Destin Holiday Classic getting set for inaugural event

Special to The Log

Plans are shaping up for the first Destin Holiday Classic high school girls’ basketball tournament slated for Dec. 27-30 at the Destin Community Center.

Eight of the top high school girls’ basketball teams from seven states across the South will converge on Destin to compete in the tournament, led by host school Fort Walton Beach High School.

The Lady Vikings, under the direction of head coach Holly McDaniel, will join Anacoco High School (Anacoco, Louisiana); New Site High School (New Site, Mississippi); Smith County High School (Carthage, Tennessee); Marist School (Atlanta, Georgia); Houston Academy (Dothan, Alabama); Corbin High School (Corbin, Kentucky); and Paxton High School (Paxton, Florida).

“We have definitely been busy lately getting everything in place,” said tournament director Scott McKinney. “There’s so much that goes into an event like this before the fact and we have been working diligently to make this the best high school girls’ basketball tournament in the South. We are in the midst of reaching out to the business community for corporate sponsorship and also to our local citizens for volunteers.”

The tournament has moved its venue to the Destin Community Center, which McKinney says will better “showcase the City of Destin and our wonderful city facilities and amazing people.” The now defunct professional basketball team, the Emerald Coast Knights, played their home games at the Destin Community Center.

 “I cannot say enough wonderful things about Lisa Firth (Destin Parks and Recreation) and her staff at the Community Center,” McKinney said. “They are professionals at hosting all types of events and they are really excited about our tournament. We are blessed to have great facilities in the City of Destin and great people who work for our city in all departments.”

McKinney said the tournament is seeking volunteers to work the tournament in the areas of team hospitality, parking, concessions, and general game day operations.

 “It takes volunteers to make great events happen and I am hoping that we can count on some of our generous locals to help – we really need them,” McKinney added.

Tournament passes, good for admission for all three days of the event, are now on sale for only $40 each. Single game day tickets will only be sold on the days of each game in December.

 “Ticket interest has been brisk since the tournament passes went on sale October 1,” McKinney said. “Two of our participating teams have already requested over seventy-five tickets each for their parents and fans that are coming down for the tournament. We are expecting over 1,000 out-of-town visitors for the tournament.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the tournament or purchasing pre-tournament passes can contact McKinney at 850- 240-0693.

The eight teams competing in the first year of the Destin Holiday Classic were a combined 184-68 last year, and all eight teams advanced into the postseason. Five of the eight schools have either won a state title in their respective states or played in the state championship game within the last six years. All eight teams are expected to be highly rated for the 2013-14 season.

The average record for all eight participating teams from last season was 23-8.

“I am getting calls from the eight coaches who are bringing their teams to this year’s tournament and they are all getting really excited,” McKinney noted. “This is a wonderful opportunity to show these teams, schools and other communities how we do things here in the Panhandle.”

The Destin Holiday Classic will also give deserving young ladies from the Emerald Coast the opportunity to continue their education by giving away college scholarships from the proceeds of the tournament.

 “Our goal is to give away a minimum of two scholarships to local girls each year, whether they play basketball or not,” McKinney said. “There are a lot of deserving young ladies that we hope get to further their education through our tournament each year.”