Forget the concept of Black Friday and find a new tradition. Shopping in a frenzied crowd of people is highly overrated and was created by the health care community to sell blood pressure medication. Do your shopping at the local businesses in your community and you’ll be surprised at how you’ll feel.
Your Friday is better spent enjoying top teams in girls high school basketball and you don’t have to travel far. Bartow High School is bringing them to you. You can catch all of the games on the opening day and still make it home before the last shopper drops on Friday night.
The second Thanksgiving Shootout will get under way at Bartow High School gym at noon on Friday. It is the start of two days of wall-to-wall action with the same schedule of game times on Saturday. There will be six games each day, starting at noon.
Bartow High School girls basketball coach Richard Murvin proposed the idea to fill a need. “There’s the Mosaic Shootout at the end of the season for the boys team, but there wasn’t a quality tournament in Polk County for girls teams. Winter Haven used to do one, but they don’t anymore, so we wanted to introduce for county teams and bring in some good teams from outside the county.” Each team is guaranteed two games against pre-determined opponents. The format is not like elimination tournaments because there is no champion, but this activity allows the teams to face quality opponents and address needs or bolster strengths in real-game situations. Fate can sometimes provide predestination in that two teams could meet again in the future in a playoff scenario.
The first event was held last year when eight teams played over the two-day period. This year, the field has been expanded to include 12 teams. Murvin hopes the growth continues to the point where 16 teams, the maximum, can be a part.
“We didn’t have any problem getting teams interested again this year,” he said. “In fact, we had to turn down some teams. This isn’t a tournament for everyone because some programs wouldn’t benefit by being a part of it.” If the play gets to 16 teams, the idea situation would be to have eight from within the county taking on eight from outside the county, turning it into a “Polk County versus the rest” challenge and increasing local interest.
The more-established Mosaic Shootout has gathered sponsors like Under Armour and Bright House Sports Network and there will be sponsorship opportunities available for future Thanksgiving Shootouts. Some businesses may have been waiting on the sidelines last year to see if the event would take off. The presence of a second tourney indicates that the commitment is for real and the chances to get involved are many.
“We’d love to have sponsorship,” said Murvin. “We give awards at the end of Saturday games and we’ll be bringing people into the community from outside to enjoy the games. It would be a great place to showcase a local business that supports girls basketball.”
Because it is not an elimination style tournament, the emphasis isn’t as much on win or lose, though every team will be trying to win. the emphasis is close competition and that’s how the teams are matched. There will be no one sided game as many of these teams are experienced in playoffs and have been fighting for district championships.
“We chose the competition to make sure the level would be interesting. The fans will see good games and good competition. It will be entertaining and enjoyable to watch and the teams will definitely get benefit from being involved.”
The Friday schedule opens with Palmetto High taking on McKeel Academy at 12 noon. At 1:30, St. Pete High will play against Harmony. The 3 p.m. game features Lake Wales going up against Lakewood Ranch. A 4:30 tip-off is on tap for Lake Region as they tangle with Strawberry Crest of Hillsborough County. The 6 p.m. game will see Jefferson High School (a 2011 participant) going against Kathleen. The final game of the day, scheduled to start at 7:30, will see Bartow playing host to The Rock of Gainesville. Times and schedule of games is subject to change.
The Saturday action will again start at noon with McKeel Academy playing Strawberry Crest. Game two at 1:30 has Lake Region squaring off with Palmetto. The third contest sees Lakewood Ranch and Tampa Jefferson is action. The Rock plays Lake Wales at 4:30. Kathleen meets up with St. Pete High at 6 p.m. with the final game involving Harmony High and Bartow at 7:30.