BELLEVILLE — The sounds of whistles blowing, coaches yelling and tennis shoes squeaking will be heard this weekend during the Southwestern Illinois College Varsity Girls Basketball Tournament at the Belleville Family Sportsplex.
The 11th annual event, which provides coaches and fans a sneak peak of many of the projected top players and teams for the upcoming season, tips off at 10 a.m. Saturday with four first-round pool-play games.
A total of 12 teams, including Belleville East, O'Fallon, Mascoutah, Central and Red Bud, will play three games apiece today.
The teams will then be put into a standard tournament bracket on Sunday, with the title game set for 2 p.m.
"I like the way the tournament is set up this year. Before, when we had 16 or 24 teams, we would have two or three eight-team brackets. This way, we'll have one bracket and one champion," tournament director Mike Juenger said. "I think we'll have another good tournament. This is a great event for a lot of these teams, because the coaches get to see their kids play five or six games in two days.
"If you like girls high school basketball, this is a place to see it the next couple off days."
Tickets will be available at the door and are $5 for adults and $2 for students.
Also in the field is Jerseyville, Mount Vernon and Alton from the Illinois side, along with Jennings, Ursuline Academy, and St. Louis Notre Dame from Missouri.
The tournament will feature the coaching debut of Stephanie Harris of Jerseyville. Harris spent the last two years as head coach at Highland.
Among the noticeable absentees this year is perennial Missouri state power Incarnate Word. Juenger said that because of camps, select teams and family vacations, it's becoming more difficult to attract teams.
"A lot of these coaches don't want to get in these events as much, because they don't know who they're going to have from week to week because of other commitments in the summer," Juenger said. "I think it's an excellent opportunity to let some of the younger kids play and see what they can do.
"Summer is about playing and letting the kids have fun, anyway."