After a one-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, the 2021 Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament takes center stage at the Lamar Community Building for a three-day performance on Dec. 16-18.
The tournament is one of the most anticipated small school affairs in the state.
For the first time in five years, new champions emerged in both the girls and boy’s divisions in the 2019 Lamar tournament.
The Kit Carson girls and the Holly boys were both the previous five-time tournament champions but suffered losses in the championship semifinals.
In the girl’s title game, Springfield defeated Holly, 38-29, to capture the tournament crown for the first time since 2013.
In the boy’s championship game, Kit Carson defeated Walsh, 57-52, to claim the top hardware.
This year’s boy’s field will feature two undefeated teams in the Granada Bobcats (3-0) and Holly Wildcats (3-0).
In the boy’s state rankings, Granada is ranked No. 2 in Class 1A while Holly is ranked No. 9 in Class 2A.
Granada is the No. 1 seed entering the tournament. The No. 2 seed is Holly and followed by No. 3 Wiley, No. 4 McClave, No. 5 Eads, No. 6 Kit Carson, No. 7 Springfield, and No. 8 Walsh.
The four games in the boy’s session on Thursday will be as follows:
Second-year Granada head coach Traegon Marquez said he’s looking forward to this week’s event with anticipation.
“We missed not getting to play in the tournament last year due to Covid,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve missed a Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament since I was born. We are really excited to get back into the Community Building in for the HBT. I’ve been a manager, played and won, officiated, and now this year will be my first year as a head coach in this tournament.”
Marquez added, “This tournament is special, it rivals a state tournament atmosphere and we’re excited to come in as a top seed. I haven’t gotten a chance to see every team play just yet but knowing most of the athletes and coaches from each school, I really think this year will be real competitive. We’re expecting it to be three days of really good basketball.”
Looking ahead to the tournament, Marquez said, “The HBT is sort of like a holiday tradition for me. I’m sure it’s a holiday tradition for a lot of people in SE Colorado.”
“It’s going to be great to see all the communities and fan bases come out and support their teams,” he added. “I know playing in front of what felt like the entire corner of our state is an awesome feeling. I’m excited for all the kids to have that opportunity again.”
Granada is coming off three impressive victories in the Border Wars Tournament that was hosted by Syracuse, Ks. High School last week.
The Bobcats posted wins against Syracuse (64-46), had a close call with Elkhart (49-48), and beat Stanton County (56-26).
“The Border Wars was a good test for our squad,” Marquez said. “It’s not very often that a Colorado team escapes 3-0 from that tournament because the competition is so tough. We had to battle hard to make that happen.”
Marquez possesses a team that is blessed with some talented athletes.
The floor leader is outstanding senior play maker Dominic Coleman, a returning first-team All-State selection.
Through three games, Coleman is the team’s leading scorer with 18 ppg. He also contributes 5.7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals per contest.
Big John Hainer, a 6-4, 255-pound junior, chips in with 12.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.3 steals a game.
Maddox Coleman, a freshman stalwart, is averaging 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds a contest.
Other key players for the Bobcats include Brandon Gonzales, a junior guard, who is averaging 6.7 ppg. Jonus Guevara, a sophomore guard, adds 3.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.5 steals and Ivan Yanez, a senior, chips in with 2.7 points and 2.3 assists.
D. Coleman and Gonzales both have five 3’s apiece.
Holly, under second-year head coach Jace Cathcart, is another team that boasts some talented athletes.
So far this season, the Wildcats own victories against Swink (57-40), Kit Carson (68-50), and Rocky Ford (61-44).
The Wildcats are sparked by seniors Dakota Eaton and Josue Avalos.
Avalos, a 5-8 guard, averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists last season while Eaton, a 5-10 guard, added 12.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 3.1 steals a game.
Other players counted on to contribute significant play time include:
Wiley is off to a 2-1 start under new head coach Rodney Yates, who is also the head coach of the football team.
The Panthers tipped off the season with a 45-23 road win at Hi-Plains and a 51-27 win at Springfield. They are coming off a 30-28 loss to Hanover.
All five starters return for the Panthers from last year’s team.
Those players feature Evan Larrick, a 6-0 sophomore guard; Cooper Tixier, a 6-3 junior forward; Westin Langston, a 6-5 senior forward; Riley Comer, a 6-0 senior guard; and Conner Wollert, a 6-3 junior guard.
Jace Parker, a 6-4 junior guard/forward, comes off the bench in a key role for the Panthers.
The McClave Cardinals boasts a young team with size and talent for seventh-year head coach Jeremy Mallard.
The Cardinals are led by talented guards Aiden Martinez and Ayden Gomez.
Martinez, a 6-1 junior guard, averaged 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.9 steals last season.
Gomez, a 6-2 junior, guard, also averages in double figures with 11.6 points game along with 8.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 steals.
Also returning for the Cardinals and looking to make a strong presence in the paint will be Conner Forgue, a 6-3 sophomore post, who averaged 8.3 points and 6.0 rebounds a game last season, and Caleb Barr, a 6-0 junior post.
Two foreign exchange students Riccardo Cazzinga, a senior from Italy, and Eduardo Verdu, a junior, from Spain are also making a big impact for the Cardinals.
Mallard will also count on Braden Marks (a junior), Ray Mungaray (a sophomore), and Kolten Smartt (a junior).
McClave is coming off a 1-2 record in the Border Wars Tournament.
The Cardinals lost their first game to a good Elkhart, Ks. team (60-5).
McClave bounced back with a 61-34 victory over Stanton County.
In their last game of the tournament, the Cardinals fell to Greeley County (65-55). The Jackrabbits finished 3-0 in the tournament with lopsided wins over Eads (75-34) and Walsh (74-14).
The Eads Eagles are off to a 1-3 start under first-year head coach Weston Meardon. Meardon, who was a top player for Walsh during his high school career, did serve as an assistant coach for Eads the last three years.
Eads also participated in the Border Wars Tournament and were dealt three losses at the hands of Greeley County (75-34), Syracuse (66-49), and Elkhart (57-13).
This year’s Eads team returns three key starters and includes senior Ty Wilson, a 5-11 guard and senior Cade McDowell, a 5-11 post and swing guard.
Meardon also looks to sophomore Porter Spady, a 6-0 point guard, who averaged 10 ppg. and 5 rebounds per game last year.
Kit Carson is 0-2 early in the season following losses to Idalia (70-56) and Holly (68-50).
Springfield is also winless with an 0-3 mark. The Longhorns have suffered losses to Sierra Grande (52-48), Las Animas (36-31) and Wiley (51-27).
Walsh is also 0-3 following losses to Stanton County (71-14), Greeley County (74-14), and Syracuse (57-12) in the Border Wars Tournament last week.