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Holiday tourneys offer their own brand of charm

Games need to mean something for me to get excited. There needs to be something on the line — a playoff berth, a championship, something, anything — to ratchet up the stakes.

That said, I have a tender spot in my heart for holiday tournaments.

In the grand scheme of things, they don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. Even when district foes wind up in the same bracket, the results don’t go toward league records or postseason seeding.

But there is something cozy about them. Charming. Especially around here, where the local teams are scattered into different districts and classifications and rarely have to go through each other to get anything accomplished.

Luckily, the folks at Southeast and Bradenton Christian have made basketball tournaments a custom, with the Willie Clemons Girls Holiday Basketball Classic and the Smoothie King Classic, respectively.

The Clemons Classic, now in its fifth year, gets under way this morning. The Smoothie King opens Monday.

Four area girls teams will be at Southeast. A total of 13 local girls and boys squads will be at BCS.

In fact, the Smoothie King’s boys bracket is an all-local affair.

It’s a lot of basketball packed into a little amount of time, and that’s what makes it so special. With Manatee County continually expanding and growing, things like holiday basketball tournaments keep the area connected to its small-town past.

Southeast girls coach John Harder called the Clemons Classic a piece of Americana, and I agree. While they are not simple to pull off, especially with a recession putting the clamps on everyone’s wallet, tournaments are easy to take in.

For a small price, you can find a spot in the bleachers and watch a basketball game. And then another. And then another. And then another.

And since most of the teams are local, chances are the same boy or girl who just bagged your groceries or grilled your burger is the same boy or girl elbowing their way through traffic, or hoisting the tournament’s MVP trophy.

Holiday tournaments are about the simple stuff. The all-tournament team. The T-shirt. The parents who give up their free days to man the concession stands and rip tickets.

It reminds us that prep sports, at its core, is one of the purest forms of entertainment we have.

The basketball should be good, too. Bradenton Christian and Palmetto played a legendary boys hoops game last week, and it will be interesting to see them lock horns again at the Smoothie King Classic. And who wouldn’t want to watch an ever-improving Manatee team face off against Southeast in the semifinals of the Clemons Classic’s Sunset Division?

From a coaches standpoint, these tournaments are great primers for the playoffs, which get under way in about a month.

After the week ends, everyone will splinter apart, heading back to their districts to gain steam for bigger games.

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