The annual Underwood’s Christmas Classic returns Monday and Tuesday, and a change in the primary venue is the most notable difference between this year’s tournament and those from years past.
All games will take place on the Brownwood High School campus, with 16 of the 20 contests scheduled for Warren Gym. The other four contests will be held in the Auxiliary Gym.
Lions head coach Charles Pattillo cited the cost of leasing the Brownwood Coliseum as the reason for the move exclusively to the high school campus.
“We’re just trying to save a little money,” Pattillo said. “The lease on the Coliseum can be pretty expensive.”
The Classic will again be divided into two divisions, with the Lions (3-8) competing in the larger Division I against Aledo, Stephenville, San Angelo Lake View and Granbury.
Division I will follow a round-robin format with the Lions opening the tournament against Stephenville at 7:30 p.m. Monday, followed by games against Lake View and Granbury at noon and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, respectively. All Brownwood games will be held in Warren Gym.
The Lions have already squared off with Lake View twice, dropping both contests by double figures, and Brownwood also suffered a double-digit setback at Stephenville. The Lions have not faced Granbury yet.
“Lake View is a very skilled and very patient team, and Stephenville played an outstanding game and shot the ball really well when we faced them,” Pattillo said. “We’re going to have to play better ball overall to beat them. We have to play better defense and get the offense going.”
Brownwood is in the midst of a four-game slide and has not won on its home court yet, trends Pattillo hopes to see the Lions end at the tournament. In their previous two home outings, the Lions have averaged just 44 points per game and been outscored by an average of 13.5 points in losses to Lake View and Abilene Cooper.
“We really need to get some momentum going at home and see what it feels like to win,” Pattillo said. “Hopefully we can win two or three in a row.”
The Division II field - comprised of seven teams - again has quite the local flare with three Brown County schools - Early, Bangs and May - helping comprise the bracket. Other nearby teams in the field include Goldthwaite and Brady, while a pair of Brownwood’s District 2-3A rivals - Snyder and Sweetwater - will also compete in the draw. The team traveling the longest distance to compete this year in Palestine Westwood, another 3A program rounding out the Division II field.
Each team in the Division II field will play four games over the two-day span.
Bangs and Sweetwater will meet in a rematch of the most recent outings for both teams, a 62-51 decision won by the Mustangs (8-5) on Dec. 18. The Mustangs used a 22-0 run to surge in front of Bangs after the Dragons took an early 7-2 lead. Bangs and Sweetwater are slated to square off at 6 p.m. Monday.
Early comes into the tournament on the heels of a 51-37 home victory over Hamilton on Dec. 18. The Longhorns trailed 35-30 heading into the fourth period, where they outscored the Bulldogs by a 21-2 count over the final eight minutes.
May currently owns an 8-3 record and tallied a 58-47 District 16-A Division II victory over Zephyr in its last outing on Dec. 18. The Tigers, who are unbeaten through three district games, received 34 points from Jeremy Phillips in their most recent win.
As for the rest of the teams entered in the tournament, Goldthwaite is just beginning its season after capturing the Class A, Division I state football championship. Meanwhile, Brady (1-1) picked up its first win, 41-35 over Ballinger, on Dec. 18, while Snyder is coming off a 53-30 loss to Clyde on the same date.