The 44th annual Indiana Optimist Club Basketball Tournament, which features the underclassmen from area teams, will be held next week at Indiana High School.
Nine teams are entered in the tournament, which opens Monday and continues through Saturday. Penns Manor and United open play Monday at 7 p.m.
In Tuesday’s games, Marion Center faces Blairsville at 7 p.m., and Indiana plays the Penns Manor-United winner at 8:15. Indiana is the defending champion.
On Wednesday, Homer-Center takes on Saltsburg at 7 p.m., and Ligonier Valley squares off against West Shamokin at 8:15.
“Indiana returns a very strong roster and will be our No. 1-seeded team as they return all starters from last year and some key players off the bench,” Greg McKee, tournament chairman, said.
“Ligonier Valley is the No. 2 seed as they return a strong post game, and the middle seeds should be pretty evenly matched.”
The semifinals are set for Thursday at 7 and 8:15 p.m., and the championship game is Saturday at 2 p.m.
“This tournament gives the coaches a chance to see what they have for next year,” McKee said.
“This is an opportunity for some underclass players to step up and show their game.”
Two all-star games also are set for Saturday, with the teams made up of graduating seniors from area teams. The North girls face the South girls at 3:30 p.m., and the North boys take on the South boys at 5.
The North girls’ team consists of Penns Manor’s Emma Myers and Krista Gillo; Blairsville’s Mackenzie Livingston, Courtney Kanyan and Lindsay Sharp; Marion Center’s Taylor Woodrow and Stephanie LaMantia; and Apollo-Ridge’s Camber Heinle and Sara Bonelli.
The coach is Penns Manor’s Jason Miloser.
The South girls’ team consists of United’s Wendi Walsh and Laura Brilhart; Ligonier Valley’s Kyra Ludwig; Homer-Center’s Maggie McLoughlin and Jaime Rura; Northern Cambria’s Gabby Pizur; Saltsburg’s Lisa Prenni; and Indiana’s Caitlin Paterson and Audrey Stapleton.
The coach is United’s Lee Ann Ault.
The North boys’ team consists of Apollo-Ridge’s Lucas Burrell and Evan Davis; Marion Center’s Tyler Keith, Brodey Thompson, Garrett Glasser and Andrew Rupp; Homer-Center’s Isiah Carr, Matt Jones and Nate Wilden; and Penns Manor’s Adam Tomayko. The coach is Marion Center’s Matt Reed.
The South boys’ team consists of Northern Cambria’s Derek Bearer, Nick Lee and Josh Bonatesta; Saltsburg’s Mitchel Yard; Blairsville’s Eric Helm and Chris Sisitki; Ligonier Valley’s Patrick Waugh and Zack Yeskey; West Shamokin’s Anthony Rocco and Damon Craig; and Harmony’s Tyler Tiesi. The coach is Northern Cambria’s Dan Weber.
The all-star most valuable player awards are being named in memory of longtime Optimist Club member Jim Strittmatter, who passed away last year. Strittmatter was the tournament chairman for many years.
“The awards are named after Jim for his many years of hard work and service for this tournament,” McKee said.