The closest of rivals

Published 11:14 am Monday, December 27, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Brandywine will be on the road for its holiday tournament, but it won't have to travel very far. The Bobcats are playing in the inaugural Niles Holiday Classic Tuesday and Wednesday, pitting them against their closest geographical rival.
Niles and Brandywine high schools sit less than four miles apart, but their basketball teams this season are separated by a much wider gap. And while the players from both squads might be excited to play against their friends and neighbors, Vikings head coach Denny Parks doesn't consider it a rivalry game.
Parks knows about struggling. After starting this season 3-1, the Vikings are one victory away from tying their total from last year. Last year was so bad, Parks said he's forced the memories from his mind.
Niles has reversed its fortunes this season, but Brandywine is still searching for its first victory. The Bobcats are 0-4 and have lost each game by an average of 31 points.
Nonetheless, Brandywine head coach Dave Sidenbender said the Niles-Brandywine game, which will be played 8 p.m. Tuesday, is an important one for the players and the city.
Both coaches said their glad to get playing again after almost two weeks off. Although, Sidenbender said having time off was beneficial for his young Bobcats team.
With the time off to practice, Brandywine's coach said his team was able to concentrate on improving before the rest of the season starts.
Niles has played in holiday tournaments for the past few seasons, but this is the first time the Vikings have hosted their own tournament. The team traveled as far as Ann Arbor in the past to play.
For the past three years, Niles traveled to Battle Creek Central over the break, but the distance was too far, athletics director John Danaher said.
Parks said both he and his players are excited about finally playing on their home court in front of their home fans.
The tourney will consist of a four-team field - Brandywine, Coloma, Lake Michigan Catholic and the host Vikings.
The four-team tournament is for the schools' junior varsity and freshman teams as well. Six games will be played each day at the high school.
JV and freshmen games will be played at noon and 2 p.m. in the main gym and the auxiliary gym. Varsity games are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the main gym both days.
Even though he said the Vikings will be a big favorite against Brandywine, Parks said its nice to be able to play other local teams. He added that he wished Niles played Buchanan this year as well.
Ideally, Parks said he'd like to organize a holiday tournament with Niles, Brandywine, Buchanan and Dowagiac so all four local schools wouldn't have to travel far, but would still get a chance to play.
The Holiday Classic begins at noon Tuesday with Niles' freshmen taking on Brandywine and Coloma's junior varsity playing Lake Michigan Catholic.
Here is a complete schedule of games for the Niles Holiday Classic:
Main Gym (junior varsity)
Noon - Coloma vs. Lake Michigan Catholic
2 p.m. - Niles vs. Brandywine
Auxiliary Gym (freshmen)
Noon - Niles vs. Brandywine
2 p.m. - Coloma vs. Lake Michigan Catholic
Main Gym (varsity)
6 p.m. - Coloma vs. Lake Michigan Catholic
8 p.m. - Niles vs. Brandywine
Main Gym
Noon - Freshmen winners from Tuesday
2 p.m. - JV winners from Tuesday
Auxiliary Gym
Noon - Freshmen losers from Tuesday
2 p.m. - JV losers from Tuesday
Main Gym
6 p.m. - Varsity losers from Tuesday
8 p.m. - Varisity winners from Tuesday.