The holiday cheer is in Chester, Langdon, and Keene this time of year. That’s where three holiday basketball tournaments are held. Players from Springfield, Fall Mountain, Black River, and Green Mountain have the opportunity to join the fun. Tournaments certainly make the holiday season bright.
There are five area schools that play high school basketball and all of them field both a boys and girls varsity team. Three of those area teams of each gender have the opportunity to compete in these events. The Green Mountain boys and girls both are taking part in the Green Mountain Holiday Tournament, which also has the Springfield boys and the Black River girls as part of the action. Meanwhile, the Fall Mountain girls are in their own holiday event. The Fall Mountain boys travel to Keene for the umpteenth year in a row for the tournament run by the Keene State Men’s Basketball program.
The Green Mountain tourney is already underway. The Black River girls opened the affair versus Mount Saint Joseph of Rutland Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 3 p.m. with the Lady Chieftains facing Twin Valley at 6 p.m. as the other bracket of the girls’ tourney. The Springfield boys faced off against Mount Saint Joseph at 4:30 p.m. in the opening boys’ encounter. Green Mountain and Twin Valley meeting at 7:30 p.m. is the other half of the male bracket. The finals of the Green Mountain tourney are held this Thursday, Dec. 21 at the same times with the consolation games in the earlier time slots and the title games in the later two time slots. In each instance, the girls play the first contest in the pair of games, and the boys the second.
Fall Mountain jumped on the opportunity to host their own holiday event when the Keene State powers decided to no longer host the holiday girls’ event they have offered for years. This decision was likely forced because the tourney’s popularity was hampered by Keene’s inability to play the games during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. They had always staged the event a week earlier, which is not a popular time for the school’s interest. The tourney, which will be held in the Wildcat Den, is called the MG Holiday Basketball Tournament and will feature eight girls’ teams. Each team will play three games with the event slated for Dec. 26, 27, and 28.
Action begins on Dec. 26 at 2:30 p.m. with Littleton meeting Mascoma, followed by Monadnock facing Stevens at 4 p.m. In the evening bracket, Newport and Hinsdale meet in the first game, and Fall Mountain welcomes Sunapee in the primetime game. Following the opening round, the tournament will be broken down into two separate new tournaments with two championship teams crowned. The teams that lose in the first round will stage a competition on Dec. 27 and 28 in the 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. time slots, while the winners bracket will follow the same format, in the 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. slots over those final two days. There should be a lot of fun in Langdon.
The boys’ event in Keene is the 21st annual Zero Gravity Holiday High School Basketball Tournament. This one is twice as big as the Fall Mountain event with two divisions of eight high school boys’ teams. Fall Mountain plays in the White Tournament featuring smaller schools. The Red Division features larger high schools including the likes of Conant, Mascenic, Coe-Brown Academy, Keene High, and Monadnock. This competition begins on Dec. 27 and continues for three days.
Pairings in the tournament that includes Fall Mountain are: Murdock, Mass. vs. Hinsdale at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27; Fall Mountain vs. Sunapee at 11:30 a.m.; Newport vs. Wilton at 1 p.m.; and ConVal vs. Leland & Gray at 2:30 p.m. These teams will keep the same time brackets with the losers’ bracket, taking place in the first two games slots over the next two days and the winners’ competition at the 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. slots.
High school basketball tournaments began in the late 60s around these parts. Springfield was the originator of the first event I remember being staged locally. They hosted an event, which included Bellows Falls, Windsor, and Woodsville. After a few years, Bellows Falls and Springfield remained in the event, and some northern schools – including Essex – moved in as first competition in a tourney format. Later, the event became a Classic without a champion, as the schools involved didn’t want to be forced to face each other a third time during season.
The first high school tourney I ever remember hearing about was in Manchester, N.H. and Keene High was part of an eight-team event throughout the 60s. In the later years of the decade, Bellows Falls became a part of a newly created Christmas Tournament in Brattleboro, and the teams were Bellows Falls, Brattleboro, Stevens, and Greenfield. All those early tourneys were for boys only.
Believe it or not, girls’ basketball was not given much attention until about 1970. Girls’ games were played in the afternoon and until about that date, the sport was a six-player game. Only two players were allowed to play offense and had to stay on one end of the court. Two other players were only allowed to play defense and stayed on that end of the court to protect the basket. Then each team had two guards, who were allowed to play on both ends.
The game moved ahead when the rules changed, and the ladies were allowed to play the conventional game around 1970. Not only did Bellows Falls have strong teams year after year, but the school’s booster club brought the sport even further along when they staged a December tournament, which showcased the best high school teams in Vermont. I think Bellows Falls, Springfield, Champlain Valley Union, and Essex were the initial teams, and the event was the roots of the sports growth in the Green Mountain state.
Now, it is time to sit back and enjoy the action in the 2017 version of these holiday events.
A couple of nuggets left over from the fall
They both concern the Bellows Falls Purple Dawgs team. The experience these athletes gain under the extension of the Connecticut Valley Football League umbrella is priceless. When Pee Wees began basically 50 years ago, middle school aged kids were included in the base league. As years went along, the size of the older players and the age difference compared to the younger ones became a growing concern, and eventually a separate team was added.
The Purple Dawgs enjoyed yet another successful campaign (8-0) in the fall of 2017, but then unfortunately, some of their competition is going away. The Vermont Principals Association has eliminated football as a middle school sport, transferring the activity to a flag variety. Windsor, Woodstock, and Springfield must go that route. The Bellows Falls program, being independent from school sponsorship and control, will continue to play with a New Hampshire schedule and no league affiliation.
The 2017 Purple Dawgs put up some incredible numbers, which were passed along to us by Kevin Vancor. They outscored the opposition 282-38. They shut out five teams. They had only one turnover all year. Their closest game was a 22-0 victory over Hanover. They were successful in a head to head meeting with undefeated Lebanon 37-12. The Purple Dawgs scored on all six of their possessions in that contest. Some kind of numbers, huh?
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