By DOUG EADS
The 10th annual Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic will tip off on Monday afternoon, December 27th, with games being played in the round-robin tournament at Somerset High School, Pulaski County High School, Southwestern High School, and Somerset Christian High School.
Over 30 teams will be coming in to Somerset for the three-day tourney, which features several outstanding players and teams from across Kentucky, as well as out of state as well.
There is a total of 32 teams — both girls and boys — taking part in this year’s event, and tournament director Doug Parkey says that while he is pleased with the number of schools participating this year, he says it was very hard to put this field together.
“This has been the hardest year that we’ve ever had to put this tournament together,” said Parkey. “We’ve put more effort into this year than probably the last four or five years combined, just because of a lot of different things. We’ve had to deal with travel restrictions, Covid — just a lot of different hurdles that we had to face.”
“We had teams dropping out, forcing us to have to find replacements, and it’s just been a battle it seems like from day one,” Parkey added. “The good news is, people are going to get to seem some great talents and some great teams.”
Indeed, in both the girl’s and boy’s brackets, there are some great teams and great players that will be playing in this year’s event.
On the girls side of things, Rowan County and their star player — Haven Ford — will be participating. Ford is the number one-ranked player in the 16th Region, and was ranked as the seventh best player in the state of Kentucky in the preseason. She averaged 23.5 points per game, along with 10.6 rebounds per contest last season as a sophomore, as she’s averaging a double-double per game this season.
Two teams from the Dayton, Ohio area — Urbana High School and Indian Lake High School — will be taking part in the tournament as well, and they are both laden with some outstanding basketball talent.
On the boy’s side, there will be a big-time battle right out of the gate on Monday evening at Pulaski County High School, as two of the top 15 teams in the state of Kentucky — Fern Creek and Pulaski County — will go toe to toe on the opening night of play.
For high school basketball fans, it just doesn’t get any better.
“Fern Creek is ranked in the top 15 to 20 in the state, and on the boy’s side, we’ve got three teams coming out of Cincinnati — Aiken High School, Western Hills High School, and Mt. Healthy,” stated Parkey.
“Coach Ty Cass — who was at Cincinnati Aiken and actually won our tournament three or four years ago — has taken the job at Mt. Healthy, and he went out and recruited Cincinnati Aiken, and a buddy of his at Western Hills to bring their teams down to our event,” said Parkey. “We’re expecting all of those teams to be really strong. We’ve got St. Johns Jesuit out of Toledo, Ohio, and that’s a school that historically has always had a very strong athletic program. They are in Division I, which is the highest classification in Ohio basketball, and they made it to the quarter finals last year in the state tournament. We expect them to be very strong, and then we have Spring Hill, Tennessee out of the Nashville area coming in, as well as Smith County, Tennessee, so we’re really excited about the talent of some of these teams that we have coming in this year.”
Besides those out of state teams, and our local teams, other schools playing on the boy’s side of things closer to home will be Wolfe County, and their two star players — Wilgus Tolson and Sawyer Thompson.
Fern Creek will be taking part in the event, as will Danville, and the number one-ranked team preseason out of the 15th Region — Paintsville — and their star player Colby Fugate.
And, for the first time in the event’s history, Somerset Christian School and some of the state’s smaller schools will be playing in The Classic, and Parkey says that he is very happy that organizers were able to extend an invitation and make it possible for some of the so-called ‘little guys’ to be able to participate in this years tourney.
“This year we added the small school division out at Somerset Christian School, and we’re all really excited about getting Somerset Christian involved in our event,” stated Parkey. “We’re really excited to have them as part of the tournament this year. To be able to add the small school division, and to include some teams at that level is something we’re very glad that we were able to do this year.”
“On the girl’s side, we all know about Southwestern and what they’ve got, but we also have Rowan County coming in who has a great team, and Haven Ford has already committed to the University of Kentucky,” Parkey added. “So, we feel we’ve got a very good field of teams in both boys and girls.”
In the girl’s bracket — aside from the three local teams — and the teams from the Dayton area, Rowan County, Perry Central, and Corbin are a few of the teams from the local area that will be participating in the event.
Aside from seeing some great basketball at this event for three days at all four local high schools, the Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic is also an event that helps the local economy, with many of the teams coming in to Somerset and staying throughout the event.
“I think we have about 20 to 21 teams that will be staying in hotels, so that’s great, because the last of December is a slow time of the year for most of our lodging facilities,” pointed out Parkey. “It’s a great boost for our restaurants. Again, our community really gets behind this tournament, and about a month ago I had people starting to ask me about brackets and matchups. A lot of people look forward to this event every year, and I think this year, we’ve got some terrific players and teams that fans are going to be able to watch.”
Sponsors for this year’s event are Somerset Tourist and Convention Commission, Somerset Pulaski County CVB, Pulaski Fiscal Court, Citizens Bank, Lake Cumberland Medical Center, Campbellsville University Somerset, SPEDA, Silent Guard, Hampton Inn/Comfort Inn, Best Western, and Godby Realty/Susan Alderdice Realtor.