Winter weather wrecks hoops slate

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 30, 2004

AHOSKIE – There’s always a first time.

Since its inception in 1990, neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night has prevented the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald Holiday Classic from making its appointed rounds.

The annual event – the product of some innovative thinking by now retired Ahoskie/Hertford County High School Athletic Director Richard Murray – always followed a format that saw the tip-off of its opening game shortly after Christmas.

Now, thanks to Old Man Winter, this year’s Classic will be held closer to the arrival of 2005 rather than the annual visit from Santa Claus.

But yet the show must go on.

Thanks to Sunday’s 8-to-13 inches of snow that fell across the Roanoke-Chowan region, leaving the local roadways in a frozen mess, the Classic has been postponed until later today (Thursday). It continues Friday (Dec. 31) and Saturday (Jan. 1).

The event was originally scheduled to run Monday through Wednesday (Dec. 27-29).

&uot;We had no other available options,&uot; said Hertford County High School Athletic Director and head basketball coach Charles Simmons. &uot;We didn’t want the tournament to run into the New Year’s holiday weekend, but there simply wasn’t any other way to get around this problem.&uot;

The main problem was the roads, especially the secondary lanes of travel, which were still covered in snow and ice on Wednesday.

&uot;After talking with law enforcement officials, I was advised it would be in our best interest to postpone this tournament until at least Thursday,&uot; noted Simmons. &uot;The main roads in our four counties are mainly clear, but it’s the back roads that are a problem. We do not want to put any of the loyal fans, from all four counties, of this tournament at risk on those icy roads.&uot;

Hopefully, with sunny skies and highs in the 60’s on Wednesday and today, the sun will become the biggest ally for DOT crews trying to clear those frozen back roads.

As previously scheduled, three regional teams will invade the campus of Hertford County High School in Ahoskie to be part of the hoops Classic when Bertie, Gates County and Northampton County High School-East head to HCHS.

&uot;I think it brings back the competitiveness between the local counties in every sport,&uot; Simmons, the tournament director, said. &uot;Everyone in Hertford, Bertie, Gates and Northampton looks forward to this tournament every year. We don’t have to do a lot of advertising for it because everyone knows the Holiday Classic comes soon after Santa leaves.&uot;

While Simmons and his staff have been extremely busy over the past few weeks preparing for the Classic, the area teams have been getting ready as well.

The Bertie Falcons are guided by Interim Coach Tony Hoggard for the second season and will be looking to rebound from a fourth-place finish a year ago.

Meanwhile, Gates County is shooting to make an appearance in the boy’s championship contest for the first time in the tournament’s 14-year history.

In tonight’s opening round, the Northampton-East and Hertford County boys will square-off in a rematch of last year’s championship game, one that the Rams won, 62-57, to capture only their second Holiday Classic championship. The Bears are a nine-time winner of the event.

The Rams and Bears will meet in the first boy’s semifinal game, which is slated for a 7 p.m. start. Also on tonight’s opening-round schedule is a 4 p.m. match-up between the Gates and Bertie girls followed at 5:30 p.m. with the HCHS and Northampton-East girls battle.

The Bertie girls are the defending Holiday Classic champions. The Lady Falcons defeated HCHS, 74-28, in last year’s finale.

There’s only two games scheduled for Friday (Dec. 31) – the girls consolation game at 5 p.m. and a first-round boys match-up at 6:30 p.m. between Gates County and Bertie.

Saturday’s (Jan. 1) schedule calls for the boys consolation game to tip-off at 4 p.m. followed respectively by the girls (5:30 p.m.) and boys (7 p.m.) championship games. A brief awards ceremony will follow each championship contest.

Simmons said to please note the new starting times on each night. He has moved them back by one hour in order to accommodate those fans that have made plans to attend New Year’s parties.

&uot;You can still come out and enjoy plenty of high school basketball action and leave in plenty of time to catch your party,&uot; he noted.

General admission for Thursday and Friday games is $6 per person. Championship night (Saturday) admission is $7 per person.

The tournament is sponsored by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald for the 14th consecutive year.

&uot;We are pleased to be a part of this seasonal Classic,&uot; R-C News-Herald Publisher Jeff Findley said. &uot;It is our desire to help provide an avenue for our area schools to participate in a quality tournament and play for bragging rights in the Roanoke-Chowan area.&uot;