Have you heard these holiday sports stories? And do you have a better one to share?

It seems every high school basketball coach has a favorite memory or funny story from spending time with his or her team over the holidays. With school out for two weeks, teams go out of town to play in tournaments, and unique or unusual things happen.

Two years ago, the Lovett boys arrived on Long Island in New York for the Wheatley Invitational shortly before a blizzard hit the area. There was so much snow that the school system shut down county vehicle transportation for a day, forcing the tournament to alter its schedule and play second-round games on Sunday.

Lovett coach Chuck Melito had to call the GHSA to obtain special permission to play on Sunday. “Dr. [Ralph] Swearngin said he would allow us to play as long as I promised to take the team out West the next year,” Melito said with a laugh.

At the same time in 2008, the Wesleyan girls played in a Phoenix tournament and flew back home with one fewer person. Wesleyan’s scorekeeper missed the flight, which worried the rest of the girls. The scorekeeper nearly had to stay in Arizona for Christmas, but was placed on a later flight.

When Milton’s David Boyd was coaching at Berkmar, he discovered the team was missing a baby-faced freshman player after a team meal. “Somebody on the bus yelled out ‘Where’ Alex?’” Boyd said. “We turned the bus around and he was standing by the curb very upset that we’d left him. He had, shall we say, an ‘extended’ bathroom stop.”

Roswell’s Ty Phillips was an assistant coach at Harrison when the team traveled to a Missouri tournament and dined at the original Lambert’s Cafe, billed as “The Only Home of Throwed Rolls.” The customers catch and eat rolls thrown to them by the servers.

“We thought it was strange that the players all went outside quickly after the meal,” Phillips recalled. “They had been stockpiling their rolls and, when the assistant coaches came out, we got nailed with the rolls in an ambush. I never knew rolls could be packed so tightly and hurt like that.”

Holiday tournaments also present opportunities to match up against high-profile players from other states. In 2005, Blessed Trinity lost in the championship game of the Holy Angels Christmas Tournament in Charlotte that was far from uneventful.

“Stephen Curry, currently of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, scored his 2,000th career point against us in that game,” Blessed Trinity coach Brian Marks said. “We played a box-and-one defense on Curry in the second half to slow him down. It worked until he pulled up from about 30 feet out and drained a 3-pointer to go over 2,000 career points.”

Wesleyan coach Skip Matherly had a similar experience in a 55-47 loss to North Carolina’s Christ School around four years ago. The winning team was led by the Miles and Mason Plumlee, brothers who played for Duke’s national championship team last season.

Coaches never know what they will get from the opposing team. When Buford’s Gene Durden coached at another school, he played against an Illinois team that scrambled at the last minute to get enough girls to go on the trip.

“We started to press like my teams do and, after around six turnovers, [the opposing coach] had one of his players sit on the floor and just quit playing, with her hands over her eyes,” Durden said. “I did not know what to do as a coach but we stopped the pressure and tried to help his player up and encourage her to play. It was a strange situation and, as a coach, I really did not know what to do.”

Now it’s YOUR turn. What is your favorite holiday memory watching or participating in high school sports? Please post below.

2 comments Add your comment

Milton fan

December 31st, 2010
8:31 pm

milton just swamped Winter Park at Centenniel holiday tournament. gimme that national top 10 ranking baaack….


January 2nd, 2011
7:57 am

Barry Every
Rivals.com Football Recruiting

MORE NUC BOWL: NUC All-World practice gallery | Five story lines | Complete coverage

CHARLESTON, S.C. – The National Underclassmen Combine could not have asked for a more exciting finish to the inaugural All-World Gridiron Classic on Friday. Game MVP Michael Eubank hit future South Carolina speedster Damiere Byrd for the winning score with 47 seconds left, giving Team World a 20-17 victory over Team NUC. Johnson Hagood Stadium on the campus of The Citadel was the site of more than 70 D-I athletes looking to show off their football skills. Below are those athletes that had the biggest impact in the outcome of the game as seen by Rivals.com analyst Barry Every.

Top 10 NUC All-World Classic players
1. Michael Eubank, 6-5/232, PQB, Corona (Calif.) Centennial (Team World)
COMMITTED TO: Arizona State, but more schools are offering daily.
PERFORMANCE: Was 6-for-6 for 125 yards and two score while running for an additional 31 yards. His efforts garnered him MVP.
STRENGTHS: Tremendous overall size, good arm strength, and a very physical runner that is hard to bring down. His teammates nicknamed him Lil’ Cam.
WEAKNESSES: Work on keeping eyes downfield while moving around in the pocket avoiding the rush. Sometimes he takes off with the ball too early.

2. Jabari Hunt-Days, 6-2/226, OLB Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove (Team NUC)
COMMITTED TO: Georgia Tech
PERFORMANCE: Recorded 11 tackles, had one TFL and blocked an extra point in 20-17 loss to Team World.
STRENGTHS: Excellent overall size and body structure to go along with great closing speed. He is big enough and versatile enough to play all three linebacker positions. Also looked great on punt coverage.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to use hands to keep blockers off his body especially his legs.

3. Damiere Byrd, 5-9/165, WR, Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek (Team World)
COMMITTED TO: South Carolina
PERFORMANCE: Had five catches for 52 yards and two touchdowns, one of which was the winning score with 47 seconds left in the game. His efforts earned him offensive player of the game.
STRENGTHS: He is one of the fastest players in the country, runs better routes than the average track athlete and demonstrated soft hands.
WEAKNESSES: Has to add some size and strength because he is slight in stature at this time. This will help with durability and breaking more tackles.

4. Andre Sturdivant, 6-2/249, ILB, Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville (Team World)
CONSIDERING: May have it down to Ohio State and Penn State.
PERFORMANCE: He was in on seven tackles, two TFLs, one PBU and had a sack in earning defensive player of the game.
STRENGTHS: Showed excellent versatility playing defensive end and some linebacker in the game. He has excellent speed coming off the edge and was able to turn his hips and run with backs.
WEAKNESSES: May be better suited playing weakside defensive end at the next level. This means working more than an outside pass rushing move.

5. Kameel Jackson, 6-0/198, WR, Arlington (Texas) Sam Houston (Team NUC)
PERFORMANCE: Had a game-high seven catches for 163 yards in a losing effort.
STRENGTHS: Jackson runs precise routes and definitely knows how to find the holes in the defense. He also showed soft hands and the intelligence to come back to the ball when the quarterback was flushed out of the pocket.
WEAKNESSES: Speed has been something he has been working on for two years and is still an area that may need improvement.

6. Johnny Manziel, 6-1/193, DQB, Kerrville (Texas) Tivy (Team NUC)
PERFORMANCE: Ran for 77 yards while completing 6-of-8 passes for 80 yards and a score in a losing effort to Team World.
STRENGTHS: He is a magician with the ball in his hands. His ability to escape sure tackles and still make positive yardage is a thing of beauty.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to set his feet while squaring his shoulders to the target before he unleashes a pass. Sometimes his elbow drops below his shoulders causing the ball to sail a bit high.

7. Clint Tucker, 6-2/285, DT, East St. Louis (Ill.) (Team World)
PERFORMANCE: Was in on six tackles and had two quarterback pressures in a winning effort.
STRENGTHS: He demonstrated excellent strength and pad level while collapsing the pocket. Several times he took on more than one defender allowing teammates to apply pressure. Tucker is also a surprisingly good athlete for a true nose guard.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to be mindful of his weight because he is already at maximum size.

8. Eric Ebron, 6-5/225, TE, Greensboro (N.C.) Ben L Smith (Team World)
COMMITTED TO: North Carolina
PERFORMANCE: Had two catches for 50 yards and a score in helping Team World to a 20-17 victory.
STRENGTHS: The combination of height and athletic ability make him a mismatch for linebackers to cover.
WEAKNESSES: Needs to add more size and strength, which should improve his blocking versus bigger defensive ends.

9. Zack Shaw, 6-3/218, ILB, Coshocton (Ohio) (Team World)
PERFORMANCE: Recorded eight tackles in a 20-17 victory.
STRENGTHS: Demonstrated excellent lateral movement and the ability to go sideline-to-sideline making tackles in the open field.
WEAKNESSES: He is a bit thin right now so adding some size will allow him to bounce around in the tackle box with the big boys.

10. Connor Myers, 6-0/287, DT, Edmond (Okla.) Edmond Memorial (Team World)
CONSIDERING: Only has Air Force offer at this time, which is difficult to believe.
PERFORMANCE: Was in on five tackles, four of which were solo, and had a sack in victory over Team NUC.
STRENGTHS: Myers was the big surprise player in the game using good leverage and incredible strength to get push. He also did a nice job shedding blockers and sliding down the line of scrimmage to make plays.
WEAKNESSES: Height is the only thing holding him back from getting several more D-I offers. What he lacks in height he makes up for with excellent technique and sheer determination.

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