’Tis the season for heaping helpings of high school basketball, and this year’s Underwood’s Christmas Classic provides one of its most mouth-watering menus of two-day action.
Fifteen teams - including four from Brown County - will be taking part in the high school portion of this year’s event, which again will be held at the Brownwood Coliseum and Brownwood High’s Warren Gym on Monday and Tuesday.
Brownwood, Bangs, Early and May will help comprise a field that consists of six Class 4A programs, three teams from Class 3A schools, four Class 2A teams and a pair of Class A squads.
A total of 26 high school games - 14 on Monday and 12 on Tuesday - will be played during the two-day span, and the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets will also squeeze in a non-conference encounter against Anderson (Ind.) Tuesday afternoon, as well.
The rest of the Classic field includes Goldthwaite, Brady, Dublin, Snyder, Sweetwater, Stephenville, San Angelo Lake View, Wichita Falls, Granbury, Aledo and Denton Guyer.
“We’ve got some teams that wanted to come back and some new teams in this year that haven’t come in the past,” said Brownwood Lions head coach and tournament director Shane Perkins. “I think it’s going to be a pretty competitive field.”
The Classic has grown over the past few years, which Perkins attributes to the local businesses - headlined by Underwood’s - who make the tournament happen, along with the way the event is run.
“A lot of help goes into it,” Perkins said. “A lot of businesses help contribute to the tournament and if it wasn’t for them, the tournament wouldn’t be growing the way it is.
“We try to do a good job taking care of the coaches, and then they’ll want to bring their teams back. Then word of mouth gets around, and that’s what happened this year. It says we’re doing a good job when teams are willing to come here even though they know teams in their same district are going to be here.”
With several district rivals competing in this year’s Classic, that led to a scheduling challenge for Perkins. Teams in the same district did not want to face each other, and Perkins obliged in the scheduling. Though technically there are again two divisions in the Classic, there isn’t a true round-robin format, therefore tournament champions will not be crowned this year.
“The format is a little awkward this year because we have a lot of schools in the same districts coming in,” Perkins said. “They didn’t want to play each other, so there’s really no way to have a tournament champion. Some of the teams also start district play next weekend and they’re worried about playing four games in two days, so some teams are playing less. There’s just no way to have a tournament champion like that. But if you watch all the games, you’ll probably figure out who the best team is. ”
Eight teams will play four games, six will play three and one team - Bangs - has just two games. The Dragons are playing only twice because they open District 2-3A action Friday at Comanche.
The host Lions carry a 14-0 record into the event, the first time Brownwood has been undefeated this deep into the season under head coach Shane Perkins. But the Lions are in the midst of playing seven of nine games against Class 4A opponents, with contests against Aledo (Noon Monday at BHS), Denton Guyer (8 p.m. Monday at the Coliseum), Wichita Falls (Noon Tuesday at BHS) and Granbury (8 p.m. Tuesday at the Coliseum) slated for the Classic.
“We should have some good games against some bigger schools,” Perkins said. “At this point in the schedule we’re starting to get ready for district play, which is why we’re playing up in 4A. It will make our kids compete to the best of their ability.
“I just want to see us keep competing as hard as we can this week. That’s our No. 1 goal every game. When we’ve had trouble offensively it usually has to do with us not attacking and competing. You can’t turn the switch off and on. We need to put it together for four quarters.”
The Lions also intend to make the most of having District 2-3A foes Sweetwater and Snyder - which Brownwood has already defeated once this year, 59-35, at the Clyde tournament - in town for two days.
“A great thing about the tournament is we don’t have to travel to watch them, we get to watch them right here,” Perkins said. “It’s a pretty good deal.”
The other red-hot county team competing in the tournament is May. The Tigers (10-1) have been on fire as they enter the Classic ranked No. 9 in the latest TABC Class A, Division II boys rankings. May, which advanced to the regional championship game last season, is currently in first place in the District 16-A, Division II race.
The Tigers will be tested by teams from three different classifications - Class A, Division I Goldthwaite (Noon Monday at the Coliseum), 2A Dublin (6:30 p.m. Monday at BHS) and 3A Sweetwater (Noon Tuesday at the Coliseum).
Both Early and Bangs will attempt to work out the final kinks before they start District 8-2A action. The Dragons tip off district play Friday at Comanche, while Early does not open district action until Jan. 6 when it hosts San Saba.
The Dragons will play just twice against Goldthwaite (8 p.m. Monday at BHS) and Snyder (10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Coliseum). The Longhorns will challenge three foes - Snyder (9 a.m. Monday at the Coliseum), Sweetwater (5 p.m. Monday at BHS) and Goldthwaite (8 p.m. Tuesday at BHS).
“Everybody’s getting a lot of games and there should be some good basketball,” Perkins said.