BISMARCK — The Bismarck-Henning boys basketball have been very gracious hosts during their Christmas tournament for the past five years.
For the first time since the 2007, the Blue Devils have won their pool after being the North Vermillion Falcons 50-32 on Friday, and with the victory, Bismarck-Henning advances into tonight’s championship game of the BSN Classic, which had been the Hayden’s Classic before last season.
“For the past three years, I don’t think we’ve made it past pool play,’’ said Bismarck-Henning senior Andy Bott. “Last year, we lost the final game (to Clifton Central) and in my freshman year, I think we went undefeated but lost the tiebreaker on free-throw percentage.
“We were determined that we were going to get into the championship game this year.’’
Bismarck-Henning (12-0) showed its determination in the first eight minutes against North Vermillion (6-3).
Bott scored six of his 14 points in the quarter as the Blue Devils built a 14-2 lead with 70 percent shooting (7-of-10), while the Falcons made just one of their first 13 shots against the zone defense of Bismarck-Henning.
“We came out in the first quarter and set the tone,’’ said Bott, who also had eight rebounds and three assists in the contest. “We made sure that we came ready to play tonight.’’
According to Bismarck-Henning coach Jon Clapp that was a point of emphasis after Bismarck-Henning’s 53-33 win over Watseka in the afternoon session and Oakwood’s 60-44 win over North Vermillion.
“I told the guys that just because we beat Oakwood (on Thursday) and they beat North Vermillion this morning, that doesn’t matter when we take the court tonight,’’ Clapp said. “For some reason, we have never performed up to our potential in this tournament.
“I know we’ve been beaten by Fisher and Clifton Central the past couple of years and we just need to take care of business this year.’’
Bismarck-Henning, which hasn’t won the holiday tournament that it co-hosts with Heritage since 2006 when the Blue Devils defeated the Salt Fork Storm.
Ironically, the two Vermilion Valley Conference rivals will meet again this year for the title. Salt Fork will be going for its sixth title in the past seven years and its the eight straight championship game appearance for the Storm.
“It will be interesting playing them in this tournament,’’ Bott said.
North Vermillion, which had its six-game winning streak snapped with the morning loss to Oakwood, struggled finding its shooting touch against the Bismarck-Henning 2-3 zone defense. The Falcons shot a dismal 23.8 percent (10-of-42) and they were just 4-of-21 behind the 3-point arc.
“I think that zone will give a lot of people fits,’’ North Vermillion coach Sam Karr said. “We also have a young team and you have to shoot the ball well or you don’t have a chance.
“They were better than us and it showed.’’
But even with its poor shooting, North Vermillion came back from a 15-point deficit to close within 20-12 on three free throws by Brayden Woodard, who had a team-high 15 points.
“For a young team, I was happy with the way that we kept fighting,’’ Karr said. “If we could have just kept it to single digits into the fourth quarter, you never know what could have happened.
“With a young team, our mental toughness isn’t good. When everything is going good, its great, but we need to get better mental toughness. Hopefully that’s what we are going to learn from this tournament.’’
Playing that zone was the plan all along for the Blue Devils.
“That was a specific defense for this game,’’ Clapp said. “We use that zone with our length against teams with quick guards like they have. We’ve got size, length and some quickness, but not enough to match up with a team that is all quickness with no size. We wanted to make them shoot over the top of us.’’
And while Bott handled the scoring duties in the first half, fellow senior Chase Connelly scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils sealed their spot in tonight’s title game.
“We’ve got a lot more scorers this season,’’ said Bott, as the Blue Devils have had four of its five starters reach double figures in their four tournament games. “We can all score, and on any given night, we can have a different high scorer.
“Having that ability has really opened things up for us this year.’’
While Bismarck-Henning and Salt Fork are set for the 8 p.m. championship game tonight, the final day of BSN Classic will start at 10 a.m. with Oakwood against Urbana JV. That game is followed by Georgetown-Ridge Farm against Watseka and the afternoon session end with Heritage/Villa Grove against Schlarman Academy.
The fifth-place game at 5 p.m. will feature Shiloh versus Champaign Judah Christian and the North Vermillion with Decatur Lutheran in the third-place game at 6:30 p.m.
Earlier in the day, the Blue Devils defeated Watseka 53-33 as Allen had 18 points while Garowski added 10 and Bott had six.
Schlarman Academy picked up its second win of the season with a 60-48 win over Oakwood. Ben Watson had 16 points for the Hilltoppers, who had a 32-21 halftime lead, while Chris Kuchefski had 14 points, Gannon Hughes had 11, Michael Simmons had eight and D’Angelo David added eight.
Parker Lee had 22 for the Comets while Skyler Slade had 11 and Kyle Girton added five.
Earlier in the day, the Hilltoppers lost to Judah Christian 62-50 as Hughes had 23, Simmons had 12 and Watson added seven.
Oakwood defeated North Vermillion 60-49 as Slade had 16, Lee had 13, Lee Mascari had 10, Brian Rice scored seven and Jeremy Watson had six.
Woodard had 18 for the Falcons, who were only down 23-22 at halftime and tied with the Comets 35-35 after the third quarter, while Wright and Earl each had eight and Devon Sams added seven.