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Field set for ECHS United Bank Invitational

By By Lori Dann
Advance Managing Editor
Escambia County High School coach Bob Zarahn is hoping the second United Bank Invitational is bigger and better than last year's inaugural event.
The tournament, scheduled to start next Thursday, Jan. 6, at ECHS, features the same eight teams as last year. But Zarahn said most of the teams have improved significantly this season.
"It should be a very good, competitive tournament," Zarahn said. "This won't be one of those tournaments that will be dominated by one or two teams. Every team has a legitimate shot to win a couple of games."
Action will begin Jan. 6 at 4 p.m. with W.S. Neal taking on Gulf Breeze. Northview faces Jay at 5:30; Excel plays Pace at 7 p.m. and ECHS battles Flomaton in the nightcap at 8:30. Second-round games are scheduled for Friday at the same times.
On Saturday, the fifth-place game will be played at 4 p.m.; followed by the third-place game at 5:30; the consolation finals at 7; and the championship game at 8:30.
ECHS is seeking its second straight United Bank Invitational championship, and the Blue Devils would have to be considered one of the favorites. ECHS brings an 8-3 record into this week's Baker Invitational Tournament. The Blue Devils were scheduled to face Alma Bryant on Tuesday night and will take on either Citronelle or Daphne today at 5:30 or 7 p.m.
"I think we've been playing pretty well so far this year," Zarahn said. "Our defense and rebounding have been good, and we've had real good effort. Our offense needs some work, and that's what we've been concentrating on the last few days. We're probably going to try something different in the tournament.
"We shot the ball terribly in our last loss to Bay Minette, and we know we have to improve. I think we will. It was just one of those nights. Once we make some adjustments, I believe we'll be OK offensively."
Zarahn said he is hoping everything comes together for ECHS in the United Bank Invitational, and he is also expecting a large crowd.
"We had real good attendance last year," he said. "We're hoping for an even bigger turnout this year."
Tickets to the tournament are $3 for adults and $2 for students.
"You can watch four basketball games for the price of one ticket," Zarahn said. "It's a good chance to see some good local high school basketball."