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The lyrics to the holiday song classic “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” do not mention basketball. But this year, local fans of the high school game are once again being given a reason to feel that way.
The Harry Johnson Holiday Classic will feature eight high school basketball boys teams and three high school girls teams competing over three days – Thursday, Dec. 26, Friday, Dec. 27, and Saturday, Dec. 28 – at the George Washington High gymnasium.
A committee appointed by Mayor Alonzo Jones began working earlier this year to revive the post-Christmas tournament, which was held for 33 consecutive years, ending in 2015. No games were held in 2016 and 2018.
In addition to the athletic competition, the tournament also served as a social event over the winter break.
“There were a lot of young people that were active in this event (annual holiday basketball tournament),” Jones told a local newspaper earlier this year. “We’re talking basketball players and cheerleaders, and we’re also talking about graduates from high school who went off to college and came back for this event.”
The tournament returns with a new name, honoring Johnson, who coached the GW boys team for 19 years and led them to a state championship in 1996.
The boys teams will play in a traditional tournament-style format that will include rivals GW and Dan River. They are joined by Carlisle (Martinsville), Faith Christian (Roanoke), Green Run (Virginia Beach), Holy Cross (Lynchburg), Magna Vista High (Ridgeway), and Westover Christian Academy. They will play at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each day.
The girls teams are GW, Faith Christian, and Magna Vista. They will play in a round-robin format, with games at 11 a.m. each day.
There will be two sessions each day – day and evening. The day sessions offer three games, with start times at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Following the day sessions, the gym will be cleared for the evening sessions, with games at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
On Thursday and Friday, the cost of admission for each session will be $7 per person, with children ages 5 and under admitted for $5.
On Saturday, the day session will remain $7 per person, with children ages 5 and under admitted for $5. However, the cost of admission for the evening session, which features the championship game, will be $10 per person, with children ages 5 and under admitted for $5.
The ticket office will open at 10 a.m. for the day sessions and 5 p.m. for the evening sessions.
Green Run is the top seed among the boys teams, followed by (2) Dan River, (3) GW, (4) Carlisle, (5) Magna Vista, (6) Faith Christian, (7) Holy Cross, and (8) Westover Christian.
The opening matchups on Thursday have the GW girls facing Magna Vista at 11 a.m. The boys teams take the court that afternoon and feature Carlisle vs. Magna Vista at 1 p.m. and Dan River vs. Holy Cross at 3 p.m.
On Thursday evening, Green Run plays Westover Christian Academy at 6 p.m., and GW clashes with Faith Christian at 8 p.m.