As the Missouri National Guard Shootout enters its fourth incarnation, the Jefferson City event will be getting a bit of a makeover.
That's because two teams - Tipton and Belle - will be making their inaugural appearance in the boys portion of the event, and those two will actually square off with one another. They'll become just the 13th and 14th different boys programs to take part in the Shootout.
The kickoff press conference for the event, set for Saturday, Dec. 21, was held Wednesday at Joe Machens Capital City Ford Lincoln.
During its first two years, the Shootout was held after Christmas, but last year's event changed to before the holiday. With that being the case again, it freed up Tipton to pursue a spot in the event.
"We haven't really tried to get in it before, but last year we really tried," said Tipton coach Billy Jeffries, whose team will take on the Tigers at 3 p.m. "We normally play in the (W-K Holiday) Shootout at State Fair Community College after Christmas every year and when the opportunity came and they asked us to play (in the National Guard Shootout), it all worked out.
"... If it works out, I would like to stay in both events."
Jeffries said he's really looking forward to the game, especially since he and Belle coach Mike Beeman played high-school basketball together.
"And this year, we're in districts with each other, so we wanted to play," Jeffries said. "We always talked about playing each other, but it's such a long distance between the schools that we didn't want to do it during the week and we didn't have any Fridays that matched up. So this was a great opportunity for us to meet in the middle and play."
Tipton is coming off a 19-9 season, but lost seven seniors from that squad. The Cardinals have just one starter back, but were able to open the season Tuesday with an easy win against Chamois in the opening round of the Tipton Tournament.
"It was one of those unique years (last year) where I had to play a lot of kids down on the JV and our JV went 15-1, and we lost on a last-second shot to North Callaway," Jeffries said. "So the kids coming in know how to win, it's just learning how to do it at the varsity level. I think we can win 15-18 games again this year if things go right and we stay healthy."
While a matchup between St. Elizabeth and Harrisburg is slated for a 4:30 p.m. that day, the headliner pits the California Pintos against the Hermann Bearcats in a 7:30 p.m. tipoff.
"I don't know if we're the headline or not," California head coach Blair Scanlon said. "We'll try and do our best. We just got some guys out of football, so we'll be a work in progress. We should be better by that time."
California and Hermann met in last season's Shootout, a 56-53 victory for the Bearcats thanks to a 18-2 final spurt in the final quarter. The tournament committee obviously like the matchup enough to make it happen again in 2013.
"We've had two good years of it, although last year we didn't have the turn out we wanted," Scanlon said, as his Pintos are in the Shootout for the third year running. "It's a good time, we enjoy it."
California went 14-11 last season but returns a strong senior nucleus, as well as junior all-district performer Jaden Barr. California opened the year with a victory against St. Elizabeth in the Eugene Invitational, and takes on Blair Oaks in the semifinals tonight.
"We have six seniors, good kids," Scanlon said. "We have some other underclassmen that play a lot. It's a good time, they're an entertaining team. Sometimes they kind of drive me nuts with some of the stuff they do, but we like to get up and down and play. They do a good job."