Brownwood to compete in traditional 16-team bracket format Thursday through Saturday

The last high school varsity basketball tournament held in Brownwood occurred in 2009 but, after an eight-year absence, the decades-long tradition has been resurrected with the TexasBank Holiday Classic, which will take place Thursday through Saturday at both the Brownwood Coliseum and Brownwood High School’s Warren Gym.

“I’ve been able to play in it and represent Brownwood, and it’s been a long time coming is what I’ve been told by a bunch of people,” said Lions second-year head coach Nadir Dalleh, a Brownwood alum. “I didn’t realize it was a 40- or 50-year tradition. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback coming from the community. Some of the teams that came here for years, some of those coaches are still coaching. It’s exciting to hear about how ready the community is for it.”

The Lions come into the tournament with an 11-4 record, their best start to a season since the 27-6 bi-district championship campaign of 2009 — ironically the last year a holiday tournament was held in Brownwood.

“We’re excited about where we are right now,” said Dalleh, whose team went 18-14 last year and made the playoffs for the first time since 2012. “This time last year we weren’t as close to coming together as a team and didn’t realize what we could be. I think we’re way ahead of that this year. I’m excited to see some of these kids grow, along with the seniors.”

The Lions — who have reeled off consecutive victories over Eastland (52-33), Colorado City (55-41), Gatesville (69-58) and Comanche (59-50) — have been led by the play of Zach Strong, Sean Yoder, Gavon Clemons, Jaten Reeves, Blaize Infinger and Kirk Vickers inside, along with A.J. McCarty, Xavier Porter, Blake Bronniman, Tommy Bowden, Isyah Campos, Ryan Riker and Jared Cullins outside, among others.

The 16-team boys tournament features a traditional bracket format, with the Lions beginning play in the event at 9:50 a.m. Thursday against the Bangs Dragons at the Brownwood Coliseum. Other Thursday first-round matchups include Coleman vs. Llano at 8:30 a.m. at Warren Gym; Comanche vs. Denver City at 11:10 a.m. at Warren Gym; Cisco vs. Goldthwaite at 12:30 p.m. at the Coliseum; Early vs. Stephenville at 1:50 p.m. at the high school; Brady vs. Colorado City at 3:10 p.m. at the Coliseum; Dublin vs. Midland Greenwood at 5:50 p.m. at the Coliseum; and Lampasas vs. De Leon at 4:30 p.m. at the high school.

The tournament will culminate with the championship game at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum.

“We’ve got some bigger schools coming and some smaller schools coming,” Dalleh said. “There’s going to be some really good competition. We’ve got some 4A schools, but some of the smaller schools are going to be competing and it’s going to be fun to watch. There are some district teams competing and we’ve tried to spread the bracket out a little bit so that maybe they won’t face each other, especially right before district. But we have 16 teams and we’re guaranteeing everybody four games, so it’s hard to dodge. But it’s going to be good competition for everybody.”

While defending their home court(s) and capturing the tournament championship is the ideal scenario this weekend, the most important objective for the Lions is to continue to improve with District 5-4A competition set to begin Jan. 16 against Big Spring. Brownwood will be looking to improve upon its runner-up district finish from a season ago.

“I just want us to come together and get stronger as a team and realize what we can be, and where we can be,” Dalleh said. “I told the guys there aren’t many people outside our locker room and these families that would expect us to have 11 wins with the seniors we lost and the youth we have up. We’re coming together and finding out who we are and I want us coming out of this very positive because we have a couple of good ones (Graham on Jan. 2, Dublin on Jan. 4 and at Brady on Jan. 9) coming right out of the Holiday Classic.”