(T-G Photo by Gary Johnson)
The Eaglettes face Auburn (Wash.) Riverside at 2:40 CST in opening round action.
Auburn Riverside is ranked 14th nationally and won a state championship last year.
They're guard oriented and averaging over 90 points per game.
Some 40-plus, including myself, made the trip to the desert despite it being such a busy time right before Christmas.
Tuesday was a very long day that started at 4 a.m. when we left for Nashville International Airport.
Always-prepared coach Lynn Burkey had us there plenty early and we finally boarded the plane and left Nashville around 7:15.
After a short layover in Atlanta, we arrived in Phoenix around 1:30 p.m. and then waited approximately an hour and a half on seven rental vans the group will travel in during our stay.
It was the first time for a number of those in our party to fly and we all had a good laugh at watching senior point guard Sha'Para Johnson's facial expression as the plane lifted off the runway.
Sha'Para made the trip fine, along with everyone else.
We checked into the Arizona Grand Resort, the tournament headquarters, and later had a nice meal at the Macaroni Grill.
Burkey collected each team member's cell phone and enforced a 10 p.m. curfew to help insure they get plenty of rest before playing four games in four days.
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with these young ladies throughout the day and, even though I'm not surprised, I'm still amazed how these student-athletes continue to represent their families, their team as well as their school and community in a very positive manner.
In a day and time when there's so much negative talk and news about our youth and even about sports in general, it's inspiring to see a positive spin.
Speaking of positive spins, this opportunity wouldn't be possible if not for the support of local individuals and businesses.
I've always believed that any investment in the youth of our community is time and money well spent.
The game can be heard on WLIJ (1580 AM) or shelbyvilleeaglettes.com.
Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.