GIRLS PLAY: Destin Holiday Classic to host 16 teams from seven states

Special to The Log

When Holly McDaniel talks about her Fort Walton Beach High School Vikings playing tough competition, it’s easy to see why when you look no further than the teams coming to town for next week’s Destin Holiday Classic.

Sixteen teams from seven states will converge on Destin and the Emerald Coast Monday through Wednesday (Dec. 28-30) when play begins at the Destin Middle School gymnasium.

“We try to always play really tough teams especially before district play heats up, but this takes that to a different level,” McDaniel said. “These teams are the best from all over the South and it is a great test for us.”

McDaniel’s squad is off to a great start at 12-2 and will face the Marist School War Eagles, undefeated at 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state of Georgia, in Monday’s opening day at 7 p.m.

“We know Coach McDaniel’s team is very good and they are a very tough match for us in the first round,” said Marist coach Kim Hixon, who also brought her team to the initial Destin tournament back in 2013.

“We are really excited about coming down to Destin and will be bringing a lot of family and fans. This is the best organized tournament we have ever been involved in.”

Fort Walton Beach High and the Marist School are not the only two teams playing in the Destin tournament that are off to a fast start.

New Site (Mississippi) High School is currently 11-1 and also ranked No. 2 in the state. Madison County (Florida) High School sports an 11-3 overall record. Tuscaloosa Central (Alabama) High School is 12-2 and ironically ranked No. 2 in the state of Alabama. Scott County (Kentucky) High School brings an 8-1 record to Destin. Tallahassee Lincoln High is playing well with it’s 7-4 start.

The sixteen teams competing have a combined record of 135-39.

The other local school, the Niceville High School Eagles, are also off to a good start with their 9-3 record. And, head coach David Day knows this will be a good test for his team.

“We were excited to get an invitation to the Destin tournament because we had already heard it is a great event,” Day said. “To get the level of competition to this tournament where it is says a lot about Destin and the people who run it.”

Niceville will play in the opposite bracket from Fort Walton Beach and will face New Site (Mississippi) at 10:15 a.m. Monday.

According to there will be over 30 of the top 300 high school girl’s basketball players in the recruiting rankings playing at DMS.

The tournament features eight games per day for three days starting at 8:30 a.m. each day.

Over 1,500 out-of-town visitors are expected to make their way to Destin for the tournament, creating a solid economic impact for the area during the holidays.

“I had two goals when the dream for this event was born,” said tournament organizer Scott McKinney. “We wanted to bring in the best teams we possibly could to create a very competitive event. And, we wanted to create an economic impact for the area during a traditionally slow time. These teams and fans will stay in the local hotels, eat at local restaurants, shop local businesses and they will want to come back to the area for future vacations.”

McDaniel knows the event will do all of that and more.

“The tournament is extremely well run and brings so many people and so much attention to our area,” she said. “We just want to play hard and represent the area well.”

(All Games at Destin Middle School Gymnasium)

Monday, Dec. 28

8:30 a.m. - Chiles (Florida) vs. Miller Grove (Georgia)

10:15 a.m. - Niceville vs. New Site (Mississippi)

Noon - Corbin (Kentucky) vs. Wildwood (Florida)

1:45 p.m. - Madison County (Florida) vs. North Bullitt (Kentucky)

3:30 p.m. - Saks (Alabama) vs. Louisville Male (Kentucky)

5:15 p.m. - Lincoln vs. Tuscaloosa Central (Alabama)

7:00 p.m. - Fort Walton Beach vs. Marist (Georgia)

8:45 p.m. - Seneca (South Carolina) vs. Scott County (Kentucky)