By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Frontenac Raiders boys basketball team attended the Lancer Classic for years, and coach Doug Barto said it was always a great midseason tournament.
However, Barto said there are several reasons he and Frontenac High School athletic director Chad Ulepich set out to create the Kansas Army National Guard Frontenac Classic.
First, it gives Frontenac a chance to showcase its facilities. It also grants his players three more home games in those facilities.
Maybe more importantly, the tournament allows the Raiders to face some opponents they wouldn’t normally see. In addition to CNC foes Riverton and Baxter Springs, the Frontenac Classic will include Oklahoma power Oklahoma City-Douglass, Nevada, Winfield, Fort Scott and McDonald County.
“The Lancer Classic (at Southeast High School) always has been a great tournament,” Barto said. “But there were five or six league schools in there. Sometimes you can play league schools too much.”
The inaugural Frontenac Classic begins Thursday with two games in Frontenac’s new gymnasium and two in the old gym. At the old gym, second-seeded Riverton faces No. 7 McDonald County at 5 p.m., and No. Winfield plays No. 6 Fort Scott at 8:30 p.m. At the new gym, No. 4 Frontenac meets No. 5 Nevada at 6:45 p.m., and No. 1 Douglass plays No. 8 Baxter Springs at 8:30 p.m.
Barto hopes the tournament will help his Raiders prepare for their first season in Class 4A and a sub-state that includes Pittsburg, Baxter Springs, Columbus, Girard, Prairie View, Anderson County and Fort Scott.
“It is one of the reasons,” Barto said. “There are some good teams in here. It should help us with the sub-state.”
The Raiders (5-3) open against a solid Nevada (6-5) team that is led by Silas Smith, who is averaging more than 20 points per game.
“When we play them, he will be the best guard we’ve played to date, and he may be the best we’ve played in a couple of years,” Barto said. “They have a solid group. They like to push the ball. He will be a tough matchup. Hopefully, we can slow them down some.”
While Smith is one of the best guards in the area, Douglass boasts one of the best in the nation. Rivals.com touts Douglass 5-foot-10 senior Stevie Clark as the 20th-best point guard in the nation for 2013. Clark has led Douglass to Oklahoma Class 4A state titles in each of his first three seasons. He is ranked as the No. 96 player overall and is committed to play for Oklahoma State.
“It’s neat to have that good of a guard in the tournament,” Barto said.
Under new head coach Anthony Andrews, Douglass was ranked No. 2 in the latest OSSAA Class 4A rankings.
Frontenac could face Douglass in the second round if the Raiders get past Nevada.
The Raiders have had some mixed reviews through their first eight games. Oddly, Frontenac is 5-0 on the road and 0-3 at home.
It’s almost enough to make Barto question if having three more home games is such a good thing.
“We might want to move this tournament to a neutral site somewhere,” Barto joked. “But it wasn’t like we weren’t playing good teams in those three losses.”
Frontenac has displayed some talent on the outside. In a win against Lamar, Frontenac’s Avery Coronado scored 35 points as he went 6-for-8 on 3-pointers.
“We have three or four kids who are capable of having nights like that,” Barto said. “We’re doing better at finding the open man.”
The creation of the Frontenac Classic created some changes for the annual Lancer Classic as Frontenac, Riverton and Baxter Springs were common participants. It will be a six-team pool play tournament that includes Southeast, St. Paul, Columbus, Oswego, Marmaton Valley and the Wichita-Sunrise Christian “Silver” varsity squad. It will not be the same Sunrise Christian squad that won the Neosho Holiday Classic and included nine players being recruited by Division I schools.
The Lancer Classic begins with three games today. There also will be a girls bracket that includes the same six schools. St. Paul will face Marmaton Valley at 5:30 p.m. in the only girls’ game today.