Sixteen teams arrived in Neosho to participate in the 63rd annual Neosho Holiday Classic basketball tournament.

Sixteen teams arrived in Neosho to participate in the 63rd annual Neosho Holiday Classic basketball tournament.
Teams came from as far away as the Benjamin Banneker Academy in Brooklyn, N.Y., from Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas and around Missouri.
One of the Missouri teams traveled from St. Joseph, Mo., from Lafayette High School. Family, friends, and fans of all ages accompanied the Fighting Irish, wearing team colors of green and gray along with shamrocks. Since 1919, two years after the school originally opened as North High School in St. Joseph, the high school had been renamed Lafayette in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, a military hero who helped the fledging United States win the Revolutionary War. The new name also honored the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of mostly American flyers who served during World War I.
The high school with a French name became The Fighting Irish with a winning football team in 1919, under the direction of Coach D.H. Murphy, who later served as Lafayette’s principal for many years. The school also adopted the shamrock as their mascot.
Jennifer Koch of St. Joseph traveled down to watch her son, 6 foot 4 inch junior power forward Tyson Koch play for Lafayette, the fourth time her family has made the trip to Neosho.
“This is the fourth year we’ve come,” she said. “The first year, the kids and I came down to watch but since then, we’ve come to watch Tyson play.”
Koch said she likes Neosho and because they have relatives in Joplin, it’s nice. They can visit with family and the extended family can come to cheer on Lafayette in the tournament.
Koch is not just a Lafayette parent – she graduated from Lafayette and currently works in the building, serving as the school nurse. Like many of the Lafayette fans who made the trek to Neosho, Koch sported the school’s Irish green. Other fans wore hats emblazoned with shamrocks, Lafayette t-shirts, and school colors in everything from shamrock earrings to a bright green purse carried by another fan.
Lafayette’s Fighting Irish did well in the tournament, advancing to the championship round.
“It’s exciting,” Koch said with a smile.
Although this year’s Neosho Holiday Classic is now history, Koch will likely return next year to cheer on her son and the home team.
Lafayette High School is one of three public high schools in St. Joseph. The other high schools are Benton and Central. A fourth high school, Bishop LeBlond, is a private Catholic secondary institution.