With folks far and wide filling up on Christmas cheer this week, perhaps those in Southwest Missouri could spare some of that cheer and use it in the stands at Neosho Holiday Classic basketball tournament Dec. 26-28 at Neosho High School.
Back for its 59th installment, the Holiday Classic has again drawn some of the top local and national talent to be put on display in Neosho. Just two years ago two University of Kentucky standouts — Andrew and Aaron Harrison — participated in the Classic for Fort Bend Travis, Texas. Throughout the years, the event has hosted many top Division-I athletes and professionals such as NBA standouts Alec Burks, Hasheem Thabeet and Jeremy Tyler, WNBA star Shekinna Stricklen and NFL players Josh Freeman and Zack Pianalto, among others.
This season the tournament will feature 12 girls teams and 16 boys. The girls' bracket will feature Neosho, Springdale (Ark.), Bentonville (Ark.), Forrest City (Ark.), McDonald County, Pierce City, Van Buren (Ark.), East Newton, Seneca, Carthage and Webb City. Neosho's JV team will also participate in the tournament this year after being added as a late replacement when Lead Hill (Ark.) withdrew from the tournament last week.
The boys' bracket will feature national powers in Sagemont (Fla.) and Fort Bend Bush (Texas), along with returning West Memphis (Ark.). Other teams in the tournament are: Neosho, East Newton, Springfield Parkview, Kansas City Ruskin, Morrilton (Ark.), Bentonville (Ark.), Lead Hill (Ark.), Pierce City, Van Buren (Ark.), St. Joseph Lafayette, McDonald County, Carthage and Webb City.
Due to Christmas falling on Wednesday this week, the tournament this year will be shortened to three days, thus forcing organizers to split the brackets into two divisions ("Black" and "Gold") in both the boy's and girl's divisions, with a tournament champion coming from each of the four divisions.
The ever-popular and crowd-pleasing 3-point and slam dunk contests will kick-off at 8 p.m. Friday, and championship games will be played on Saturday.
Fans can purchase tickets for $5 each with their choice of an a.m. or p.m. session, or can pay $8 for a day pass to all games. Fans can also purchase tournament passes for $21, down from $25 a year ago, due to the tournament being a day shorter this season. Another change to the tournament this season is that children 3-under will be admitted for free, as opposed to 5-under in year's past.
Games will begin at both Neosho High School and Neosho Middle School at 10 a.m. Thursday. Games in the boy's division will typically be played at NHS, while most girl's games prior to Saturday will be played at NMS.
Thursday's schedule at NHS features Carthage vs. East Newton at 10 a.m.; Bentonville vs. Parkview, 11 a.m.; Morrilton vs. Pierce City, 1 p.m.; Lafayette vs. Van Buren, 2:30; Lead Hill vs. Neosho, 4:30; Sagemont vs. West Memphis, 6 p.m. and Bush vs. Ruskin 7:30. There will be one boy's game between Webb City and McDonald County played at NMS at 4:30.
Thursday's girl's games at NMS are: Pierce City vs. McDonald County, 10 a.m.; East Newton vs. Neosho JV, 11:30 a.m.; Neosho vs. Forrest City, 1 p.m.; Van Buren vs. Seneca, 2:30. Springdale, Carthage, Bentonville and Webb City all will receive byes in the first round, and losers of Thursday's games will play crossover games on Thursday and Friday that won't count toward the tournament standings, but will go towards the three-game guarantee for participating teams.