of tournament play in front of crowds, Miller said after his team's win over Barnes County North Saturday, results in a different feeling than the typical Class B affair.
"You can't really compare it to a game like this because you have a few more people watching, you have a larger court and the feel of it gets you ready for later in the year," he said.
Barnes County basketball tournament
at Valley City State University
Valley City vs. Litchville-Marion/Montpelier, 3 p.m.
Barnes County North vs. Griggs County Cen., 4:30 p.m.
Northern Cass vs. Finley-Sharon/Hope-Page, 6 p.m.
Maple Valley vs. Enderlin, 7:30 p.m.
VC/LMM loser vs. BCN/GCC loser, 3 p.m.
NC/FSHP loser vs. MV/E loser, 4:30 p.m.
VC/LMM winner vs. BCN/GCC winner, 6 p.m.
NC/FSHP winner vs. MV/E winner, 7:30 p.m.
7th place game, noon
5th place game, 1:30 p.m.
3rd place game, 3 p.m.
Championship game, 4:30 p.m.
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