DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — The biggest high school basketball tournament in the Wiregrass has made its return after being cancelled last year because of COVID-19.
Organizers were holding their breath this year, but all the hoops action is happening now at the Dothan Civic Center.
The sixteenth Downtown Dothan Hoops Classic is in full swing.
Last year the tournament was cancelled a month before tip off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was the right decision last year,” Tournament Director Rhonda Kirk said. “We didn’t want to make that decision, but it was right for the city. It was right for our kids and it was right for our schools.”
As the pandemic continues, tournament organizers are still taking precautions this year.
“We’re encouraging people who are not vaccinated to wear a mask and be careful,” Director of Dothan Leisure Services Alison Hall said. “We hope people will just take personal responsibility.”
“We’re doing everything we can do in our hospitality room to stay safe with food handling and packaging and stuff,” Kirk said. “We’re also spraying the locker rooms down once the kids leave and trying to do everything safely, so we’re trying to look out for the community too.”
With precautions in place, stands are packed.
“It means everything to to the community and to our department and to our city,” Kirk said. “I mean this is a Christmas event that folks look forward to every year and to not have it last year was detrimental to folks that love basketball.”
As exciting as it is to perform on such a big stage, it’s also an added challenge for these players.
“It’s all about effort and intensity and controlling your emotions,” Geneva County Head Coach Josh Thompson said. “A lot of people here. It’s a big arena. It’s just controlling your emotions and everything.”
Along with the exciting action on the hard court the tournament gives back to the competing schools.
The event has donated more than $599,000 to schools from ticket and sponsorship sales its first 15 years.
So far this year the tournament has made more than $40,000 in sponsorship money.
“Miss Kirk here does a great job and her staff,” Ashford Head Coach Michael Edge said. “It’s something where the whole community not only get to come watch some great basketball and some good teams, but get to be able to support the teams.”
“Folks are showing up,” Kirk said. “We’re showing out a little bit and hopefully that will give some good money back to the schools and our kids.”
Semifinal action tips off Thursday evening. At 6 p.m. Headland takes on Eufaula and at 7:30 Dothan faces Geneva County.