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Harrisburg senior Lotte Miller splits the Du Quoin defense of Elizabeth Bird (20) and Chloe HIll (11) on a drive during the first quarter of a game at Du Quoin earlier this season. 

The 28th annual Benton Rangerette Christmas Classic features 12 games in two gyms on Wednesday while the 40th annual Mascoutah Girls Invitational Basketball Tournament opens with two-time defending champion Highland kicking off eight games.

The Rangerette Christmas Classic features 12 teams in four pools playing two games each on opening day of the three-day tournament.

“Herrin decided not have their tournament this year, so we were able to get the No. 1 team in the state in Harrisburg along with Herrin, Pinckneyville and Vienna as well as adding Union County from Kentucky,” said Benton coach Andy Sloan. “Just looking at those teams I think we have one of the better tournaments, top to bottom, in the state.”

The tournament opens with pool play at 9 a.m. Wednesday with Marion playing Pinckneyville from Pool A in the East Gym and Herrin taking on Hamilton County from Pool C in Rich Herrin Gym. The 10:30 a.m. games open Pool B play with Union County playing Christopher in the East Gym and Harrisburg playing Vienna from Pool D in Rich Herrin Gym.

“I think Carterville is the top team in Pool B,” Sloan said. “They are as good as any 3A team in the area. In Pool C, Hamilton County has some experience and size and has only one loss. Mount Vernon has three starters over 5-7 and a very good point guard in Savannah Childers, and Herrin has one of the best players in our conference in Marissa Russell.”

The afternoon session opens at 1:30 p.m. with Marion playing Benton from Pool A in the East Gym and Mount Vernon playing Herrin from Pool C in Rich Herrin Gym. The 3 p.m. games are Meridian vs. Harrisburg in East Gym and the defending champion Carterville taking on Union County in Rich Herrin Gym.

“Pinckneyville has some size and gets at you defensively,” Sloan said. “They have a real good freshman Kenzie Rushin, and I think they are the top team in Pool A. Marion is also tough so there is not an easy game in our pool.”

The evening session starts at 6 p.m. with Hamilton County playing Mount Vernon in the East Gym and Pinckneyville playing Benton in Rich Herrin Gym. The opening day winds up with Vienna playing Meridian in the East Gym and Christopher playing Carterville in Rich Herrin Gym at 7 p.m.

The second day starts at 3 p.m. with the second place teams from Pools A and B playing in Rich Herrin Gym and the third place teams from Pools A and B in the East Gym. The 4:30 p.m. games with be the second place teams from Pools C and D in Rich Herrin Gym and the third place teams from Pools C and D in the East Gym.

The second day winds up at Rich Herrin Gym with the first place teams from A and B playing at 6 p.m. and the first place teams from C and D at 7:30 p.m.

Championship Friday begins at 3 p.m. with the seventh and 11th place games followed by the fifth and ninth place games at 4:30 p.m. in both gyms. The final two games will be played at Rich Herrin Gym. The third place game starts at 6 p.m. with the championship game scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

The field is strong at Mascoutah as well.

“We have a pretty strong field as always,” said first-year Mascoutah coach Robert Seaberry. “I know Highland, Belleville East and Belleville West are strong as usual along with Breese Central and Mater Dei. Looking at the other bracket Nashville, Okawville, Althoff and Triad are pretty strong and O’Fallon has a great team.”

Highland opens the tournament with Centralia at 8:30 a.m. followed by Carbondale playing Belleville West at 10 a.m. and Belleville East playing Breese Mater Dei at 11:30 a.m. to wind up the morning session.

“We’re 6-4 and 4-0 in conference, which is nice at the break and after losing our first two games here last year, so all we’re worried about is getting a win and going from there,” said Carbondale coach Marialice Jenkins. “There’s only been one game where I’ve been disappointed with the effort, so the kids are playing hard. Our last two games (wins over Belleville Althoff and Murphysboro) we had a defensive game plan where we had to stop their scorers, and we did a good job with that. We’ve got four kids who are averaging nine points a game and another with seven, so it makes it hard for the opposing teams to figure out who to stop.”

The afternoon session opens with Breese Central taking on Mascoutah at 1 p.m. followed by Okawville and Riverview Gardens at 2:30 p.m. and Cahokia and Jacksonville at 4 p.m.

The evening session begins with Nashville playing Belleville Althoff at 5:30 with the final game set for 7 p.m. between O’Fallon and Triad.

Day Two opens at 8:30 a.m. with two consolation bracket games at 8:30 a.m. and two more at 10 a.m. The consolation bracket winds up the second day action with semifinal games at 5:30 and 7 p.m.

The championship bracket opens at 11:30 a.m. with the winners of Highland/Centralia and Carbondale/Belleville West at 11:30 a.m. followed by games at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. The winners of the Nashville/Althoff and O’Fallon/Triad games will play at 4 p.m.

Championship Friday opens at 8:30 a.m. with two more consolation bracket games followed by the championship semifinals at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The consolation title game is schedules for 2:30 p.m. followed by the fifth place game at 4 p.m.

The third place game will be played at 5:30 p.m. followed by the championship game at 7 p.m. to wind up the 26-game schedule.

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