By Eric Wade
Nevada Daily Mail
The Nevada Tigers and Lady Tigers have finally reached the point they had been waiting for all season long.
Head coach John McNeley's Tigers were scheduled to be in action last Tuesday against Monett, but due to the Cubs not being able to have a team ready to play since most of head coach Ty Goetz's players also play football for the Cubs squad that reached the semifinals in the Class 3 State Tournament, that game was moved to Dec. 20, leaving the Tigers with no games before the Carthage Invitational. McNeley wasn't unhappy about that, however, as it gave his squad more time to practice for what he called a "very competitive" tournament.
"You've got some real quality teams in Carl Junction, Joplin, I think Heritage has a nice team, they've got four starters back," McNeley said. "Then you've got teams that can be competitive, teams that are good enough to be competitive right on through."
That "nice team" that will come to the tournament from Heritage High School in Rogers, Ark., will be the Tigers' first opponent in the 66th annual Carthage Invitational tournament that was scheduled to start Monday. The Tigers -- who nearly cracked the top 10 in the MBCA/MOsports preseason rankings -- will enter the tournament as the sixth seed out of eight teams, but McNeley said that low seed didn't surprise him.
"I told our kids when we went down there, we could be anywhere from three to six," McNeley said. "I didn't think we'd be lower than six, I didn't see us being higher than three because, I think, Carl Junction and Joplin, from a talent standpoint, are a little bit better than the rest of the field. And that was kind of reflected in the seeding."
The Carl Junction Bulldogs got the top seed in the tournament, followed by Joplin, Heritage, Seneca, Carthage, Nevada, Central and Monett. The Tigers' opening round game is scheduled for tonight at 7:30 p.m., at Carthage High School.
Things will be a bit different for head coach Brent Bartlett's Lady Tigers squad as it has already seen some tough competition this season. On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the Lady Tigers took to the road for their only game before the Carl Junction Classic, falling to Archie by a final score of 56-54.
That contest and this year's Carl Junction tournament are just the beginning of what Bartlett called one of the toughest schedules he's ever seen.
"Our schedule is as tough as I've ever, ever, in the 16 years of being the head coach, ever seen it," he said. "Our level of mistakes have to be few because when you play good teams, you have to do everything correctly to be successful."
Though the Lady Tigers did make a number of mistakes that cost them the game at Archie, Bartlett will soon be able to figure out whether or not he, his players and his coaching staff have made the right adjustments and improvements as the third-seeded Lady Tigers open pool play at Carl Junction Thursday night. The first opponent Bartlett's squad will face is Liberal in a game that is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
Both the Tigers and Lady Tigers are scheduled to open the home portion of this year's schedules on Dec. 4, when they host Carl Junction. The JV girls and both varsity squads are scheduled to play a tripleheader at the newly-renovated Wynn Gymnasium starting at 5 p.m., while the JV boys and freshman girls will play at 5 and 6:30 p.m., at the Franklin P. Norman City/County Community Center.