The Neosho Holiday Classic has been one of the most prominent holiday tournaments in Southwest Missouri for some time.

And it’s a tradition that dates back to the opening of Neosho’s gymnasium in 1954 when the tournament started with 13 teams and more than 6,000 fans watching. In years past, the tournament has even featured some future NBA talent with the likes of Buddy Hield once stepping on the hardwood floor at Neosho.

But in the midst of a global pandemic, the tournament will be completely different this year. Because of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, there will be just six in-state boys teams making up the tournament field in Neosho, Lamar, Hillcrest, McDonald County, East Newton and Monett.

The Holiday Classic will use a round-robin format and runs from Dec. 28-30.

“You know, it’s kind of a bummer. Teams from out of state have had to say they couldn’t come,” Neosho boys basketball coach Zane Culp said on Monday. “But the most important thing is we’re getting to play. Two of our games worked out where we’re playing someone we haven’t played before — Lamar and Hillcrest.”

On Monday, Dec. 28, Hillcrest plays McDonald County at 5 p.m., East Newton takes on Monett at 6:30 and Neosho plays Lamar at 8.

On Dec. 29, Lamar plays Monett at 5, East Newton meets McDonald County at 6:30 and Neosho plays Hillcrest at 8. On Dec. 30, Neosho plays Monett at 5, Lamar takes on McDonald County at 6:30 and East Newton clashes with Hillcrest at 8.

There will not be a girls tournament this year.

“It should still be exciting,” Culp said. “I’m sure the crowds will still be big with local teams coming.”

Pink and White Tournament

While the Holiday Classic is smaller in number of teams, the 2020 Pink and White Tournament in Springfield features 32 teams. The only wrinkle to this year’s Pink and White is games will be played at Springfield Public Schools instead of Drury.

Carthage, Mount Vernon and Aurora are among the schools in the tournament that runs from Dec. 28-31.

Pink Division first-round games will be played on Monday with half the games being played at Central High School and the other half at Hillcrest High School. In the first round, Mount Vernon meets Clever at 4 at Central.

“It’s one of the most prestigious tournaments in the area,” Mount Vernon coach Grant Berendt said. “You get a lot of teams that have experience and a lot of tradition. It puts those big Class 6 schools against those Class 1s and 2s. Like us a Class 4, we can play a Class 3 or a Class 5. Class size is thrown out the window. There’s a lot of teams that play different styles. It’s just good basketball teams against good basketball teams.”

White Division games will get going on Monday, with games being split between Kickapoo High School and Glendale High School. Also in the first round, Carthage will play Branson at 6 at Kickapoo while Aurora is set to play Republic at the same time at Glendale.

“I’m looking forward to getting the girls back on the court with fresh legs and getting back to playing basketball the Lady Tiger Way,” Carthage coach Scott Moore said. “We’ve had a great start to the season and we want to carry that success into the conference season. The Pink and White tournament is a great bridge between our busy non-conference season heading into a very competitive COC season.”

Winner’s bracket quarter final rounds, for both divisions, will be played on Tuesday with the semifinals the next day. Championships for both divisions will be played on Dec. 31 at Parkview High School.

Other holiday tournaments

Speaking of Carthage basketball, the boys’ team won’t go idle during Christmas break. The Tigers will compete in the US Bank Rolla Holiday Tournament, playing St. Pius X (Festus) on Monday.

The annual Blue and Gold Tournament in Springfield is set to kick off on Saturday with Blue Division first-round games. The contests will be split between JQH Arena and Hammons Student Center.

Gold Division games will commence on Monday with the games being played between the two buildings.

Notable matchups with Joplin ties are Mount Vernon boys against Camdenton at 10 a.m. Saturday in Hammons Student Center in the Blue Division. In the Gold Division, Aurora takes on Rogersville at 2 Monday in Hammons Student Center.

Purdy boys replaced Clever in the Blue and Gold. The Eagles, which will be in the Blue Division, play Springfield Catholic at 2 Saturday in JQH Arena.

In other news, the annual Southwest boys holiday tournament has gone to a four team round-robin due to multiple teams dropping out. Wheaton, Marionville, Exeter and Southwest will compete in this year’s tournament in Washburn.

On the girls side, it will be an eight team tournament, including Cassville, Exeter, Reeds Spring, Marionville, Billings, Southwest, Wheaton and East Newton.

The annual Walnut Grove boys and girls holiday tournament kicked off with the girls on Dec. 21. Miller girls have rolled with two lopsided victories and will play Hollister in the semifinals at 7 on Saturday.

Miller boys beat Pierce City 54-42 in the opening round on Tuesday. The Cardinals play top-seeded Hollister in the quarterfinals at 3 Saturday.

On the loser’s side of the bracket, Pierce City boys meet Walnut Grove at 9 a.m. Saturday. After falling to Crane 51-38 Tuesday, Pierce City girls bounced back with a 53-35 victory over Macks Creek on Wednesday.

The Lady Eagles will be back in action against Niangua at 11 a.m Monday.

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