Boys hoops set for district tournament in Bell

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By Sean Arnold

Monday marks the start of the opening round of the District 1A-7 boys’ basketball tournament in Bell, but local county teams Chiefland, Cedar Key and Bronson will have to wait a day to tip off their quarterfinal bids.

No. 6 seed Chiefland (4-16) meets county rival Bronson (10-11), the third seed, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, before No. 7 Cedar Key (1-20) takes on second-seeded Dixie County (Cross City) that night at 7:30 p.m.

No. 4 Trenton and No. 5 Branford play on Monday at 6. The winner of that game faces top-seeded Bell, who finished the season unbeaten in district play and is ranked fourth in Class 1A.

Tuesday’s pair of winners meet Friday at 6 p.m.

All of the games take place at Bell High School.

The upset-minded Sharks have struggled to collect wins, but have made noticeable strides this season under first-year coach Vance Dickey, led by sophomore slasher Kris Burns and junior center Austin Minehart.

Dixie County cruised against Cedar Key in their pair of meetings. The Bears, who are the only team to come within single digits of Bell (39-34), are built around a fast and pesky defense.

Like the Sharks, the Indians enter the tournament behind a youth movement, as a JV-infused lineup now includes nine freshmen and sophomores to go along with three seniors. River Lundy, Payne Parnell, Rodney Williams, and Elijah Smith are among their more consistent scoring options.

In their most recent meeting with the Eagles, Bronson pulled away with one of its best offensive nights on the season for a 68-33 win. BMHS led by as many as 26 points in the teams’ first contest in December, but Chiefland exploded in the fourth quarter to get it into single digits for a 56-47 defeat.

Bronson has had success with its 1-3-1 trapping defense against the Indians, who’ve struggled with turnovers and shooting woes.

“Against anyone we play, it’s about whether we can we handle ball pressure,” CMHS coach Adam Boyd said. “If we can, and we don’t turn the ball over, it’s a different game.”

Both teams faced formidable squads in the final couple of weeks to prep for the tournament. CMHS took lopsided losses against No. 1-ranked Wildwood and Class 5A Crystal River, while Bronson was handed double-digit losses against Williston and Hawthorne.

The Eagles have some athletic and rangey pieces to complement Tra Francis in the post, but have struggled with consistency at guard.

“I like where we’re at,” BMHS coach Kenny Thomas said after the Williston game. “We got the big boy (Francis) back. We need that presence inside.”

Bronson is looking for its first state playoff berth since 2014, its only appearance since 2008. Chiefland was a state semifinalist in 2014, and has missed the playoffs the past two seasons. Cedar Key last made the playoffs in 1995.

Both the tournament winner and runner-up qualify for the state tournament.

District 1A-7 boys' tournament in Bell

Game 1: No. 4 Trenton vs. No. 5 Branford, 6 p.m.

Game 2: No. 3 Bronson vs. No. 6 Chiefland, 6 p.m.
Game 3: No. 2 Dixie County vs. No. 7 Cedar Key, 7:30 p.m.

Game 4: Bronson vs. Dixie County, 6 p.m.
Game 5: No. 1 Bell vs. Trenton, 7:30 p.m.

Game 6: District Championship, 7:30 p.m.