Many area basketball teams will take to the road and the air over the holiday season to play in tournaments all over the country, seeking quality competition and an opportunity to bond.
The No. 1 St. Frances boys team is headed to California for a six-day trip to compete in the Under Armour Holiday Classic in San Diego. The Panthers are assured of playing two games; they will open the tournament against New York-based Thomas Jefferson on Monday.
In addition to seeing some strong teams that will help prepare them for their demanding league schedules, they get to further bond and visit new places.
"It's a chance for the kids to see something different and it makes basketball fun when you do things besides just playing," coach Nick Myles said. "We want to make the experience as close to college as we can, so we try to play a challenging schedule for a couple reasons. We try to get the kids recruited in multiple regions and we try to schedule at multiple places for them to learn how to travel so once they get to college it won't be a surprise."
Part of the itinerary is a tour of San Diego State as well as the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. The team leaves Christmas Day and returns New Year's Eve.
A number of area teams will be in Salisbury for the Governor's Challenge, which runs Saturday through next Wednesday and is regarded as Maryland's biggest holiday tournament.
The boys tournament, consisting of two sessions with nine DMVelite showcase games, features more than 50 teams from five states and Washington. The two sessions consist of four-team brackets with the winners meeting the following day.
In the second bracket of Session2, which will take place Tuesday at Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, No. 2 New Town plays Bethesda's Walt Whitman at 11:45 a.m. and No. 15 Poly meets Frederick's St.John's Catholic Prep at 3:45 p.m. The winners will meet for the bracket title the following day.
Edmondson, Ben Franklin, Old Mill, Friends and Mount Carmel are among the other area boys teams in the tournament, with games also being played at Wicomico High School and The Salisbury School.
In Richmond, Va., No. 9 Calvert Hall and No. 10 McDonogh will compete in the 50th annual Benedictine Capital City Classic, which runs Sunday to Tuesday and features teams from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Washington and Maryland.
No. 7 Glenelg Country will look to defend last year's win at the WNC Holiday Classic in Asheville, N.C.; No. 5 John Carroll will compete in the Hoodies House Hoops Classic in Charlotte, N.C.; and No. 12 St.Vincent Pallotti will travel to North Charleston, S.C., to play in the Rotary Roundball Classic.
No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph traveled to Hawaii last week to compete in the Iolani Classic. The Gaels opened the tournament with a 72-42 win over Hawaii-based Leilehua on Thursday, lost 47-46 to Lone Peak (Utah) on Saturday, routed Martinsburg (W.Va.) 79-38 on Monday and finished up with The Master's Academy (Fla.) in the fifth-place game Tuesday.
John Carroll's girls are headed to coach Craig Simmons' hometown of Charleston, S.C., the week after Christmas to play in the Carolina Invitational.
Simmons, whose team includes his daughter, Savannah, said he wanted his team to face good competition and be able to visit one of the top tourist destinations in the South over the holidays. He also plans to take the team to his parents' house for home-cooked meals. The Patriots open with Sissonville, W.Va., on Sunday and will play at least three games in a bracket with teams on a similar competition level.
The No. 1 McDonogh girls traveled to Puerto Rico just before Christmas last year, but they will remain closer to home this holiday season, competing in the Governor's Challenge the week after Christmas.
Coach Brad Rees, whose team also played in the National Title IX Classic after Christmas last year, said reasons for the switch included staying closer to home.
"We knew St. John's-D.C. was going to be down there and we were looking to stay a little more local and not be gone quite as long and just have a two-game event," Rees said.
The Eagles play Stephen Decatur on Saturday and if they win, could play St.John's, No. 11 team in The Washington Post, on Monday.
Several local teams are headed to the 7th Annual National Title IX Classic, which features 64 teams from the United States, the Virgin Islands and Canada. No.3 St.Frances, No. 7 St.Vincent Pallotti, No. 12 Milford Mill, Meade, the Institute of Notre Dame and MATHS will play at the D.C. Armory on Monday to next Wednesday.
St. Frances, Pallotti and IND played in the tournament last year, but this is the first time for the defending Class 3A state champion Millers, who hosted their own tournament the previous nine years.
"We wanted to change it up, do something more competitive," Millers coach DeToiya McAliley said. "If we feel we can do something better at home, we'll do [the Lady Millers Tournament] again next year."
The Millers, who open with defending 4A state champion Eleanor Roosevelt on Monday, are in a bracket with Pallotti, St. Mary's Ryken, St. Maria Goretti and teams from New York and Pennsylvania.
St. Frances, which plays Nazareth, N.Y., on Monday, is in a bracket with Washington Post No. 4 National Christian as well as teams from Virginia, New York, the Virgin Islands and Canada.
No. 5 Seton Keough and No. 8 Archbishop Spalding are headed to the Diamond State Classic in Wilmington, Del. The two are in different brackets. The Cavaliers open with St. Rose, N.J., on Sunday.
Seton Keough was automatically invited to defend its bracket title and new Gators coach Tom Gizzi is happy about the trip, which begins with a game against Caravel, one of the top Delaware teams, on Monday.
"It's a great opportunity to play teams from out of the area and some top teams in a different venue. I think it's really important to get exposure to teams from other areas of the Mid-Atlantic, "Gizzi said. "Plus it's an opportunity to stay overnight and [reap] all the residual effects of that — the team-bonding aspects, the opportunity to spend time with players outside of the normal game venue — so it's kind of cool."