SPORTS

Destin Holiday Classic set Dec. 28-30

Special to The Log

Sixteen of the top high school girl's basketball teams from across the South will converge on Destin Dec. 28-30 for the second annual Destin Holiday Classic tournament at the Destin Middle School Gymnasium.

The tournament has doubled in size from its original format of only eight teams.

Two area schools, the Fort Walton Beach High School Vikings under coach Holly McDaniel and the Niceville High School Eagles under coach David Day, will serve as the two host teams for the three-day event.

Other participating schools include the defending champion, Corbin (Kentucky) High School; Louisville (Kentucky) Male High School; Seneca (South Carolina) High School; Wildwood (Florida) Middle High School; Tuscaloosa (Alabama) Central High School; The Marist School (Atlanta); Miller Grove (Georgia) High School; Anniston Saks (Alabama) High School; North Bullitt (Kentucky) High School; New Site (Mississippi) High School; Madison County (Florida) High School; Tallahassee Lincoln (Florida) High School; Tallahassee (Florida) Chiles High School; and Scott County (Kentucky) High School.

The 16 teams participating in this year's tournament have a combined winning percentage of over 90 percent through the first month of the new season, and a combined 33 state championships in their historic programs.

"Once again we searched long and hard to find the very best high school girls basketball teams from around the South to participate in our tournament," said tournament director Scott McKinney. "We actually had over 120 teams that we had to turn down that had requested to play in our tournament. The word is out about the quality of our tournament and of course everyone loves coming down to Destin and the most beautiful beaches in the world."

Fourteen of the top 100 rated players in the Rivals.com recruiting network will be playing in the tournament and a number of college coaches are expected to also attend to scout.

According to the participating coaches, more than 1,500 fans are expected to make the trip to the Emerald Coast for the tournament, creating a large economic impact for the local community.

"Any time you get 16 teams with coaches, players, managers, trainers, parents and fans you are talking about a lot of people coming to our area during a historically slow time," McKinney said. "These teams and fans are eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores and enjoying all of the fun things we have to offer. Plus, they are making memories and plans to return later in the year for family vacations."

"Our fans have been excited about coming ever since we were first accepted to participate," said Louisville (Kentucky) Male High School head coach Champ Ligdon. "I think we will bring a couple of chartered parent and fan buses for sure."

The New Site (Mississippi) High School squad also participated in the first tournament and brought one of the largest numbers of fans and head coach Byron Sparks expects even more of his Lady Royal fans to come to this year's tournament.

"Our parents and fans love coming to Destin for vacation and they had a great time at the first tournament," he said. "It was the most well-organized and operated tournament we have ever participated in and we jumped at the chance to come back."

Games will begin each day at 8:30 a.m. with eight games on tap for each of the three days.

Admission is $7 at the door.

McKinney did note that additional volunteers are needed for the tournament and can contact him at 850-502-3150 to participate.