Holiday tournaments in Illinois second to none
By Eric Becker
In late December, there is no better place to be than in a gymnasium somewhere – anywhere – in south-central Illinois.
I have covered sports and basketball tournaments at various places for going on 14 years. It’s just a great atmosphere to watch teams do battle against each other in a short amount of time playing multiple games.
It doesn’t matter what school is involved, whether it’s a popular tournament, a newer tournament, or in the Carlinville tournament’s case, boys and girls at the same time, with many of the same schools involved.
This is my first Carlinville tournament and I am already pepped with excitement. I have not covered simultaneous boys and girls tournaments at one time, and with a ton of county schools involved, I will be seeing my share of games over the four-day period.
Win or lose, it’s still a fun atmosphere for fans, cheerleaders, players, coaches and athletic directors. Unless you are the host of a tournament, or a dual tournament, in which case you might be kind of wary by the end of the tournament.
My first holiday tournament I recall covering was in 1996 when I went to the Dieterich tournament involving Edwards County. It was a simple eight-team tournament.
After moving to Clinton, the Maroons hosted a 12-team tournament each year I was there. My alma-mater, Riverton, won it a couple of times. Peru St. Bede was always a force if I recall.
After moving to Nebraska, the tournaments out there were more or less a two-day tournament with four teams each. I remember covering area teams at Ashland-Greenwood and in David City. Played teams like Wahoo!
Moving back to Illinois, in Benton the Rangers always played in the prestigious Eldorado tournament until leaving for the Pinckneyville tournament after I had left the paper. Back-to-back years the Rangers lost to Norris City in the first round of the tournament, once as the No. 2 seed going up against the No. 15 seed. I remember it was an 8:30 a.m. game time tip and nobody was awake. It’s no surprise that teams would lose games played that early. I don’t even think the cheerleaders were ready.
Benton also hosted a six-team girls basketball tournament which I covered each year. That was a nice little tournament had some pretty good teams and good competition. It was as evenly-matched a tournament that I have covered.
So I went to Collinsville and wound up covering the Collinsville tournament, a 16-team affair. One year Glen Rice, Jr. and his team from Georgia came to play. That year I also covered an area team in the Freeburg tournament.
That was seven years ago. This is now. My first tournament since then. Part of the fun is trying to gather all the scores from all the other tournaments going on with area schools.
Part of the fun is seeing if history will happen – if any tournament records will be broken. Will the favored teams be able to win the tournament, or will a dark-horse emerge?
No matter the situation, if you are a basketball fan, there is no better time of the year than the holiday tournaments. Games usually run for most of the day, so whether you are at work or not, there’s always time to stop by and see some holiday basketball.