When the final game is played Dec. 13 and the fans head home, it will be the end of a basketball tournament that has been in the works since the early part of the summer.
On paper it only lasts Dec. 8-13, but in reality, the annual Marion Classic has taken nearly a year to be put together.
Marion-Florence USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker said preliminary steps were being taken during the 2007-08 basketball season to ensure they could find seven schools interested in playing.
Marion High School activities director Tod Gordon was in charge of organizing the tournament.
“I talked to one athletic director (about the tournament), and he was like, ‘It’s the middle of football season. Why are we talking about this now?’,” Gordon said with a laugh.
However, for a 16-team tournament to run smoothly, it takes time.
On top of the time commitment, the tournament costs money as well. When the costs of game and bench officials, t-shirts, awards, and hospitality rooms are totaled, the tournament could cost nearly $10,000.
Gate admissions and concession stand proceeds should offset those costs, and possibly even turn a profit, but the legwork to get started is not cheap.
However, when all is said and done, Gordon hopes this tournament becomes something the community looks forward to and supports every year.
Leiker talked to the board of education Nov. 10 about the classic.
“We hope we can get people from the community even when Marion isn’t playing,” he said. “We just want them to come and enjoy some good basketball.”
The teams include a state champion from a year ago, a sub-state runner-up, and some area teams that haven’t played against Marion in more than a decade.
Along with the Warriors will be fellow Marion County school Peabody-Burns, Heart of America League schools Remington and Berean Academy, Oxford, Belle Plaine, Eureka, and Leon-Bluestem.
Berean Academy girls’ head coach Kristin Wiebe, who guided her Warriors to a 25-1 record and the 2A state title a year ago, is looking forward to playing in Marion.
“I was all for it,” Wiebe said. “It’s a nice spread of teams. The schools are close; that’s great.”
Eureka girls’ coach Bret Howard is the former athletic director at Remington, and knows Gordon when he held that position earlier.
He remembered playing in an annual, four-team pre-season tournament when he attended Eureka.
“It generates interest in the game of basketball,” Howard said of the tournaments. “Anytime we can get people out in the community to our schools that may not have a reason to be there … and still support kids, that is a benefit.”
On the other hand, a challenge of running a pre-season tournament is deciding how to seed 16 teams, all with 0-0 records.
With the help of a seeding committee, and research on the 2007 success of each team and their returning players, Gordon came up with a bracket.
It was decided for travel purposes the first-round would be identical for the girls’ and boys’ games, and teams from the same league could not play each other in the first round.
However, there is more to seeding when it comes to organizing a tournament of this nature.
At the Nov. 10 USD 408 board of education meeting Gordon was pleased to announced there will be an all-academic team during the tournament.
“We’re excited about that,” Gordon told the board.
There also will be an all-tournament team, a most inspirational player award, and a team sportsmanship plaque.
First, second, and third-place finishers will receive team plaques as well.
For fan enjoyment, t-shirts will be made, a three-point and free-throw shooting contest will take place, and a photo wall-spread will have action shots of the tournament. If someone likes a picture, he or she can take it home.
Another attraction the Marion Classic will have that possibly no other tournament in the state can boast, is an indoor swimming pool in the same facility as the gym.
Leiker said he anticipates teams being allowed to swim in the pool if their coaches allow it.
Everyone involved with the tournament is hoping the uniqueness of the pool, fan-interaction contests, and good basketball will bring fans and teams back year after year.
Eureka coach Howard isn’t sure what the future will bring to the tournament, but is at least excited for this season.
“It’s generating interest in the game of basketball,” he said. “Let’s be a part of that.”
The following is a first-round schedule of the boys’ and girls’ teams.
Look for continuing coverage in the Marion County Record leading up to the start of the tournament.
Dec. 8 – (2) Belle Plaine vs. (7) Eureka, 4:45 p.m. (3) Marion vs. (6) Peabody-Burns, 8:15 p.m.
Dec. 9 – (4) Oxford vs. (5) Remington, 4:45 p.m. (1) Berean Academy vs. (8) Leon-Bluestem, 8:15 p.m.
Dec. 8 – (2) Belle Plaine vs. (7) Eureka, 3 p.m. (3) Marion vs. (6) Peabody-Burns, 6:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 – (4) Oxford vs. (5) Remington, 3 p.m. (1) Berean Acadmey vs. (8) Leon-Bluestem, 6:30 p.m.