There are many challenges that Randy Smithpeters knows awaits his ballclub as the season opens Monday night in the sixth annual Harrisburg Invitational.
The longtime Bulldog boys' basketball coach also acknowledges the challenge awaiting his team when the tournament tips off with Gallatin County Monday night at 7:30 p.m.
"I see the Gallatin County game as not only a big tip off for our tournament, but southern Illinois as a whole. It's two of the most highly thought of teams this year and I wish we would have had more time to prepare, but it is what it is."
Goreville and Anna-Jonesboro left the Invite to join Goreville's tournament and Gallatin County was brought in as a replacement.
The Hawks were part of the initial Harrisburg Invite to open the 2007 season under then head coach Chris Fromm.
Harrisburg opened the 2007 season with a 62-29 win over Gallatin County, as Reid Roper led the Bulldogs with a team-high eight points.
Gallatin County was 21-10 a year ago and have won two straight regional titles, but have also lost in the sectional semifinals to Meridian each of the past two seasons.
Harrisburg is back after going 28-6 a season ago and losing to eventual state champion Breese Mater Dei in the Class 2A Super Sectional at SIU.
The Hawks return a lineup that includes 6-foot-11 big man Andrew Drone, who has signed with Rice University for basketball, along with Patrick Lowe and Daine Hish.
"When I think of Gallatin County, I think of them playing Herrin in the Eldorado Holiday Tournament semifinals and took them down to a last second shot that would have got them into the championship of the EHT," Smithpeters added. "That's the kind of team they will be this year, coming back with their experience and skill people."
Harrisburg and Gallatin County last met up in the quarterfinals of the 2010 EHT when the Bulldogs knocked off Gallatin County 72-55 on its way to beating Massac County in the championship at Duff Kingston Gymnasium.
Harrisburg is 19-1 all time in the Harrisburg Invitational and have won the tournament outright four times and shared the other season. The Bulldogs' only loss was by 10 points to Carmi-White County in the 2009 season opener, marking the freshmen season for current Bulldogs, Tyler Smithpeters, Capel Henshaw and Ryne Roper, among others.
Michael Dann can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @spydieshooter.
H This year marks the sixth annual Harrisburg Bulldog Preview Tournament
H Harrisburg is 19-1 all time and has won the tourney four times outright and shared the other season. Only loss was by 10 points to Carmi to open the 2009 season. That was the last time Harrisburg has been under the .500 mark in basketball (97 games ago).
Page 2 of 2 - H Anna-Jonesboro and Goreville left to go to Goreville's new tournament. Mount Carmel could join the field next year, along with Eldorado.
H Gallatin County returns to the tournament field. The Hawks were part of the initial Harrisburg Tournament to open the 2007 season under then head coach Chris Fromm. Harrisburg opened the 2007 season with a 62-29 win over Gallatin County (That night Harrisburg got a team-high eight points from sophomore Reid Roper.)
H Most recent matchup came in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Eldorado Holiday Tournament when Harrisburg defeated Gallatin County 72-55 on its way to beating Massac County in the championship at Duff Kingston Gymnasium.
H Gallatin County was 21-10 a year ago and has won two straight regionals. The Hawks have lost in the sectional championship to Meridian each of the past two seasons.