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All I want for Christmas is a hoops tourney

How about this for a last-minute Christmas wish?

A county basketball tournament.

No sport fits the tournament format better than basketball.

And it would be neat for us to have Manatee County’s hoopsters -- boys and girls -- come together for a few days, bracket off and dribble and shoot their way to bragging rights and a trophy.

Pick a venue. Have a meeting and seed everyone.

Then pick a weekend and let’s go play.

It could work. Don’t believe me? Well, then head to Southeast and Bradenton Christian during the final week of December.

There, you will find the Seminoles hosting the Willie Clemons Classic and the Panthers playing host to the Smoothie King Classic.

Both are efficient, well-run tournaments that have yielded their share of great basketball over the years.

Both also prove that you can play a whole lot of basketball over the course of three days.

They are great tournaments. But they are not county tournaments.

Nearly all the county boys teams were at last year’s Smoothie King Classic with the exception of Saint Stephen’s. Would the Falcons have defeated Bradenton Christian, which won the tournament title?

No one knows.

But a county championship isn’t a county championship unless everyone is going for it.

Other sports have county tournaments -- wrestling, swimming and diving, cross country, and track and field do it.

I can understand why soccer, softball and baseball don’t. Forecasting the weather is tricky, and the seasons are short enough as it is, so a bad three days or so could throw everything out of whack.

But inclement weather can’t dent a basketball tournament, and there is no fear of a team’s travels being snarled by slick, snow-covered roads.

And besides, it would be fun. Instead of debating and wondering and imagining, there would be a clear-cut boys champion and a clear-cut girls champion.

Other benefits?

Such a tournament will steel teams for the district play; the site can rotate on a yearly basis, giving each school a share of the gate. And it will give teams three competitive games without having to leave the county, thereby saving themselves some gas money.

Don’t get me wrong -- the holiday tournaments are a lot of fun and are great for galvanizing the community. I would like to see the county tournament supplement those events, not replace them.

So give it some thought, coaches.

After all, it wouldn’t hurt to wake up Christmas morning to find some bragging rights under your tree.

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